Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Photography of the First World War

I have just noticed that this has made it to no.2 in Flickr Explore which is my highest ranking photo ever! I work a lot with WW1 poetry and images and I took this photo of a toy soldier reconstruction of a trench in the Flanders Fields Museum. The stretcher instantly made me think of Isaac Rosenberg's poem "Dead Man's Dump", a poem that I consider to be one of the most brilliant poems produced during the First World War.

I think the photography of this particular war is a very interesting topic. Of all the arts it was photography that failed to capture the battlefields of 1914-18. But I think of the subject - the sprawling mess stripped of colour and shape, literally nothing. Photography can not visualise emtyness. What was left was empty or perhaps it is more accurate to say what was left was full of emptyness. As Nash said "the void of war". Painters like Nash captured it better with thick paint, pigment heavily saturated with ocre and umber, a modernist representation of the swelling turbulent mass of the battlefield. May be this was because a more abstract medium was needed to try and capture the almost uncapturable nature of the war.

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