What We Cannot Know


Joseph Berger reviews “The Boy: A Holocaust Story” and examines the enduring mystery behind a photograph whose subject we may never know:

“Looking at a photograph,” [author Dan Porat] writes, “the viewer sees the surface facts and comes to believe he or she has grasped the inner truth of the events depicted, can feel the pain, can see the evil, while in fact knowing nothing of the protagonists, circumstances or context associated with those events.”

But that is the mystery and joy of photographs - a single moment, with no real context, just a guessing game, an inquiry, a provocation to wonder and ask. Of course, photographs lie. But the lies can point beyond to kinds of truth unconnected to the actual reality in the photograph itself.