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.

Tales of War: Scapa Flow and the Grand Scuttle

Orkney, United Kingdom

By Nigel Roddis

Flying over the lush, green islands of Orkney in Scotland, it is hard to imagine the area as an important naval base during the two World Wars. But a wide expanse of water south of Orkney mainland used to be just that.

An aereal view of part of the Orkney Islands, Scotland, May 3, 2014.The Orkney Islands North of the Scottish mainland was a major British Naval base during WWI and WWII. It was also the scene of the Grand Scuttle on June 21 1919 when 74 interned German battleships were scuttled on the orders of Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The area, known as Scapa Flow, has seen its fair share of bloodshed. It was also the scene of the “Grand Scuttle,” when more than 50 German warships were sunk at the orders of their own Rear Admiral.

This strange event came about after Germany, defeated in World War One, had 74 ships interned at Scapa Flow.

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.

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.

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