cole thompson photography

 Issue 51      

May 5, 2012   


Gull and Moon

(Gull and Moon - Anaheim, CA - 1971) 


The Story Behind the Image

Mark Your Calendar

My Nine Favorite Images



Dear Cole,

Uncomfortable situations can sometimes lead to positive experiences.  I had one of those recently.


I was showing "The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau" to the Rochester Jewish Federation when I noticed a older dignified woman in the crowd, her name was Eva Abrams. I spoke to the group about my experience at Auschwitz as a photographer and then Eva spoke about her experience at Auschwitz, as a survivor.


Eva was 17 years old when she was sent to the camp during the last year of World War II. As the war neared the end, she and 1000 other women were forced on a six week winter death march to Bavaria.  Each day women who could not walk were executed, and this is how Eva lost her sister and 11 year old niece. One day Eva couldn't walk anymore and was told she would be shot at twilight.  Nineteen women were lined up, with Eva on the end.  As the machine gun fired and took the life of each person, Eva fell unwounded and was assumed dead.  She lay there on a heap of bodies for several hours until two SS men came to look for survivors. They stood on Eva as they surveyed the scene, but she did not move.  


She crawled into the woods where she found crude shelter and survived the night.  Eva then made her way to a village and begged for food, she had not eaten a proper meal for over a year.  Unfortunately the villagers fed her fat and dumplings which her body was not prepared for and she became deathly ill.  She approached a woman on a farm who turned out to be a doctor and she nursed Eva back to health. The woman's husband had been forced into joining the SS and after the war Eva wrote the Americans on his behalf and this helped secure his freedom.  


Of the 1000 women who started off on foot that winter, Eva may have been the only survivor.  Fifty women had completed the march and then were executed by the SS.

I've had the honor of meeting a number of Holocaust survivors and listening to each story is always uncomfortable.  My thoughts are always the same: how could humans be so cruel? How could anyone survive such an ordeal? Could I have been that strong?


It was a bittersweet moment to listen to Eva's story, both uncomfortable and a positive experience at the same time.  


Read more about the Nazi Death Marches


The Story Behind the Image

Old Wardour Castle

(Old Wardour Castle - England - 2009)


A couple of years ago my family and I were vacationing in a small village on the coast of England and the only preparations I had made to photograph there was to bring along a white bed sheet.  


The Story of the White Bed Sheet


I had recently photographed ghosts at Auschwitz-Birkenau and wondered if I could carry this theme over to other historical sites.  The trip to England seemed perfect with all its history and castles so readily available. But this time I thought, instead of relying on the unsuspecting tourists to play the role of ghost, I would control my subjects a bit more by using my daughter Mason.  And so we brought a white bed sheet to transform her into a ghost.


We photographed at many sites and sometimes the ghost was the prime focus of the image while other times it was only a small element of the image, as in "Old Wardour Castle" above.  


We experimented with different "ghosting" techniques and settled on the "30-second spin." Mason would stand in one spot and spin for 30 seconds.  Initially it was hard because she would get dizzy and start to drift, but she soon mastered it and became and excellent ghost.


Generally the castles were pretty deserted and only occasionally did we run into other tourists. Imagine this scene: your walking around an ancient castle when you come across someone in a white sheet spinning around! The parents were generally too reserved to act interested or to ask what we were doing, but their children would watch and giggle.


I didn't really care for this series much and learned an important lesson from the experience. The ghost idea worked at Auschwitz-Birkenau because I felt inspired to do it and because it had purpose there, but at the castles it seemed merely a cheap gimmick.  I was trying to capitalize on a "technique" rather than find new inspiration.  


But alas it was not a wasted effort! I did get the one image above that I really like, my daughter and I have a great memory and I learned an important lesson; don't copy others, even if it's yourself!



Mark Your Calendars


(Blizzard - Washington DC Mall - 2007)

There are two upcoming events I'd like to tell you about, in case you'll be in Colorado this upcoming June;


Annual Fort Collins Studio Tour.  Each year the artists of Fort Collins open up their studios for a weekend and the city turns out to watch them create and exhibit their work. This year it will be on Saturday/Sunday, June 23rd and 24th.  


If you'll be in the area, please stop by my home where I'll be exhibiting all large pieces this year. More information to come as we get closer to the date.


The Dairy Center for the Arts exhibition of The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The Dairy is a wonderful venue just down the road in Boulder, Colorado.  The exhibit opens with a reception on June 22nd and will remain open through July 27th.  This will be the first time that I'll show my new larger prints which delivers added impact to the series.


My Nine Favorite Images

Ten Favorite Images



Sometimes I'm asked to pick my favorite image, but that is impossible.  It would be like having to pick a favorite child, how could a parent do such a thing?  Even picking my favorite nine images for this newsletter was extremely difficult and if you were to ask me next month, I might pick a few different ones.



Through the month of May, all nine of these images will be discounted by 30%.  


The image size is 10X15 and is matted to 20X24 for horizontal images and the square images are 12X12 and matted to 20X20. 


The sale price is $280 (was $400 before the 30% discount).

To purchase, simply email me to discuss your




At the Picnic

(At the Picnic - Ukraine - 2009)

*  "121 Clicks" Interviews Cole Thompson
*  Cole Thompson's "Vision Interview" by Joel Tjintjelaar

*  Listen to my "Camera Campus" Interview

*  Read about my work done at Joshua Tree in the "Focus on Singh-Ray" blog

*  The April edition of NEWS de Cordoba features one of my Auschwitz images on the cover and all sixteen images from portfolio inside. This is the official publication for the Photographic Association of Cordoba, Spain.  


* One of my images is featured on the cover of the textbook, "A Portable Anthology" 


*  Several of my Grain Silo images will soon be offered by Restoration Hardware in their new Wall Decor offerings.  These will be very large prints.

*  The website "Fuel Your Photography" featured me and my work in an Indy Spotlight

*  My work on Auschwitz-Birkenau is featured in the photography textbook "The Elements of Photography" by Angela Faris Belt.





Skeleton Large

(Skeleton - Fort Collins, CO - 2004)


The winner of this months drawing is David Zlotky who will receive a print of his choice.


The next drawing is for a signed copy of the book "Why Photographs Work" by George Barr which features an analysis of one of my Auschwitz images.


For those of you new to my newsletter drawings, all you need do is email me at and put "Why Photographs Work" in the subject line.  


Of course if you'd like to also say hello, I'd love to hear from you!


About Cole Thompson Photography

Family Portrait

(Family Portrait - Route 66, Kansas - 2006)




Phone:      970-218-9649


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