iPhone, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

I love taking photographs. For me, it is my favorite way to interact with the world. Sometimes it is a challenge though, typically that challenge involves lighting or deciding on an angle to shoot from. In this case, though, it was the story behind the photo:

ISO 160 4.15mm f/2.2 1/35

This photo is from the interior of the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, originally built in 1535, the names you see on the walls there are of the approximately 80,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust from the lands that are now the Czech Republic or Czechia.

The synagogue also has a display of art by children who were interned during the Holocaust, and most of whom died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It’s heartbreaking, I couldn’t even bring myself to take photos in that room.

The link to the Synagogue I included above includes a short video of the space. For me though, this is one of those places where the story is hard to tell in just photographs. Being in the space itself seems important. For that reason, it was hard to focus on getting a good photo. I took a few shots then put my camera away, taking some time to just be there. One thing that I will share that struck me about the names, was that they included their birthdate and death date, or in some cases, the last time they were seen if an exact death date isn’t known. I’m not sure why I found that powerful, but I did.

Have you ever struggled to capture a scene in a photograph? How did you handle the situation? Your thoughts are welcome below.



32 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

  1. Hi I am a guide in Prague and sometimes I go to Pinkas synagogue with clients. Once my client pointed to the names on the wall and told me, that this is her family and the names next are the neighbors … ( the names are in regional and then in alphabetical order, so you can find what you need quite well)
    The same time there is a sound in the sanygogue, partly there are read the names on the wall and partly it is jewish songs for lost souls.
    To be honest I try to avoid going there, as it is so touchy, but even worse for me is the exhibition of children pictures in winter room, the pictures (some of them) are quite sad – soldiers, coffins, – but the worst are the dates at every picture. Mostly they are 3: the date when the child was born, when the child was deported to Terezin (concentration camp) and the date when it was killed !!
    I think everyone should visit this place, its just that going there often is really sad.

    Thanks for nice pictures and words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for sharing this with me. I was wondering if it would be easier to take photos if I had been a few times, but based on what you have written, perhaps the answer is no. I can’t imagine how much more emotional this spot would be if you actually had family on this wall. Yes, I also found the reading of the names and the songs to be a nice and appropriate addition to the space.
      The children’s art was a very difficult room. You could see through their art, the realities of their lives that they were trying to process and express.
      As you know, Prague is a very beautiful city. I really enjoyed my time there. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. A powerful memorial indeed. There have been moments when I have struggled as well, to capture a moment or a scene. I have also put my camera aside and felt that “Being in the space itself seems important.” Sometimes that is just what is required.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gorgeous photos – you did well with the story challenge. For me, it is the process of playing with the camera, and I feel extra fortunate when something looks great in the photo during editing.


  4. Powerful post! Sometimes a photo is the starting point and then the story needs to be told in words. My mother was a survivor of the labor camps during that horrific time in history. She shared many stories. She was one of the lucky ones.


  5. I find your post with the description of your experience deeply moving. I hear how heartbreaking it was for you to be in the room that holds the memories, the writings and art work of the children.
    I relate to wanting to be present to the fullness of an experience and setting aside the camera in order to do so. I also wonder at times if in some way this is about holding respect and care for what I am observing and experiencing.


  6. Amy I have shivers reading your post. Having recently visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia I can very much relate. I struggled with what would be respectful and yet in future how could the photos tell the important story that humanity should never forget.


    • Yes, this is such an important issue, that of respect and telling the story. I am planning to go to Auschwitz within the next year or so, and I have already been thinking about this, do I take photos? will I be able to bring myself to take them? how and is it appropriate to share them? It’s a lot to think about. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So much to think about. In my time at the Killing Fields I did my best to stay away from taking photos that sensationalized the horror and focusing more on the hope and memory. The experience was gut wrenching and I had to walk away on my own at times. Yet I believe the stories are so vital to be remembered. Thank you for talking to me about this Amy. It has been on my mind since our time in Cambodia.


  7. Pingback: Story of Water – What's (in) the picture?

  8. when I first landed here – I thought those were glass tiles or just a night effect on the walls.
    Crazy how the entire mood changed after reading the post – and well done.
    this horrific humanity crime should make us feel repulsed and hopefully we can prevent it from happening again.

    also – nice take on the prompt here…


  9. Hi, Amy. I have been in situations like this. These emotional places/situations make me freeze as a photographer. I just need time to process the emotions and then go back another time to take the shots. I really think our minds/bodies need time to absorb the emotion of the place first. It makes me sad to hear that the Holocaust deniers are being more vocal again. The sadness in these places is palpable.


  10. Beautiful post Amy. I visited the same synagogue when we were in Prague and it was very wrenching emotionally. Honestly it did not even occur to me to take photos. Such a horrific time in human history. To me the saddest thing is that there are still Holocaust deniers and Nazi sympathizers to this day. Thank you for the important reminder


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