Photographers' Blog

Reliving the past

Colchester, Britain

By Luke MacGregor

How does one illustrate the centenary of a war that changed global history?

There is no way to truly relive or re-experience what people went through a whole century ago. The only thing I could think of was to try and draw a revealing comparison between people’s lives then and now.

Custom silicone technician Corin Watts  as Lance Corporal Corin Watts of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps with the Rifles Living History Society participates in a rifle drill whilst recreating life as a First World War soldier at the Colchester Military Tournament in Colchester, eastern England  July 6, 2014. Corin became interested in World War One when as a child on the bus he would pass the statue of 'the driver' on the Royal Artillery Monument by Charles Sergeant Jagger, because of its size and its imposing nature it used to scare him, but provoked him to ask questions about the Great War and to learn more. He started re-enacting for that reason too. Of his fellow re-enactors he says "I like the people, its an odd community re-enactment, they are the most bizarre but at the same time most grounded and down to earth people you'd ever meet".   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor  (BRITAIN)

Custom silicone technician Corin Watts works on a prosthetic partial hand he is making at the London Prosthetic Centre in Kingston -Upon-Thames southwest London August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

I contacted a group of historical re-enactors who recreate the lives of soldiers in the Great War and attended some museum open days with them, watching as they publicly demonstrated various drills and period artifacts. But I wanted to go further than just seeing their uniforms. I wanted to show an interesting similarity between these men and the soldiers from 100 years before.

The men who served in World War One came from a vast variety of backgrounds; from bakers to bankers, salesmen to solicitors. Many of those who joined up were just school leavers. If they were fit enough and not too old, then they were sent to the front line.

Carpenter Richard Helad of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment Living History Group participates in a mock battle illustrating the First World War at the Colchester Military Tournament in Colchester, eastern England July 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Carpenter Richard Helad adjusts a door in a new apartment constructed by Berkeley Homes construction firm in Hackney northeast London July 22, 2014.  Richard's love of history developed whilst growing up with an archeologist father who ran an archeological dig at Winchester in southern England.  His interest in re-enacting was sparked when visiting a "War and Peace" show with his son, while there he bought a cap and pair of trousers, he continued buying the uniform and equipment and became more and more involved in the group.  He feels it is important to keep the memory alive of those who died and to educate people about how the war changed the social history of the country including securing the vote for women and opening up opportunities for them in the workplace.

I wanted to try to convey the huge range of men who served by photographing the historical re-enactors not only in uniform but also as they did their day jobs, which were also very varied.

As I went about my task, I was welcomed into the ranks of the historical, and now non-existent, regiments of “The King’s Royal Rifle Corps” and “The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)” as well as the lives of their officers and men.

Remembering D-Day, 70 years on

Omaha Beach, France

By Chris Helgren

During the years of my career that I spent working in Europe, I met many veterans who fought and lost friends on World War Two battlefields.

One such occasion was in 2009, when I went to Normandy to cover the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the allied invasion that spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.  

President Barack Obama arrived at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, where more than 9,000 soldiers are buried, to pay tribute to those who gave their lives. I was only covering the Canadian contingent during this trip – a comparatively small part of the proceedings – but I vowed to return at a later date to explore the area.

World War One – a glimpse of the front

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.

The images here are produced using a GIF file that rapidly repeats the left and right stereoscopic plate, in order to give a 3D effect, without having the original viewer.

Shooting back in time

Naperville, Illinois

By Jim Young

I am not much of a history fan and definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a Civil War aficionado… I actually had to remind myself of the dates of the fighting before I went to cover a U.S. Civil War reenactment in Naperville, Illinois this month.

But as I walked up to the Naper Settlement open-air museum to photograph the event, and passed by former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln – or at least a man dressed up to look just like him – I figured I must be in the right place.

About an hour’s drive from Chicago, people were settling in for “Civil War Days,” featuring re-enacting of a battle scene from the war. Participants dressed in period costumes to fight it out as North and South and spectators came to watch.

All at sea – tales from Korea’s disputed border

Baengnyeong, South Korea

By Damir Sagolj

 A blue dot on a map shows a phone's current position on the island of Baengnyeong that lies just on the South Korean side of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea April 13, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Look at the little blue dot showing a current position on a map: that is the island of Baengnyeong. The map might suggest this outcrop is deep inside North Korea but it’s not. The hand in the picture is mine, the phone with its high-speed internet connection is also mine, and the barbed wire is South Korean.

Baengnyeong – like a few other islands I visited recently – lies on the South’s side of the disputed maritime boundary that separates the two Koreas at sea. Known as the Northern Limit Line, it is an extension of the more famous land border between North and South Korea – the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ – but it curves further to the north. It is the line between two fierce neighbors whose war started over six decades ago and never really ended.

I had seen many pictures of the DMZ but very few of the NLL. The DMZ looks scary but familiar: it is the world’s most heavily armed border, and the only serious boundary remaining from the Cold War.

Remembering Verdun

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.

One sunny Saturday in March, I joined up with four historical associations who took part in the event: “Le Poilu de la Marne” – from France, and “Darstellungsgruppe Suddeutches Militar”, “IG 18” and “Verein Historische Uniformen”- from Germany.

The ghost villages of Verdun

Verdun, France
By Vincent Kessler

The year 2014 brings together the past and the future for France. It is a time of local elections, and it is also the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

The Battle of Verdun in northeastern France was the longest battle of the so-called Great War, lasting some ten months from February to December 1916. It was also one of the most murderous.


The WWI ossuary of Douaumont is seen in Douaumont near Verdun, Eastern France, March 4, 2014. The sentence reads : this tower was given to the great deads of Verdun by their friends from the US. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

After the 1870-71 war between France and Prussia, which ended with the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the Germans, Verdun was at the eastern edge of France. The city was fringed by hills – hills in which a network of forts was built to protect the border.

Faces of Romania’s past

Slobozia, Romania
By Bogdan Cristel

Romania is proud to have produced a man thought by many to be the world’s first war photographer – Carol Popp de Szathmary, from the city of Cluj, who took photographs of the Crimean War in the 1850s.

One of the most impressive people to have followed in his footsteps is Costica Acsinte, another Romanian who worked as a photographer during the First World War. Below is an image of his taken on the front line.

Although I don’t usually spend that much time on social networks, it was on Facebook that I first came across Acsinte’s works.

Reflecting on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By Gary Cameron

He arrived on the evening train from Washington, accompanied by two secretaries, three members of his Cabinet, and several foreign officials. During the train trip, he commented that he felt weak and dizzy. During the speech, it was noted that he face had ‘a ghastly color.’ After the speech, he boarded a train back to the nation’s capital and was feverish and had a bad headache. An extended illness continued, and the President appeared to be in the throes of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg National Cemetery dedication.

Throw in the fact that Abraham Lincoln, in November of 1863, was attempting to save and re-unite a nation in the middle of a Civil War, free a people who came to the U.S. shores in chains and committed to a life of servitude and bondage, dealing with the loss of his young son Willie in 1862, (of the three Lincoln children, only one survived in adulthood), and married to a woman who possessed incredible mood swings, a fierce temper, and depression.

If you look at an actual photograph of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 at age 54, the physical effects of the mental weight and strains he carried are quite evident. Deep set lines and creases, fatigue, and sadness cover his expression even with an attempt to look pleasant. The man easily looks fifteen years older than his actual age.

The last theater in town

Powell River, Canada

By Andy Clark

As far back as I can remember, history has always fascinated me. Though my specialty as an amateur historian has been military history, just about anything that occurred prior to my birth has had my undivided attention. Recently while having a coffee with a friend, he mentioned he had been to a town north of Vancouver called Powell River and had happened to visit a local movie theater. He went on to say matter of factly, that the theater had been continuously running since it was built many years ago.

“Stop right there,” I said. “Did you take any pictures of the place?” Yes, he had and he pulled out his laptop to show me.

Powell River is a small community on the British Columbia Sunshine Coast and accessible only by water. To get there requires about two hours travel by car and a couple of hours crossing on two different ferries from Vancouver. The town was born around 1910 after a pulp and paper mill was built beginning in 1908. At one time the Powell River Company Mill was the largest of its kind in the world supplying paper to one out of every 25 newspapers in the world. In 1913, a small wooden theater was built to offer the locals entertainment that included silent movies, vaudeville shows and even local boxing matches. The town’s people decided to have a naming contest for the theater leaving their suggestions in a ballot box at the company store. A very popular public figure in Canada at the time was Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Patricia was living in Canada at the time while her father The Duke of Connaught served as Governor General in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Thus, the new theater was named the Patricia.