In 2010, for the 25th anniversary of Claude Lanzmann's landmark holocaust documentary SHOAH, I was asked by IFCFilms to design a new commemorative theatrical poster. The design reappropriated an image from the film of train conductor Henrik Gawkowski, the same image that has long been associated with the film since its original release:
For The Criterion Collection's DVD/Blu-ray release, I went back to some original concepts for the anniversary poster in an effort to help Criterion find a new way to present SHOAH visually. In the poster design process (which I about briefly here) I experimented with many different images from the film, all of which I found beautiful, but only some of which captured the idea of human memory and narrative that guides SHOAH. I had grown really attached to one image in particular, a perspective looking back on a pair of train tracks disappearing into a foggy woods, as well as another image of Chelmno survivor Simon Srebnik in a field. These would both end up being used in my SHOAH package for Criterion, the train track image transforming into a new cover design.
But through the process, Criterion asked to see some other ideas, just to have more options to consider. Art director Sarah Habibi asked me to consider the idea of circular thought-- the way in which Shoah and its human subjects approach their personal histories through a circular, reflective process-- and to try some cover concepts that perhaps didn't even use imagery from the film, but represented the film iconically… A tall order for a film as psychologically and emotionally expansive as SHOAH. Out of this suggestion came a large group of comps (a sample of which are shown below) made by photographing a circular pattern traced into the Earth by a human hand. It was a very abstract concept-- ultimately too abstract-- but it was interesting attempt at representing SHOAH using original imagery.
It was decided that the image of Gawkowski would be presented on interior cover, and the outside of the slipcase would feature the train track image. I mocked up this cover using the same saturated color fields I had applied to my poster concepts, and then more natural versions upon Criterion's request. We also started looking at cleaner, taller typefaces. Both of these changes were part of Criterion's overall effort to remove any aesthetic interference from the imagery-- to present the entire package as naturally as possible out of respect for the film and its beauty.
I applied this philosophy to the rest of the package, its menus and booklet. I'm really proud to have worked on this presentation of SHOAH for Criterion. The DVD and Blu-ray set is available now.