24 Jun 2008

Professional photography of the Western Front

Although there is certainly no lack of spectacular motives, there are not many photo-books or documentary photography magazines with the Western Front as theme. However, about ten years ago two photo-books appeared, both published in various editions, and both got follow-ups wich focus on particular areas of the western front.

Les Champs de la mémoire: Paysages de la Grande Guerre (Editions du Chêne 1998), by the British photographer John Foley and Anne Roze (author), has a preface by Jean Rouaud, the author of the 1990 bestseller Les Champs d'honneur (translations: Fields of Glory; Die Felder der Ehre; Ärans väg etc.), and was published in English already the following year, Fields of Memory: A Testimony to the Great War (Cassell 1999, and later paperback editions).

Also Traces de la grande guerre: Les vestiges oubliés de la mer du Nord à la Suisse (text in both English and French, published in one and two volumes, Morval 1999), by the French-American photographer Jean S. Cartier (see more about J. S. Cartier here), has a preface by Jean Rouaud. Notice that there is also an older hardback edition of this book, published 1995 in a smaller edition. (From the photographer's web site: "This project, which aimed to record as many surviving vestiges of the conflict, was carried out over a twelve-year period with a large-format camera (4x5) along the 1914-1918 trench system stretching from the North Sea coast of Belgium to the French-Swiss border. More than 350 sites were surveyed.")

These books above are now very rare and expensive at the secondhand booksellers.

Verstild en Versteend/Weathered Witness: Relicten uit de Eerste Wereldoorlog from 2007 is a beautiful monocrome photography book with texts in both Dutch and English, by Patrick Goossens (photographer) and Wim Degrande (text and research). Wim Degrande is well known among Western Front travellers and researchers. The book is published by Davidsfonds/Leuven (24 x 24 cm, 208 pages).

But what is the strange thing at the beautiful cover photograph? It is actually one of the Quellen (springs) in Bois-le-Prêtre ("Priesterwald"), which Ernst Jünger stands beside at an often reproduced photograph from his time at Regniéville 1917!

Apart from these books, the western front has been the subject for at least two professional photography magazines.

The Belgian/Netherland edition of National Geographic had an article, "Bewogen land", in the November 2004 issue, with a couple of nice photographs by Tim Dirven. Order back issues here - unfortunately only possible to Belgium and the Netherlands...

Back in 1964 Life Magazine published a photographic First World War series (March 13; March 20; April 17; May 8; May 22 and in particular, June 5; the series also published as a book 1965). Although it focuses on photographs and posters from the 1914-1918 period, the issue with the final part of the series (June 5, 1964) includes several great contemporary (the 1960s) photographs of the Verdun battlefields.