Dachau

Story & Images by Kelsey Cowley
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He said, “I know the heat is intense, but it will make it easier for you to imagine discomfort that was actually felt”.

Our trip to Dachau wasn’t completely our choice. We were on a family trip in Europe. All of the individual families were able to vote where they wanted to go. Our options were Neuschwanstein Castle or Dachau. Michael and I chose Neuschwanstein Castle, but we were outnumbered. I’ll admit, I was really nervous to go to Dachau as it seemed like it might put a completely dark and negative cloud over our trip.

Our family chose to go on a guided tour. I’ll start by saying that Dachau has since turned into a memorial and museum for people to learn about history. The cells and bunks have been cleaned and restored and there are photos and stories to teach about what each of the locations was for. I went into the visit thinking it would be dark and depressing, and while it was uncomfortable, it was extremely eye-opening. After learning about history during school from textbooks and poor photographs, it’s an entirely different experience to actually be in the places where so much of history occurred. It was quite spiritual and reflective to actually take photographs while there. I wish I would have taken more, but so much of my time was spent trying to take it all in.

The day we went, it was nearly 100 degrees outside, it was high noon, and the sun was only becoming more intense. I remember something our guide shared with us that really stuck out to me. He said, “I know the heat is intense, but it will make it easier for you to imagine discomfort that was actually felt”. So while I normally pass off the heavy camera and bag to Michael when I’m not shooting, I carried that heavy bag on my back and the camera around my neck while silently expressing gratitude for my safety and my life, and for those that were not as fortunate. Many of those that were in the Dachau concentration camp had families and lives and they would have given anything. While I’m sure the Neuschwanstein Castle would have been incredibly stunning and I could have produced beautiful photographs, I feel that the gallery I ended up with from Dachau is beautiful in it’s own way and it taught me so much. There is a specific photo from inside one of the rooms with a window. It was so dark inside but the window let in the most beautiful light. There is another from the gas shower room and the last original shower head. The hardest photos to take were those of the crematorium.

The beautiful thing about travel is gaining an appreciation for the historic places and cultures around the world. It’s an even bigger honor to have an opportunity to capture it all on film. I will always remember taking each and every one of those images, so thoughtfully.

"I carried that heavy bag on my back and the camera around my neck while silently expressing gratitude for my safety and my life, and for those that were not as fortunate."
Kelsey Cowley is a wedding and portrait photographer specializing in elegant and timeless memories for couples who are madly in love. Kelsey draws from your connection and story, hones in on the simple moments to create elegant and documentary imagery. You can see more of her work at KelseyCowley.com