Think of old war movies and photographs. They were subtly stark and dark. I have watched many of them and recall barbed wire fences, men in berets, bunkers, the mess, the singing and tapping of wooden tables, the parting of lovers, the standing in queues for rations, the loss, the death…all so black and white, yet layered with the greys of profound meaning.
Recently I was sent a link to Der Spiegel’s collection of the only pictures of World War I that were shot in colour by two seasoned photographers - the German Hans Hildenbrand and the Frenchman Jules Gervais-Courtellemont.
The report states:
Although color photography has existed since at least 1879, it didn't become popular until many decades later. The overwhelming majority of photos taken during World War I were black and white, lending the conflict a stark aesthetic which dominates our visual memory of the war.
History, whether recorded or not, is always repeated. It was this picture of devastation that sprang out at me from the gallery.
Why? A mere structure, a church destroyed, is the centre-piece. It is mere structures that crumble – brick by brick and emotion by emotion. We invest a lot in them and they have become the cause of many a dispute in our so-called modern age.
Besides, I read that the pictures of people - soldiers and civilians - were ‘posed’ due to technical constraints. I understand that, but however much planned wars are and whatever strategy is adopted, the impulse is a moment of thoughtlessness. And when I say war, it is the wars we fight each day with people who we are forced to call enemies.
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For the full gallery, go here.