Photographic Writing Prompts

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by Debbie Vance

“Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.”

“To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, light-weight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. . . .”

–Susan Sontag, On Photography

Photographs are inexhaustible narrative prompts. In their stillness, they carry stories, waiting to be unearthed and spoke into being by you, the writer. Take from them what you will.

So here are a few beautifully striking B&W photographs by Henryk Ross, a Polish Jewish photographer “who was employed as a photographer by the Department of Statistics for the Jewish Council within the Łódź Ghetto during the Holocaust.” These photos are taken from the Winter 2005 issue of Bricka literary magazine. In the words of Michael Redhill, who prefaces Ross’s photographs in Brick, these photographs “challenge our strangely idealized image of the Holocaust, even if it is an image of unthinkable torment. In making life int he ghetto more real to us, in showing us that these people did more than suffer, the photographs give us a new sense of who these people were.”

Henryk Ross, "In the Tannery"

Henryk Ross, “In the Tannery”

Henryk Ross, "The Gallows is in Operation"

Henryk Ross, “The Gallows is in Operation”

Henryk Ross, "Ghetto Resident" (The photograph shows Ross's wife, Stefania)

Henryk Ross, “Ghetto Resident” (The photograph shows Ross’s wife, Stefania)

Henryk Ross, "A Wedding Reception"

Henryk Ross, “A Wedding Reception”

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