What have diagonal lines ever done for me?

That is the question posed by Patti, for this week’s Lens Artists’ Challenge #228. Well, not done for me exactly, but done for my photos. Have a photos diagonal lines invited us in, encouraged us to explore the picture, or to focus on some detail?

Let’s have a look, and have a bit of a trip out too.

We’ll start off close to home, one cold wintry morning as I went to get the paper. Those rays of sunshine enlivened the scene, and my mood.

Here are two more, from just down the road. A tree which instead of reaching skywards, leans across the woods to demand a place centre-stage for the whole shot. And ox-eye daisies splicing the image in half, showing us there’s countryside, not a garden beyond.

A trip to the seaside? Alnmouth in Northumbria?

This quiet beach looks dramatic when the tide’s out.

Brussels now. A bank of plate glass windows reflects the opposite side of the road to dramatic effect. Monochrome too, for Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome.

Off to Spain now. All those dizzy hairpin bends in Cantabria invite us to explore.

Then two more scenes – one from Cádiz, the other from Valencia. Those diagonals pull us in to explore the cathedral in one, the reflections in the other.

This shot, from Alicante, uses the ropes on a yacht as a frame for the scene beyond.

Alicante

I’ve hesitated over whether to include this last shot in what is essentially a light-hearted post. But this photo – not a particularly original one as so many others have taken similar shots – has stayed with me. It’s Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. These are the railway lines that brought so many thousands of Jews on their very last journey. I wrote about it here.

I decided on balance to include it, as the relative optimism I felt when I wrote that post five years ago has disappeared in the light of world events over the last couple of years: and we shouldn’t forget.

Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau

I’m glad I went to Auschwitz. I’m still processing what I saw, what I heard. Most of you will know the histories of the dreadful death camps.

The weather was appalling today. Double speed windscreen wipers on the way there. I was cold and wet. But I was well-clothed and shod, I’d had a good breakfast, and soon I’d be warm and dry. The inmates of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau had their one and only pair of never-washed louse-infested pyjamas and next to no food inside them. They wouldn’t be going somewhere cosy for a change of clothes and a nice hot drink in a couple of hours.

I’ll just share two vignettes. Imagine a long narrow room, with a display case on each side running the length of the room. Each is filled with human hair. This hair comes from the heads of women and girls exterminated in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. A very small proportion of the total. This is the hair of some 80,000 women.

In the next, similar room are shoes. Thousands of shoes. They belonged to some of the thousands of murdered Jews.

I took no photos in Auschwitz. It seemed disrespectful to take snapshots of those glimpses of real lives, real tragedies. I’ll just include one familiar image of Auschwitz-Birkenau, with the train lines which transported people to their almost certain deaths.

I’m glad to have gone because I left with a certain feeling of optimism. The custodians of these camps and the guides who bring those dreadful days back to life are passionate about sharing the stories, to try to make sure, against the odds, that they are never repeated. Our young guide told us he had been trained by an Auschwitz survivor. He clearly saw his job as no ordinary responsibility.

Today, and every single day, thousands of visitors take these lessons away with them.

My visit there does deserve a more considered post. Just – not yet.