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Great War Photography

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Great War Photography

Postby turnerbrenda_1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:01 pm

I recently read a review in the US monthly publication The Atlantic by Deborah Cohen of a recently released Imperial War Museum publication entitled "The Great War: A Photographic Narrative", edited by Mark Holborn and Hilary Roberts.

In the review, it was stated that Field Marshall Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War was "from the start hostile to photography." It also stated that "for British soldiers, possession of a camera was grounds for court-martial."

Can anyone verify that these statements were true? Many thanks. And cheers from Canada!

Brenda Turner
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Re: Great War Photography

Postby ColinB » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:28 pm

I can find numerous references to cameras being banned from 1915 and also to Kitchener's hostility
to photography and the press in general. There would have been concerns about film falling into the hands of the enemy presumably. ... a_01.shtml ... 738&page=1 ... -1915.html

In the third link scroll down to the section headed Shadow Book . It refers to an entry in the 9/East Surrey war diary of 6 Sep 1915 stating that all cameras were to be returned to England.

I'm sure a little research on Google will turn up further references.

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Re: Great War Photography

Postby turnerbrenda_1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:47 pm

Colin, those are terrific sources. Thank you so much. Those are brilliant sources.

I recently came across a terrific original photo of Vimy Ridge military activity in a fonds deposited by a family member in a local archives here in Canada more than 6o years ago. It was a fantastic photo, very sharp, very clear, of men in deep mud struggling to move an 18 pounder gun. My reaction to it was in my gut.

While the photo was fantastic, the photo also confused me, and left me unsettled, somehow. I felt I had glimpsed something rarely seen. When I came across that review in the magazine, I felt I had spotted something which explained why so many photos I have seen of the Great War have been unsatisfying: posed, formal, or seen from the great distances of that war, such as the length of the Somme front line, in which photos of thousands of men became small dots on an enormous field.

But that my relation had had a camera, when overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, where he was permitted to have such a thing, whereas British soldiers were not, can explain how he captured a vibrant, heart-breaking, brilliant and unposed scene which showed the real and terrible conditions in which men served and fought for their lives. Many thanks again.

Brenda Turner
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Re: Great War Photography

Postby Sylcec » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:28 pm

There are a wealth of photos - mainly of Australian troops of course - on the Australian War Memorial (AWM) site, such as this one: Most are posed portrait pictures of individuals or groups of officers and men from a regimental company.
You might also enjoy this one, which is in my possession, although there is also a copy on the AWM site. These men of the 3rd Pioneers are skinny dipping (who but the Aussies would do this?!) in one of the lagoons near the Somme probably in late May 1918. Clearly it is an informal photo and probably taken by one of the men in the 3rd Pioneers who was known to be a photographer in civilian life (though no proof of this).
Sylvia Murphy
3rdPioneers-Somme-web.jpg (212.31 KiB) Viewed 1784 times
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Re: Great War Photography

Postby turnerbrenda_1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:30 pm

That's a wonderful photo, and thanks again.

And again, Aussies, or Canadians, had cameras, but the British didn't. And cheers from Canada. It's minus 25 Celcius degrees here where I live today, so be glad it's not where you are!

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