Behind the Lens: Memorial to Remember

IMB photographers share stories from their photo collections

March 22, 2021, marked one year anniversary of the first COVID-19 related death in Czech Republic, where I serve. In memory and honor of those lost in the past year, the city of Prague painted over 22,000 crosses in the Old Town Square.  Thousands came out to remember their loved ones by writing deceased’s names, laying flowers, lighting candles and leaving memorabilia.

My family and I had just returned to Prague from the U.S. the week before, when I saw this memorial tribute on the news. I really wanted to go out and photograph it. However, we were in five days of self-quarantine and confined to our apartment. On the sixth day, I rushed out to the square to photograph since the weather was calling for rain the next day and I was afraid all those crosses would be washed out.

Soon those names will fade, flowers will wither, and tourists will return to the square. However, loved ones will long be remembered in the hearts of many friends and families.

The Czech Republic has been under a state of emergency since October 2020. The vaccine is becoming more available, but still at a very slow pace. Perhaps, in a few more months, people will begin to see the light at the end of tunnel. Pray that the Light of Jesus will bring hope and healing to people in Czech Republic as they continue to battle in these dark days.

The Czechs, like most Europeans, do not like to be photographed. When I saw this woman kneeling down, I knew what she was about to do, and I wanted to photograph that. Given the short time and emotional situation, I did not want to strike up a conversation before taking photos. I just got down on my knees in front of her and started taking pictures expecting to hear from her “go away.” As I kept clicking, she seemed to not mind and continued with her writing. It was one of those “ok vibes” that photographers get from their subject when doing street photography. I inched closer and lowered my camera to the ground to capture her face. When she looked up from her writing, I asked if she had lost someone close to her. She told me that she had lost her boyfriend. The tears welled up in her eyes and I could see pain she was feeling. I shared my sympathies and thanked her for allowing me to take her picture. As I walked away, I silently prayed for God’s grace over her and for strength and healing in coming days.

Most people photograph standing up, and I’ve got a lot of those shots too. However, a good photo tip to remember is to shoot at the subject’s eye level. In this case, the subject was the flower and it was on the ground. That meant I had to have the camera literally on the ground. My camera is an older model and does not have a flip out screen to help with focus from the ground. So I pre-focused and locked in manual before setting it on ground to take the shot. The lens on the ground plus a wide aperture of f/4 gave a nice, blurred foreground and background, isolating the subject.