The photographs in Maus can be divided into two categories: interpretations and reproductions. Interpretations are hand-drawn versions of real-world photographs, which translate the images into the comic’s style and replace human faces with mouse heads. Reproductions are real photographs, which are printed in the book exactly as they appear in life — human faces intact. Artie’s decision to use both kind of photographs in his book highlights the way in which writing Maus forces him to straddle the worlds of reality and fiction. Though Vladek speaks of real people and events, Artie does not have access to the visceral realities of what his father experienced. The people and places that defined Vladek’s life in Poland (and his experience during the war) are foreign to his son. Likewise, Artie has no basis for understanding the intense emotions and lasting traumas the war created. In interpreting his parents’ photographs — most of which show relatives who did not survive the Holocaust, and who Artie will never meet —to suit the comic book style, Artie recognizes that his work is an act of imagination, as much as (or even more than) it is an object of historical memory. Though the faces of his lost relatives are accessible to him through photographs, he cannot truly know the people they depict.
Photographs Symbol Timeline in Maus
The timeline below shows where the symbol Photographs appears in Maus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Part 1, Chapter 5
...is always thinking of Anja anyway. Mala points out that Vladek’s desk is covered with photographs of Anja; she compares these, bitterly, to a shrine. Vladek asks whether she would have... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Part 2, Chapter 4
Part 2, Chapter 5
...sends her a letter promising to return home immediately. In this letter, he includes a photograph of himself wearing a concentration camp uniform. In his travels through Germany, he tells Artie,... (full context)