Photographing Auschwitz

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I first watched this video because my wife and I were in a group traveling to the Baltics 2 summers ago. One of the places we visited is Auschwitz. We had an excellent tour guide that gave depth to our experience. She didn't tell us not to photograph the camp. Our whole group was very respectful during our tour. Most of the folks in our group photographed the camp and was no way disrespectful to the memory of the people that perished in the 2 camps. Being an avid photographer, I took pictures too.

    Now there's this video.


    I do understand where he's coming from. However, could this video leave the impression that anybody that takes pictures in the camps disrespectful of the history and memory of Auschwitz? I left the tour feeling that there's no depth of evil or goodness human beings are capable of.
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    The notion that the taking of a photograph disrespects those who perished is something I just can't understand. That's just being too sensitive. I've seen at least one appalling video on U-tube where folks were not very respectful so maybe that's what drives such an anti-photographic attitude.

    But the longer I live, the more I understand that some profound experiences are best experienced in the mind and heart rather than as a photographic image. That said, if some folks don't see photographs of such sites they may not fully understand the reality of the situation.

    I'd take photographs too...
     
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    As a Jew I don't personally find it disrespectful or in any way offensive to photograph at any of the camps. In fact when I visited (on the 1990 March of the Living trip) I went through many rolls of film at Auschwitz alone, not to mention the other camps we went to.
     
  4. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    A lot of the criticism I have seen about photographing in places like Auschwitz has do to with people taking taking selfies with their phones. To me it is disrespectful to take smiling selfies and post them on instagram from places like that.

    As far as regular photography I'm sure most photographers show the respect that these sites deserve. Michael Kenna's concentration camp work comes to mind when thinking about this issue.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    These are probably the "Bucket list" people. It is disrespectful. They're too involved in documenting being there than soaking up the experiences though painful as it is.
     
  6. TonyB65

    TonyB65 Member

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    I'm going there in January, I will take photos, but I won't take them where I'm asked not to, which is the right thing to do. Recording images where it is allowed enables other people to see what it is, and is important in educating people who may never go. I will be using black and white film in order to shoot sympathetically to the period and also it seems fitting to me personally. I will behave respectfully as is fitting for such a site. I don't have a bucket list, I just do everything I can while I can, which is what I've always tried to do. In order to have an opinion on some things sometimes you have to see them for yourself. I went to see a bullfight just for that very reason, it's not something I think I'd do again but at least I can have a balanced opinion on it and speak with some experience, that's also why I've chosen to visit Auschwitz, to better understand what happened, and I definitely will not be taking selfies that's for sure.
     
  7. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I just looked trough visitor rules of few former camps and I found no prohibition of private photography, but one should inquire at the very place.
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I’ve followed this issue, and it’s mainly the selfies that are in question, not photography in general.
     
  9. dabsond

    dabsond Subscriber

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    I had the opportunity to tour the Dachau Camp while I was stationed in Germany. In the museum, there was a photograph of an inmate who was killed while trying to escape through the fence. I studied that photograph and found the location where it was taken. I then took a single photograph with the same perspective as the photo in the museum. To this day, this photograph or just the act of being there and taking that photograph is one of the most powerful memories I have. I don't find taking photographs of these subjects disrespectful, in fact I think it can be seen as paying proper respect if done correctly.
     
  10. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Absolutely right.
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Movitone news ran documentaries on these camps in the '40s at most movie theaters. There was extensive coverage of events from Nazi archives and from Allied photographers, and it was memorable and often gruesome. Much was not edited. It was inhuman, and at that point, I decided that I would be the opposite. Photography did a good thing IMHO.

    PE
     
  12. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Subscriber

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    A friend of mine visit Auschwitz some twenty years ago with some kind of cine camera. When he let me see his film of Auschwitz, it was of a butterfly trying to escape through a window, but continually failing. I found it deeply moving. Protest can be powerful when it is subtle.
     
  13. cb1

    cb1 Member

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    When I was in The Army, in Germany I went on a tour of Dachau, I brought my camera with me. I took dozens of very powerful photos with B&W film. It was a cold, overcast day with pockets of snow on the ground. Those are some of the best pictures I have from my tour in Germany.
    I proudly show those pics and I remind the viewers that this should never be forgotten less it happens again.
    the original wire and gate taken in 1986
    Dachau-Munich (24).jpg
     
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  15. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    OP...is it illegal?

    If not, do as you like.
     
  16. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    I don't think so. I mean, he was at the camp shooting video himself. I think the video is really about the inappropriate behaviour of tourists at these types of sites, or in situations where it is absolutely not appropriate. Just look at what happened in Italy recently - a Canadian woman was struck by a train, and as medics were helping her, a man took a selfie with that situation happening behind him in the background. While there may not be restrictions at theses sites now, maybe, if enough people don't respect the rules, they will eventually ban photography there.

    As for myself, I'm planning to go to Auschwitz next year (it was supposed to be this summer, but I had to postpone the trip). I did a course in the history of antisemitism while doing my bachelor's many years ago, and I think we spent at least half of the full-year course on the Holocaust itself, so this is a place I've always wanted to see and pay my respects too. I do plan to take photos there, but only when and where it is appropriate. Hopefully I won't see the behaviour the man in the video describes, as I'm sure that would upset me as much as it upset him.
     
  17. RattyMouse

    RattyMouse Member

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    Nothing more disgusting than holocaust deniers. Photographs help combat such idiocy.
     
  18. OP
    OP
    Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I completely agree with you, but in the age of Trump and fake news on the internet, denying the Holocaust is more possible than ever. We have to be on guard for people that tell us otherwise. Like those that cause division and fan the flames of hate to further their ends like the Nazi Party. As the saying goes, "Those that don't know their history are condemned to repeat it.
     
  19. Arklatexian

    Arklatexian Subscriber

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    As much as I hate to say it, more and more "regular" photography today is done with cell phones. I don't think I will ever get accustomed to that but as in the past, I will be required to. I doubt many, if any in this group, would be guilty of disrespect in this situation. What the person in the video is guilty of, however, is youth and not realizing, or caring, what happens to our memories as we age and those pictures may become the only memories that a person has of a dark period in our time. I am sure that there were similar periods and places, all over the world, where the same things took place, especially during the "Middle Ages", before and after with no "photography" to record anything. So record your memories and tell people where they can go, if and when, they object.......Regards!
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    My daughter taught in Poland for two years and she told me that the school bring their students to visit the death camps. While the student are their they are very disrespectful and make fun of the victims and the whole experience. She said it is very disheartening to see that going in. Now the Polish government prosecutes people who point out the complicity of the Polish people during World War II.
     
  21. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber

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    I believe the exact opposite is true. The reason is that communication through social media, blogs, phones, etc., give everyone a voice. Prior to that, crackpot theories could flourish and gain a following before they could be researched and debunked. Now the debunking can be - and is - done very quickly.

    We do not have a sudden growth in Holocaust deniers in this country despite the media focusing on it - such people have always been a fraction of a fraction of a percent. At least that's my impression because I've never met one in my entire life and my social circles are fairly right wing.

    Iran's government denies the holocaust; I suspect their people know the truth.

    In high school, my best friend was Jewish and we studied WWII together on our own as a common interest. We learned German together. I wouldn't photograph Auschwitz or any such place, not because I think it's disrespectful, but because I wouldn't want images of that place of horrors in my home. To those that think differently of photographing it, that's fine and I respect their decision which is theirs alone and for their own reasons.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2018
  22. Arthurwg

    Arthurwg Member

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    I personally don't think there's anything that should not be photographed, and I resent this guy in the video lecturing me in this self righteous way. I'd say that takes a lot of nerve. Some folks have a need to place themselves above others, and to lay down the law from what the believe to be a higher moral principle.
     
  23. JC Arts

    JC Arts Member

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    Was it Lee Miller who found herself trying to make a good composition of corpses?

    The photographers that were there in 1945 had a difficult task.

    :sad:
     
  24. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Meanwhile we have new legislation here in Germany that in some new cases (other than military installations as in the past) makes the mere act of taking a photograph a criminal offence.
     
  25. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    I think it all depends. Doing "fancy" selfies seems disgusting of course, but then there are a lot of photos taken with deference that fully acknowledge what had happened at these places. The Concentration Camp series by Michael Kenna may be the best example. So I do not think one should condemn photographing at these places in general, but it should be done with the needed awareness.
    Imagine, if there existed no photos of these camps at all, most people would not even know about them, which would be very sad. There are many photos that were taken right after the liberation of the camps by American soldiers, you know, these photos that show the hecatombs of dead bodies and all the inmates close to the brink of death. I think most of us would consider it very inappropriate to take pictures from people under these conditions, but in this very situation, it was the right thing, since otherwise these atrocities would have never been documented.
     
  26. rpavich

    rpavich Member

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    The guy in the video was specific about what he thought was wrong; it was the taking of pictures when asked not to, coupled with doing the selfie thing in a disrespectful way. He didn't condemn all photography at the camp.

    You can be disrespectful no matter what you are shooting with; phone or film camera.
     
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