Monday, May 2, 2011

Holocaust Day, A Photographer's Moral Dilemma

Do you remember many years ago, when the world's attention was focussed on drought and famine in parts of Africa? There was one memorable photograph of a clearly dying child struggling to reach the aid center. It was reported that the child died only metres away from medical attention and fresh water. The question everyone asked was: Why didn't the f***ing photographer pick her up and carry her to the centre?! What was he thinking?!

I am not a photograpgher. My photo albums are full of photos that friends have taken and kindly given me a copy. When DD was born I didn't even have a camera. I was using disposeables - and not very often. It's hard to summon up the enthusiasm when all the pictures come back blurred, off-centre, too light, too dark, etc... Then a group of friends got together and bought me a digital camera as a new-baby gift. It was a brilliant gift and, once I stopped putting  it up to my eye, much easier to manage. Now I didn't resent paying for 36 rubbish photos as I could pre-order the ones I wanted. In fact the rubbish ones get deleted before going to the photo shop.

However, something has happened to me  since I started blogging. I have become a photographer. Not a very good one - but you don't need to be a good one with a digital, you just keep trying till you get something nice. Thanks to Silent Sunday over at Mocha Beanie Mummy - which I enjoy immensely, I now find myself walking around all week with one eye out for a suitable photograph. Every view, tree, flower, building, street, scene, is observed with a photographer's eye. And from that, when a series of photos is required for the best effect or more explanation is needed, I find myself planning an illustrated blog post. This is so not me, except that now it is.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. It is a very solumn day. All the schools have remembrance services, the radio plays only sad music, there were no places of entertainment open last night, no restaurants, and we have 24 hours of Holocaust related broadcasts on television. The most haunting broadcasts I remember from 20 years ago (for obvious reasons these do not occur any more) were middle-aged men and women who had survived as babies and didn't know who they were. Each one went something like this: I was born somewhere in Poland, I think my mother's name was Hanna and I know I had an older brother called Mendl. I was brought to Israel from a displaced persons camp in Germany in 1946. I was about seven years old. Does anyone know who I am?

The most moving and poignant part of the day is the memorial siren. At 10am for two minutes everything stops. The traffic on the busiest streets stand still with the drivers standing on the road next to their vehicles. The pedestrians in the street become statues. The lights change from green to red and back to green again but no one notices. There is an eerie silence. You feel the weight of remembering on your shoulders. You try to remember harder. Most of us today weren't even born then - but still we remember.

I took my camera out and went to stand on the main road. I've never even considered doing this before. Ususally I stand on my balcony and the street below me is often empty. But today I thought it would be interesting, and not unimportant, to show my blog friends a significant aspect of life in Israel. I positioned myself at a crossroads and took out the camera. I started to have doubts about the reverence of taking photos when I should be solumnly standing and remembering. I braced myself for dirty looks from other people. I thought about how to hold the camera surrepticiously so as not to draw attention to myself. And then the siren sounded and I pressed the ON button. Nothing happened - the batteries were flat. Devine retribution? Who knows.

No comments:

Post a Comment