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May 22, 2014
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World War One – a glimpse of the front

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Paris, France
By Charles Platiau

Editor’s Note: The animated images in this blog are made from stereoscopic glass plates taken during World War One.

Stereoscopic photography uses two images seen together through a special viewer, creating a picture that looks almost three dimensional.

Apr 13, 2014
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Remembering Verdun

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Verdun, France

By Charles Platiau

Verdun was the site of one of World War I’s bloodiest battles. Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers lost their lives in this north-eastern corner of France, where fighting raged for months in 1916.

Yesterday’s enemies are now united on the battleground. Members of French and German historical associations, all keenly interested in the First World War and all passionate about historical re-enactments, gather in Verdun every year to take part in a commemorative march.

Sep 20, 2013
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The ghost town of Goussainville

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Goussainville-Vieux Pays, France

By Charles Platiau

Once upon a time there was a small French village called Goussainville, situated 20 kms (12 miles) north of Paris, with its town hall, its church, its 19th century manor, and only seven small streets. Early in the 20th century the only sounds to be heard came from the church bell, farm animals and the roar of thunder from a passing summer storm. Then came the Great War with the noise of canons. In May 1915 local resident Auguste Denis was killed, in November his brother Henri was killed. This followed in 1916 with the death of his brother Alfred and then in 1917 their brother Julien. A war monument was built with the four brothers’ names among the 32 soldiers from the village who lost their lives. Calm returned until the bombings of World War II. After the Liberation, German prisoners of war worked the fields and life quietly moved along until in June 1973 a Tupolev 144, performing at Le Bourget Air Show, crashed in the village, destroying fifteen homes and a school. A second sound was heard.

Then technicians installed speakers and turned up the sound, to demonstrate to the village residents what to expect with the opening of the future international airport, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. Too much noise with the runways only 3 kms (2 miles) from the village, added to the fear of potential air crashes. Many residents moved away to a new village, bearing the same name, Goussainville, with a new cemetery. They called the village, “Le Vieux Pays” (Old Settlement), the houses were boarded up, the church closed its doors, the bells silenced, the cemetery would no longer see funerals, and only the rare visitors. Practically a ghost town, frozen in time, where only several die-hards, continue to live. Among them a book store owner, the only shop doing business in the village.

Jun 20, 2012
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To my friend Vladimir Lenin

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By Charles Platiau

When I arrived in Donetsk, southern Ukraine, two weeks ago I didn’t think you would be one of the best friends I made during my stay. Nobody speaks English here, even if my hotel is called “the Liverpool hotel” and plays Beatles music all day long everywhere except, thoughtfully, in my room. I don’t speak Russian either, but I soon learned Vladimir Ilyich is how locals fondly refer to you, Mr Lenin. Your statue dominates the landscape of this city’s downtown. You remain in full view in contrast to the advertising you stand opposite; maybe people even remember what you stand for.

It’s hard to judge a place in such a short time but I wonder what Donetsk looks like when there isn’t such a big event in town. The city is quiet, very clean and there are more advertising boards than in most western countries. All the ugliest buildings are now covered with banners to advertise Japanese goods or to hide the worst aspects of the city.