Egon Schiele: Dangerous Desires

Promotional images for BBC documentary Egon Schiele: Dangerous Desires 2018.



Copyright of Bethany Hobbs.

03.XII.1924 von Deinen Eltern

For my final major project I looked at my own family and their relationship with our Jewish Heritage. The project (03.XII.1924 von Deinen Eltern) is an uncompromising excavation of my family’s history, in familiar and unfamiliar spaces, made through dialogues, performances (sittings) and ‘encounters’ with documents and objects, uncovering the complexities of remembering and forgetting. 
While the degree show was on I received an email from Grace Robertson who had visited the degree show on that day: 
“Among so much that was well done your work stood out in a class of its own. You wept in your own defining image, but sentimentality was absent when it would have been all to easy to fall into that trap and the work was far more powerful as a result. But above all, those memories were held together by the excellence of your photography. Every interior image and its history gave me a deepened experience through your handling of light and shadow; and the hands images came across with complete authority.
I do hope you intend to go on using such empathy and talent on people.” 
As part of my research I retraced family steps and returned to addresses in Vienna that we discovered in family documents. Here I met with landlords and current occupiers and have begun an ongoing dialogue. In September I returned to Vienna to inaugurate a remembrance stone to the family we lost in the Holocaust. 

I understood when I started the process of unpicking a family history that has the trauma of displacement and loss of life, that I was entering un-discussed and unknown territory. There was a real dilemma about what to reveal and what to keep from public view especially as my great grandmother rarely expressed any desire to discuss the war. I discovered hidden stories, kept for a lifetime, and answers to questions only raised a multitude more. It is one thing to know a history and another to feel it. 

So far I have made a series of documents that are testament to a life; to the attempt to remake a life after the destruction of everything once known and believed in. I emerge from this. I am the first generation of my family to have been able to engage with following a trail of documentation and discoveries.

I hope that what I have been able to create is lasting. I started on a visual journey creating a narrative from stories passed down the family; found that I wanted to document my family’s physical environment and who lived there. I then looked back into archival material and then followed a trail of documentation back to Vienna where my family originated from before the war. What I have ended up with includes written experience, observation, and reflection. 

Please note that this is a small selection of images from a much wider body of work.


“To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores” – W.Shakespeare

When faced with the independence to do which ever project we desired, I went to the most obvious thing, family.

This series of five images are a narrative of how my Great Grandmother escaped Austria at the beginning of the Second World War. Although her journey isn’t clear to us, it is believed that she went to Italy to try and get on a ship that was heading to London. However, after begging the captain she was denied access aboard; she later discovered that the very same ship had been bombed by the Nazi regime, and no-one survived.


An Unknown Place

This project I looked at places where you don’t expect yourself to end up. These images are my response to an unknown space. Both of the places I visited are very different but share prominent similarities. The first is taken in a city and many would say that it is the subconscious of the city, here I felt very unwelcome and being a young women I felt uneasy. However, the people I met and spoke to seemed to be in this environment due to their need to be alone. Many would come here to take drugs and drink, I found this very upsetting and began to think about their situation more and more. After thinking I came to the conclusion that instead of this place being somewhere people would “drown their sorrows” it is a place where they could be who ever they wished to be and not worry about anyone else’s views of them. HOB_289 After going to this place that was so alien to me I wanted to explore more environments that may contain the same emotions. So I set my sights on visiting Princetown in Dartmoor which is home to Dartmoor Prison. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this place was home to a couple thousand people in this small town. As I drove over the the hill the grey prison loomed over the landscape making it impossible to ignore. There was an odd feeling when I reached my destination as people where obviously in their houses on this cold winters morning, lights on, smoke coming from chimneys but not a soul to be seen. The eerie quietness surrounding this town was hard to miss; if you don’t live there then you don’t stop, people were constantly driving through, in a sense this area was a non-place. Buildings that were once a place of joy and excitement were left to crumble, new buildings that were made for new lives and families, were never finished and like the old left to rot in the harsh weather. Even the church where once you would expect to find hope and light was just an empty shell. This almost derelict town, was still inhabited. What I came to realise that perhaps what both these places have in common is the loss of hope. However, they are very different but they are very similar too. Although the place in the city for escape seems like it is the most depressing, for me it is the one with the most hope. In a city you have people to bounce off, to inspire and to be inspired. However, when returning to the countryside it is easy to feel lost and engulfed by the vast landscape. Although both places contain the same “types” of people, with no doubt different stories there is a sense that these places are hidden away and ignored by the public. When being in both situations there was a strong feeling that I was inside a bubble where anyone would be able to see or hear me. To bring these two small projects together I decided to make a book. I used mixed media to created worn away surfaces and dark colours to represent the gloominess in which both places held. I used white washes to mimmic the way in which shops that have closed down wash out their windows. I also used house hold products such as bleach, tin foil and tea. At the time I didn’t title this project and only now decided to call it “An Unknown Place”.