black and white photography

Midweek Poetry: Broken Boughs by daintydora

I know it's nearly Christmas and everyone is doing happy, festive, fun things. But last week while in Krakow I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps built in the isolated suburbs of Southern Poland.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I already knew a lot about what happened there: from history lessons at school, from books and from films, but seeing the physical spaces that bore witness to the shocking crimes against humanity, and hearing the gruesome details of the tortures while standing in those same spaces, numbed me as I tried to process it in my mind.

There was a guide who pointed out key buildings and locations - she was Polish and her own Grandparents had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

I wondered how she could cope with going there every day (her job for almost 17 years), but then I realised I already knew the answer: everyone must know; we must never forget.

I didn't cry while I was there despite the deep sadness I felt. It is only with the luxury of time and distance (which the people who were killed there were so cruelly denied), that I can reflect back on my experience. It's haunted me ever since.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

The trees outside the camp were stark and barren and I wondered if they were old enough to have been there when the camp was occupied? Perhaps some of them.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I love trees and the language of branches. They were beautiful despite their barren state and the location. I saw birds though I didn't hear their call.


Broken Boughs

A broken bough, twisted in pain
weeping cold tears
salty in the cracks
and it hurts, it stings.
Limbs stretched apart, to breaking point
split in two. An irreparable split.
Leaves, branches, twigs, thorns
falling down and
the net cast wide
but it won't catch us side by side -
not now there's a split in the bough
on a battleground of lies.
"Bend not break."
But how?
Then, us, now: a different sound
beating from a bitter drum.
Hope is gone
though it leaves a mark, a stain
that could never be washed away.
There is no sound.

I was still reading Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky while I was in Krakow, and although I knew she had died at Auschwitz (in August 1942), I hadn't realised that the book was never finished. It made the whole experience that much more poignant and sad because it was like a personal, intimate link with her having read her evocative words.

The image below is near the Market Square in the Old Town of Krakow; a tree-lined park/walkway on the way to the Wawel Royal Castle.

Tree-lined walkway, Krakow, Poland

The dark branches personify the trees giving them an energy that was lacking in the previous images.

The line of the path symbolises journeys and the journey of life, the transience of life.

There is no way to ever lighten the darkness that is the spectre of Auschwitz.


Friday Diary: Olympus OM 1 adventures by daintydora

Yesterday I indulged my (amateur) addiction to analogue photography, and went adventuring through the West End of Glasgow with my Olympus OM 1 camera.

Olympus OM 1 vintage camera

I'm lucky to have a husband who is an engineer and who leapt right into my love of analogue photography.

As well as the Olympus OM 1, he has lovingly reconditioned for me a Leica D.R.P Ernst Leitz Wetzlar circa the 1950's, and a Hasselblad 500 C. I know. I'm very lucky.

The beautiful images that can be produced in analogue are far superior to digital photography, but because of their age, provenance and price tag, I've been a bit scared to use any of my analogue cameras. (Scared to drop them!) They're also solid and heavy with lots of dials and settings and you really have to consider and set up each shot.

But yesterday I ventured out - we ventured out - to snap some street scenes in Glasgow's West End. It's a place close to my heart having lived in various locations in and around the West End when I first moved to Glasgow at the age of 16. And now I'm photographing my favourite streets with a vintage Olympus OM 1.

Introduced in 1973, the OM-1 was the first product in the OM Series. It earned wide acclaim as the world's smallest and lightest 35mm single-lens reflex camera."

It was a strange day for weather. One minute sunshine and gently billowing trees, the next torrential downpours with hail and wind so stern it snapped my big man-frame umbrella.

But I managed to spot and capture reflections in puddles and bluebells amidst the weeds and experiment with light metering and focus; blurring foregrounds and backgrounds for effect, for fun, and snapping shots between leaves and railings and into the sun as it peeped from behind clouds.

I'm using only black and white film because in it, I've met my match for mystery and allure and timeless, enduring appeal in the modulations and marvel of monochrome.

I'd love to show you, but of course I can't. Not yet.

The shots I've taken are preserved for now, safe inside their hard spool casing, inside my camera. And the film isn't finished quite yet.

You'll just have to take my word for it; imagine the shots of light and dark on Glasgow's West End streets with your 'inside eyes', your imagination, and trust my magpie's eye to find the sparkling, the fantastic and the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.


Friday Diary: Black & White in Birmingham by daintydora

I was a bit obsessed with taking pictures of the bullring in Birmingham last week, and random street scenes, which I love. Here's a little photo diary of my weekend escapades:

Photo Diary: Black & White BirminghamPhoto Diary: Black & White BirminghamPhoto Diary: Black & White Birmingham

That bull looks so fierce, doesn't it? Especially with the drama of a black and white shot.

Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham

A tiny olive branch of colour here; I couldn't resist. The street art was fantastic.

Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham

I didn't know Ozzy was from Birmingham. Is he really from Birmingham?

Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham

The library was fascinating. Modern art in itself with a viewing platform so you could look out onto the city. I think it's definitely one of the tourist attractions. I could have spent much longer wandering the aisles of books and the pristine archives.

Photo Diary: Black & White Birmingham

This shot was taken inside one of the exhibitions at IKON. It was actually a bit disappointing in that there was nothing much to see. But the writing was on the wall...

Photo Diary: Black & White BirminghamPhoto Diary: Black & White BirminghamPhoto Diary: Black & White Birmingham

This weekend I'll be staying closer to home.

And for an altogether more colourful version of Birmingham and all it had to offer, check out my inspiration site.

Happy weekend!