Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Group & Crowd Pictures of World War 1

The power of photographs and image capture of world events is not only the purpose of this website, but also the most powerful directly lasting legacy of an event like The Great War.

Photography was a rapidly developing technology and quite widely used by the outset of World War 1.  In fact, it’s not widely known that color photograph technology was used as early as the mid 1800’s.  There are quite a lot of color photographs from World War 1 (including many found on this site’s galleries).  The French photographer Jule Gervais-Courtellemont was quite widely known for his color pictures.  Many photographers even started societies and organization clubs where they would discuss and share their color photography experimentation – always hoping to continue to improve the output.  Of course, not all photographer were from the Allied side.  The Kaiser had hired 19 photographers to take photographs (ie. as “embedded” civilians) throughout the war.  Hans Hildenbrand was well-known for being the only German photographer who took pictures in color.

Interesting Fact:  After the War, both Gervais-Courtellemont and Hildenbrand ended up working for a popular American magazine:  National Geographic.

However, despite the technological accessibility, black and white photography was still the most widely used and available.

There are so many aspects to photography and the photographers of World War 1.  Indeed, the role that photos played could not possibly be understated.  However, the pictures in this section have to do with scale.  A big challenge for photographers was how to possibly take pictures that could demonstrate just how large-scale and monumental this world conflict event was.  Photographs started with headshots and group shots of regiments and various military “class pictures” that helped document a context, or evidence of the soldiers who trained and served in their regiment.  In a conflict where 16,000,000 perished, these pictures may be the only symbol of the humanity behind the statistics.

You’ll see formal group photos (posed), images of crowds and speeches, parades and ceremonies, women and families (civilians), and of course the young captured and immortalized forever on photographic film.  The key aspect here is to try and get a sense of the scale and the all-encompassing nature of this conflict and how it literally affected almost everyone in the modern world of that era.