Posts Tagged ‘war photography

31
Jul
22

Photographs: Frank Hurley – Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front during the First World War, mid-1917 – September 1918

July 2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The Battalion' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The Battalion
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Familiar yet strange: Frank Hurley’s First World War photographs

Most texts about the war photographs of Frank Hurley taken on the Western Front that I have read, focus on his use of multiple negatives to construct fantastical images of reportage, ‘Photographic Impression Pictures’ – combination prints – “pictures made to produce a realistic impression of certain events by the combined use of a number of negatives.” Hurley argued that it was impossible to capture the essence of what he saw in a single negative. He observed in the Australasian Photo-Review in 1919:

“None but those who have endeavoured can realise the insurmountable difficulties of portraying a modern battle by the camera. To include the event on a single negative, I have tried and tried, but the results are hopeless … Now, if negatives are taken of all the separate incidents in the action and combined, some idea may then be gained of what a modern battle looks like.”1

“Hurley desperately wanted to convey this horror through his photographs. He took many shots of the apocalyptic battlefields but was not content. While bleak, the stillness and shock of these images failed to communicate the cacophony of war. How was he to visually capture the ‘blinding sheet of flame; and the […] screaming shriek of thousands of shells’?”2

Hurley clashed with the official historian, Captain Charles Bean, about truth and photography. Bean was not convinced on the use of multiple negatives and referred to the images as ‘fakes’ but, on threat of resignation, Hurley stood his ground “and was not prepared to compromise for his art nor to fail in his duty to portray the horrors that he witnessed.”

These images formed a very small part of the work that Hurley produced in World War I and none are reproduced in this posting.

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Personally I am more interested in Hurley’s “straight” photographs and in observing the minutiae within each image. By doing this we can began to invert Hurley’s idea of capturing the whole event on the battlefield on a combined “macro” multi-negative. What Hurley was actually doing in his ordinary photographs was making possible such a complete record through the accumulation of familiar yet strange “micro” observations on a single negative – creating “atmospheres” of existence that document incidents in the action, which formally work together to picture the whole.

For example in the photograph 48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (18th July – 6th November 1917, below), Hurley uses a “near far” perspective, focusing the viewer’s eye along the perspective of the trench to the lone tree, building and standing figure vanishing point in the distance: but in the detail we can observe a man smoking a pipe, two men sewing and, to the right, what looks like a Very Pistol (or flare gun) – heavily used in both world wars – casually lying on a sandbag. The slight blur of the soldiers Brodie Mark I helmet at left indicates the length of the exposure, the physical length of that exposures existence. By observing the minutiae in this image the viewer can enter the space of the image and be fully present with these soldiers.

Other photographs offer more intriguing details that contribute to make the whole “picture” of the battlefield. Showing the cacophony and detritus of war, Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele (18th July – 6th November 1917, below) also shows in the misty background the silhouette of one of those new fangled tanks that were making an appearance on the battlefield, probably knocked out or broken down as they usually were. In the photograph incorrectly titled by Lawsons, ‘Australians Waiting to “Go Over”‘ – its correct title being Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele (1917, below) – we can observe a man holding a gas mask in his left hand; canisters of water and other belongings hanging from metal rods banged into the mud of the face of the trench; a big wooden stretcher standing vertically in the trench; and two of the men wearing an armband brassard with the words SB on them, indicating these men were stretcher bearers. Again, in the minutiae of elements, of detail, Hurley creates direct access to an “atmosphere” of the battlefield in all its dourness, mud and hollow-eyed soldiers staring grimly at the camera.

In the photograph Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road (4 October 1917, below), Hurley captures the balletic dance required to load a monster, death dealing gun… the heavy shells manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Reminiscent of the group portraits of Rembrandt with their “dramatic use of light and shadow (tenebrism) and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military group portrait,”3 Hurley’s photograph features three acolytes with their heads bowed at right whilst in the centre three seemingly kneeling figures raise their eyes as if in a devotional Renaissance painting to observe Christ being raised, pulled by chains onto the cross which is suspended above them.

In Hurley’s observations of the world – quick, fleeting glances of destruction, not long fixed stares – we look, recognise and feel his need to recognise his objective… before we need to verbalise our objective, ‘clear-sighted’, unbiased ‘views’ of the subject matter. In Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917 (September 20th, 1917, below), Hurley’s glass plate has cracked much like the world he was photographing. Clutching a blanket, a man on a stretcher in the foreground turns to look at the camera(man) while next to him a sergeant put his hand to his head. To his left another man is covered with a blanket so that we can only see his face from the nose upwards but we can observe he is staring towards the camera. Behind these grounded men is a maelstrom of movement picturing the violent turmoil of war – abandoned stretchers to the right; an upended lorry perched precariously at an angle; and walking wounded trudging past the seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. This photograph is but a tiny grain of sand on the head of a pin, here and then gone, for soon after Major George Heydon (the man in the sling in the centre of the photograph) had passed this point “a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers.”4 Life recorded and then snuffed out, both in less than a second.

Hurley need not have worried about capturing the macro, the whole of any event, for this is an impossible task with any still camera. By it’s very nature the camera excludes whatever is outside its direct line of sight, its point of view… so it is always exclusory. But in freezing the micro/cosmos within any photograph what Hurley captures are intriguing, fleeting “atmospheres” where the contexts and conditions for creation have brought together disparate elements to create a visual whole, in this case a dance of death.

In my mind, Hurley’s war photographs are much like the later English photographer Bill Brandt’s landscape photographs. Despite the difference in subject matter, my feeling is that both Brandt and Hurley were trying to display a sublime aesthetic. Whereas Hurley wanted to capture the intensity of the battlefield and its death and despair in one intimate, sublime image – here using sublime in the archaic sense of wanting to elevate something to a high degree of moral or spiritual purity or excellence – Brandt wanted to capture the archaic sublime beauty of the landscape. Brandt attempted to do this by introducing “an atmosphere that connects with the viewer in order to provoke an emotional response from contemplation of the work. In this sense it would seem that Brandt did not merely aim to represent a place but to capture its very essence in a single image…”5 The very thing that Hurley stated he wanted to do, to give some idea of what a modern battle looks and feels like in a single negative. Brandt stated, “Thus it was I found atmosphere to be the spell that charged the commonplace with beauty. … I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange.”6

To photograph these minutiae is not simply to document but to (e)strange through a heightened sense of atmosphere. A combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange: Isn’t that what Hurley’s war photographs are?

Hurley’s photographs contain a familiar yet strange “atmosphere” at once both objective but truly immersive and subjective (we can “picture” ourselves there) – in which the different elements that make the landscape (nature, light, viewpoint, weather conditions, subject, context) converge in an aesthetic canon rooted in a cultural tradition – in this case, war and war photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,450

 

Footnotes

  1. Australasian Photo-Review, 15 Feb, 1919, p. 164
  2. Anonymous. “Frank Hurley’s World War I photography,” on the State Library of New South Wales website Nd [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  3. Anonymous. “The Night Watch,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  4. Anonymous. “AWM E00711,” on the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022
  5. Anonymous. “Bill Brandt” text for the exhibition of the same name at the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid quoted on the Art Blart website 22nd August 2021 [Online] Cited 28/07/2022
  6. Ibid.,

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These photographs appeared on the Lawsons Auctioneers, Sydney website and are published here under fair use conditions for the purpose of education and research. I have added pertinent information with each photograph where possible. Each photograph has been lightly digitally cleaned. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away: only stumps of trees stick up here & there […] It’s the most awful & appalling sight I have ever seen. The exaggerated machinations of hell are here typified. Everywhere the ground is littered with bits of guns, bayonets, shells & men. Way down in one of these mine craters was an awful sight. There lay three hideous, almost skeleton decomposed fragments of corpses of German gunners. Oh the frightfulness of it all. To think that these fragments were once sweethearts, may be, husbands or loved sons, & this was the end. Almost back again to their native element but terrible. Until my dying day I shall never forget this haunting glimpse down into the mine crater on hill 60.”

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Frank Hurley diary entry, 23rd August, 1917

 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

.
John McCrae

 

 

James Francis “Frank” Hurley was 30 years old when he joined the Australian Imperial Force as an honorary captain and official photographer.

Before arriving on the Western Front in August 1917 to document the Third Battle of Ypres, Hurley had been no stranger to photographing under risky conditions. Less than one year earlier, he had returned to civilisation after two years stranded on the pack ice of Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance, a desperate struggle for survival during which he managed to produce a stunning set of images.

 

Hurley’s commitment to capturing an image, to ‘getting there without a fuss’, as Bean described it, underplays the many difficulties he faced in the field. His daily encounters with death, destruction and the ubiquitous mud of Flanders can only have hampered his photography. Hurley was – perhaps unknowingly – echoing Bean’s impetus to establish a national collection and, in turn, a memorial to Australians at war when he wrote:

“My enthusiasm and keenness, however, to record the hideous things men have to endure urges me on. No monetary considerations, or very few others in fact, would induce any man to flounder in mud to his knees to try and take pictures.”

Frank Hurley, quoted in Daniel O’Keefe, Hurley at War: The Photography and Diaries of Frank Hurley in Two World Wars, Fairfax Library, Sydney, 1986, p. 7 quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in National Gallery of Victoria Art Journal 51, 26 Jul 13 [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (recto)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australians Waiting to "go over" Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Notice the silhouette of the tank in the background of the photograph, and at centre right a .303inch Vickers Machine Gun mounted on a tripod (see below)

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun between 1914 and 1918

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun
between 1914 and 1918
Courtesy of York Museums Trust
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

 

 

Standard Vickers machine gun with tripod mount and associated ammunition belt, ammunition box plus petrol can (as a condenser can) with hose. The Vickers Gun was the standard British machine gun from 1912. It was heavy and mounted on a tripod, requiring a team of six men to transport it to and operate it on the battlefield. Although difficult to use on advancing troops, machine guns were used to deadly effect from defensive positions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele' 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

State Library of Queensland title: Australian Field Ambulance officers sheltering in trench
Imperial War Museum title: Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele © IWM (E(AUS) 839)
Lawsons title: Australians Waiting to “Go Over” (no text on verso of print)

 

 

The caption from Lawsons auction house is incorrect. These are not front line troops waiting to “go over” but stretcher bearers as evidenced by the armband on the two men on the left hand side of the photograph and their attendant stretcher vertically propped up against the trench.

“While the soldiers were readying themselves at the front of a trench, awaiting the order to go over the top, the unarmed bearers were at the back with their big wooden stretchers, trying, says Mayhew, to be as invisible as possible because the fighting men often considered them unlucky.”

 

In a more recent Australian publication Diaries of a Stretcher-Bearer 1916-1918 the Great War experience of Edward Charles Munro is retold. Munro served as an AAMC stretcher-bearer on the Western Front (Edward C. Munro, Donald Munro (ed.), Diaries of a stretcher-bearer: 1916-1918, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 2010). Munro, awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917, candidly related his involvement and experience in the 5th Australian Field Ambulance. The text gives the reader a clear understanding of the work and wartime experience of an Australian stretcher-bearer on the Western Front and is remarkable for its honesty and detail. The work is unusual as it portrayed the reality of life on the Western Front in a manner few others have done. For example, the author graphically described the technical aspects of the stretcher-bearers’ work in evacuating the wounded and frankly related his personal fears and those of his AAMC stretcher-bearer squad while working in harsh conditions and whilst under fire.

Liana Markovich. “‘No time for tears for the dying’: stretcher-bearers on the Western Front, 1914-1918.” Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of New South Wales, November 2015, p. 20.

 

Unknown maker. 'Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF' c. 1916

 

Unknown maker
Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF
c. 1916
Brass, Linen, White metal, Wool
Australian War Memorial Collection

 

 

Description

White woollen brassard (arm band), lined with white linen, with a nickel plated metal buckle, and five brass riveted eyelets at the free end for size adjustment. The letters ‘SB’ (stretcher bearer), in fine red wool cloth, are appliqué in the centre. The reverse has the wearer’s initials ‘A.K.’ in indelible pencil.

 

History / Summary

Alexander Kennedy, born in Glebe, Sydney, was a 20 year old baker working in Brisbane, when he enlisted in the AIF on 27 April 1915. After training he was assigned as a private to the Headquarters of 26 Battalion, with the service number 570.

The battalion sailed for Egypt on 29 June, aboard the troopship HMAT A60 Aenas, and then on to Gallipoli, where they landed on 12 September, undertaking defensive roles on the peninsula. Kennedy suffered what was diagnosed as an epileptic fit on 18 October. After assessment at 16 (British) Casualty Clearing Station, he returned to his unit the following day, but immediately suffered more fits. As a result, he was evacuated to the hospital ship, Soudan, and taken to Malta for treatment. Kennedy returned to duty in Egypt in March 1916 and transferred to D Company, 52 Battalion the following month, as a battalion stretcher bearer.

On 6 June 1916, he sailed with his battalion, aboard the Iverniai, to France for service on the Western Front. On 18 August Kennedy was promoted to lance corporal. In its first action in France, at Mouquet Farm on 3 September, fifty per cent of the men in 52 Battalion became casualties. Kennedy was one of them, receiving gunshot wounds to the shoulder, chest and left thigh, and fractured toes. Shortly before he was wounded he took part in an action in which a German machine gun crew were killed, for which he was subsequently awarded the Military Medal.

Kennedy was evacuated to a casualty clearing station on 5 September and then on to 18 (British) General Hospital at Camiers. There, his condition fluctuated, improving by 2 October, dangerously ill two weeks later, and then improving on 24 October. It is unclear form his records whether one or both of his legs was amputated, but an amputation took place on 16 November. A decision was made to try to transfer him to England by easy stages and he was moved about 4 miles to the St John’s Brigade Hospital near Etaples at the end of November. However, infection set in and he died there of septicemia at 12.15 a.m. on 2 December.

Anonymous text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 29th October 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (recto)
29th October 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Australian troops walk along a duckboard track through the remains of Chateau Wood, Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 29 October 1917. The word duckboard was created during the early 20th century to describe the boards or slats of wood laid down to provide safe footing for the soldiers of World War I across wet or muddy ground in trenches or camps.

“One dares not venture off the duckboard or he will surely become bogged, or sink in the quicksand-like slime of rain-filled shell craters. Add to this frightful walking a harassing shellfire and soaking to the skin, and you curse the day that you were induced to put foot on this polluted damned ground.”

~ Frank Hurley Diary October 11, 1917

 

WWI, 30 Oct 1917; A general view of the battlefield at Hannebeek in the Ypres sector. In the foreground are the duckboard and corduroy tracks leading to Westhoek and Anzac Ridge, and beyond it several Australian artillerymen (right) can be seen making their way to their dugouts in the wood.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The mud Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The mud Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian artillery, Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian artillery, Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Australian gun crew next to what looks like a Vickers BL 8-inch howitzer (Mark VII or VIII) (see below)

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer, manufactured in USA as Model 1917 and supplied to the Finnish army. Displayed in Hämeenlinna Artillery Museum. The stampings on the breech state: 8 IN. HOWITZER MODEL OF 1917 (VICKERS) MIDVALE NO 188 1918 VICKERS MARK VI
Photo taken on June 18, 2006
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Hellfire corner, Menin Road' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Hellfire corner, Menin Road (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Hurley’s most famous images, his view of Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front”, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917. Notice the attempt to screen the galloping horses and artillery from German observation and then shelling by flimsy pieces of material at the left hand side of the image.

“It [the Menin Road] is notorious and being enfiladed by the enemy’s fire is decidedly the hottest ground on the whole front. The way is strewn with dead horses, the effect of last night’s shelling and battered men’s helmets that tell of the fate of the drivers.”

~ Frank Hurley, diary, 14 September 1917, MS883, National Library of Australia

 

Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, in the Ypres Sector. This well named locality was continually under observation and notorious for its danger. At night this road was crammed with traffic, limbers, guns, pack animals, motor lorries and troops. Several motor lorries received direct hits at different times and were totally destroyed. The dead bodies of horses, mules and men were often to be seen lying where the last shell had got them. The neighbourhood was piled with the wreckage of all kinds of transport. A ‘sticky’ spot that was always taken at the trot. Left to right is Ypres Wood on Railway Ridge in background, hessian camouflage on the corner, Hooge, track to Gordon House veers to the right with Leinster Farm in the distance.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

The crossroads on the Menin Road outside Ypres, 27 September 1917. This spot was known as ‘Hellfire Corner’ and from the heights a few kilometres away German artillery observers could see the constant traffic passing along the Menin Road to the front lines. A British transport driver described Hellfire Corner: ‘… when I got to Hellfire Corner it was chaos. A salvo of shells had landed in among the convoy. The lorries were scattered all over the place and even those that hadn’t been directly hit had been run off the roadway … the road was littered with bodies and debris and shell-holes all over the place. (Driver LG Burton, Army Service Corps, quoted in Lyn Macdonald, They Called it Passchendaele, London, 1979, p. 92. Image: E01889)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Hellfire Corner was a junction in the Ypres Salient in the First World War. The main supplies for the British Army in this sector passed along the road from Ypres to Menin – the famous Menin Road. A section of the road was where the Sint-Jan-Zillebeke road and the Ypres-Roulers (Roeselare) railway (line 64) crossed the road. The German Army positions overlooked this spot and their guns were registered upon it so that movement through this junction was perilous, making it the most dangerous place in the sector.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

3rd Battle Ypres 1917 WW1 Footage Hell Fire Corner Menin Road Then And Now

Then and Now look at Hellfire Corner on Menin Road. Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties.

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading 'Granny', a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road' 4 October 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road
4 October 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Australian howitzer, Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road, in the Ypres sector, one of the monsters which, in the fighting of 4 October 1917, greatly assisted the advance by pounding the enemy’s reserve areas and demolishing the concrete fortresses. The heavy shells are manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Identified front right supporting a shell is Gunner 1113 A.C. Holder.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

The Battle of Menin Road was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres [also known as the Battle of Passchendaele] on the Western Front, undertaken by the British Second Army in an attempt to take sections of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed. This action saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd Divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack was successful along its entire front, though the advancing troops had to overcome formidable entrenched German defensive positions which included mutually supporting concrete pill-box strongpoints and also resist fierce German counter-attacks. A feature of this battle was the intensity of the opening British artillery support. The two AIF Divisions sustained 5,013 casualties in the action.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Heavy artillery was designed to pulverise enemy defensive positions. By and large German defences were constructed very well indeed, and the onus was on the Allies to attack them to retake ground occupied by the Germans in 1914. German defences often comprised concrete blockhouses and deep underground concrete dugouts which were impervious to Field Artillery.

Big guns were a prime target for opposing artillerymen who would seek to apply counter battery fire to enemy gun positions. Locating them accurately was a story in itself. In the end it was the British who triumphed thanks largely to the work of Adelaide-born (later Professor and 1915 Nobel Prize winner) Captain Lawrence Bragg, serving in the Royal Artillery. He and his team developed a surprisingly accurate technique based on sound ranging that gave the Allies a decisive advantage being able to locate enemy heavy guns with remarkable accuracy. It was a decisive factor in the Allied victory on 8th August 1918 at the Battle of Amiens.

Gunners have four defensive measures; distance from the enemy, concealment, protection in the form of dugouts and bunkers, and mobility. As far as range was concerned, soldiers have a saying; “if the enemy is in range so are you”. At least with heavy guns, they are generally beyond the range of Field Artillery. Concealment? When one of these guns went off, the entire neighbourhood knew it; at night the muzzle flash was prodigious, so notions of concealment were therefore moot. Once firing began the best protection is to be part of a massed barrage. Mobility is a misnomer in the case of most heavy artillery; it is certainly relative. The 9.2 inch Howitzers were not mobile – they could not easily be redeployed without time and lifting equipment. Protection? Defensive earthworks would not sustain a direct hit by enemy heavy artillery. Nor could they prevent enemy infantry attacking if they ever managed to get close enough (which they did during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917). In short, being a gunner was not without risk.

The Australian Heavy Batteries served on the Western Front largely detached from the rest of the AIF. They spent relatively little time on the Somme. Most of their service was rendered further north around Arras and Vimy in France and into Flanders, as part of British Corps Artillery. The Heavy Batteries were manned at the outset with soldiers from the permanent force Garrison Artillery, later augmented by reinforcements from the militia.

Steve Larkins. “36th Heavy Artillery Group,” on the Virtual War Memorial website November 2014 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
September 20th, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

National Library of Australia title: Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
Australian War Memorial title:
A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, Belgium, Frank Hurley, 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: The Wounded Ypres (no text on back of print)

 

 

Notice the broken glass of the negative plate, the man being led at left possibly blinded in a gas attack, and the piles of stretchers at right.

“The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners… A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 20 September 1917

 

“It was wondrously quiet, only an occasional shell was fired – the aftermath of the storm, and it sounded for all the world like the occasional boom of a roller on a peaceful beach, with the swish of the water corresponding to the scream of the shell.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 21 September 1917

 

A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, 20 September 1917. The wounded are waiting for clearance to the advanced dressing station further back down the Menin Road towards Ypres. The soldier with his arm in a sling in the centre of the photograph is Major George Heydon, Regimental Medical Officer, 8th Battalion AIF, with members of the 1st Field Ambulance AIF. Shortly after Major Heydon passed this point a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers. (AWM E00711)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

In his photograph of the wounded on the Menin Road (above), Hurley shows a seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. A lone figure appears to be providing aid while a stream of stretcher-bearers, soldiers and German prisoners passes by. Hurley’s photograph conveys the scale of the landscape and the terrible human toll. The awfulness of the scene is confirmed in his diary entry from that day: ‘The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners’. He also commented:

‘A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.’

Hurley (diary entry, 20th September 1917) quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria website 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole near Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole near Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

By the time Australian Frank Hurley arrived on the Western Front to assume ‘the grim duties of France’ in 1917,1 he had a well-established reputation as a photographer, adventurer and raconteur. His photographs and films along with his thrillingly described exploits in Antarctica on expeditions with Sir Douglas Mawson (1911-1913) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (1914-1916) had captured the public imagination. Hurley’s skills as a photographer, his controversial and occasionally shocking imagery and his ability to put on a ‘good show’ continued to ensure that his work was seen by mass audiences in London, Sydney and Melbourne in the years immediately following the First World War. A popular success with the general public, the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs opened in Melbourne in 1921 and offered audiences the opportunity to purchase his photographs and those of other official war photographers. Copies of four photographs by Hurley believed to be from this exhibition were presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2003.2

The outbreak of war in Europe coincided with the departure of Shackleton and his crew, including Hurley, on the Imperial Trans-Antarctica expedition. For the crew of the Endurance – largely comprising men from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand – the knowledge of the war in Europe must have weighed heavily. The Shackleton expedition met with disaster before it reached Antarctica. From January 1915 until August 1916 the party was stranded and had no news of the outside world. Aware of the outbreak of war, the shipwrecked crew often speculated on the outcome of the conflict, unaware that it was far from over. In July 1916 Hurley’s crewmate Thomas Orde Lee wrote in his diary: ‘I think we are all a little ashamed of having run away from it. Most though, think it must be over by now’.3 At the time of their rescue, all were shocked to learn that, after two years, the war was not over but, in fact, had escalated. The impact of this news was described by Shackleton who wrote that, upon being rescued, they felt ‘like men arisen from the dead to a world gone mad’.4

Within ten weeks of his rescue, Hurley travelled to London. In August 1917 he was appointed an official photographer and cinematographer with the Australian War Records Section (AWRS). Formed in May of that year, the AWRS, under the direction of Charles Bean, was charged to collect Australian war relics and records, including photographs. Photo-historian Shaune Lakin notes that, for Bean, ‘the photograph formed part of a broader national archive comprising written accounts, relics, and other pictorial records that together would tell the story and commemorate the history of Australians at war’.5 In this capacity Hurley was quickly deployed to Europe, arriving in France on 21 August 1917. He was under the direction of Bean, with whom he had a difficult relationship on occasions; the two are reputed to have disagreed about the role of photography. A notable point of conflict between them was Hurley’s commitment to using multiple negatives to create some of his photographs of battlefield scenes. For Hurley, singular photographs often failed to convey the scale, drama and activity of battle, and he described such images as looking more like a ‘rehearsal in a paddock’.6 In contrast, Bean’s view was that photographs needed to be an unmanipulated documentary record of the events in which Australian forces were engaged. But despite their differences, Bean clearly had respect for Hurley’s commitment to obtaining the images he wanted, and wrote: ‘[Hurley] is a splendid, capable photo-grapher. I was worrying that he might miss the best pictures but he always got there, without fuss’.7

After the sublime wilderness of Antarctica, wartime London presented a bleak picture to Hurley, but it was nothing compared to the horrors of the Western Front. His diaries convey the destruction he encountered. On his first day in Flanders, Hurley wrote: ‘What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away, – only stumps of trees stick up here or there and the whole field has the appearance of having been recently ploughed’.8 Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

His photographs convey even more vividly the visceral horror of the battlefield.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2012).

Extract from Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Notes

  1. Frank Hurley, ‘My diary, official war photographer, Commonwealth Military Forces, from 21 August 1917 to 31 August 1918’, in Papers of Frank Hurley, Manuscripts Collection, MS 833, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
  2. It is believed that the four NGV photographs may have come from this exhibition because the images’ sizes match the smallest print size offered for sale in the 1921 exhibition.
  3. Thomas Orde Lee (diary entry, 19 July 1916), quoted in Alisdair McGregor, Frank Hurley: A Photographer’s Life, Viking, Melbourne, 2004, p. 136.
  4. Ernest Shackleton, South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917, Konecky & Konecky, New York, 1998, p. 231.
  5. Shaune Lakin, Contact: Photographs from the Australian War Memorial Collection, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2006, p. xi.
  6. Frank Hurley, ‘War photography’, Australasian Photo-Review, 15 February 1919, p. 164, quoted in Helen Ennis, Man with a Camera: Frank Hurley Overseas, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2002, p. 3.
  7. Charles Bean (diary entry, vol. 132), quoted in David Millar, Snowdrift to Shellfire: Captain James Francis Hurley 1885-1962, David Ell, Sydney, 1984, p. 61.
  8. Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Sept 20, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Terrible effects of our Artillery. Boche dead may be seen lying in the foreground. Sept 20 1917. 4th Division
Australian War Memorial title: Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: “Dead” Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Battle of Passchendaele (31 July – 10 November 1917) also known as the Third Battle of Ypres

The Third Battle of Ypres (German: Dritte Flandernschlacht; French: Troisième Bataille des Flandres; Dutch: Derde Slag om Ieper), also known as the Battle of Passchendaele (/ˈpæʃəndeɪl/), was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers (now Roeselare) a junction of the Bruges (Brugge) to Kortrijk railway. The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Once Passchendaele Ridge had been captured, the Allied advance was to continue to a line from Thourout (now Torhout) to Couckelaere (Koekelare).

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuport (Nieuwpoort), combined with an amphibious landing (Operation Hush), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. Although a general withdrawal had seemed inevitable in early October, the Germans were able to avoid one due to the resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather in August, the beginning of the autumn rains in October and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and early in the new year. The Battle of the Lys (Fourth Battle of Ypres) and the Fifth Battle of Ypres of 1918, were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.

A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch, the Chief of Staff of the French Army. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since 1917 include the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.

The choice of Flanders, its climate, the selection of General Hubert Gough and the Fifth Army to conduct the offensive, debates over the nature of the opening attack and between advocates of shallow and deeper objectives, remain controversial. The time between the Battle of Messines (7-14 June) and the first Allied attack (the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July), the extent to which the internal troubles of the French armies influenced the British, the effect of the exceptional weather, the decision to continue the offensive in October and the human costs of the campaign are also debated.

Text from the Wikipedia website – fuller information on the battle is available from this website

 

On 6th November 1917, after three months of fierce fighting, British and Canadian forces finally took control of the tiny village of Passchendaele in the West Flanders region of Belgium, so ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. With approximately a third of a million British and Allied soldiers either killed or wounded, the Battle of Passchendaele (officially the third battle of Ypres), symbolises the true horror of industrialised trench warfare.

General Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief in France, had been convinced to launch his forces at the German submarine bases along the Belgian coast in an attempt to reduce the massive shipping losses then being suffered by the Royal Navy. General Haig also believed that the German army was close to collapse and that a major offensive … “just one more push”, could hasten the end the war.

Thus the offensive at Passchendaele was launched on the 18th July 1917 with a bombardment of the German lines involving 3,000 guns. In the 10 days that followed, it is estimated that over 4 1/4 million shells were fired. Many of these would have been filled by the brave Lasses of Barnbow.

The actual infantry assault followed at 03.50 on 31st July, but far from collapsing, the German Fourth Army fought well and restricted the main British advance to relatively small gains.

Ben Johnson. “The Battle of Passchendaele,” on the Historic UK website Nd [Online] Cited 28/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

A group of gelatin silver prints in identical format, each 145 x 200mm and each unmounted. Reverse of each image shows Frank Hurley’s negative number in pencil, and ten with an additional contemporary manuscript caption in ink, (clearly written by an eyewitness) as follows: St Quentin Canal; Passchendaele Stunt. Duck walk track; 48th Battallion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive; Big 15″ gun emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to evacuate; A row of Howitzers of 105th Battery behind a cut bank near Bray; 4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers; Armoured Cars; The 27th & 28th Battns. having a rest & meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt. St. Quentin Sept 1 1918; Dead Fritz Machine Gunner & Gun 8 August ’18; One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated. …

A substantial archive of photographs by Australia’s pre-eminent war photographer, Frank Hurley (1885-1962). Among them are some of Hurley’s most famous images, including his view of Hell Fire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front” and the ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, both taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917.

From mid 1917 to early September 1918 the Australian photographer and adventurer Frank Hurley, who had already achieved fame for his Antarctic photographs taken on Douglas Mawson’s expedition, served on the Western Front as an official war photographer in the AIF, with the honorary rank of captain. His dramatic images vividly capture the carnage and atmosphere in perhaps the most brutalising theatre of war in the history of human conflict. Hurley’s photographs featured in the exhibition Australian War Pictures and Photographs, staged in London in 1918.

Anonymous text. “An Archive of Photographs Documenting the Experience of Soldiers of the AIF on the Western Front By Frank Hurley,” on the Lawsons website 7th December 2020 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Camped out near Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Camped out near Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ruins Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ruins Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

I’m afraid that I’m becoming callous to many of the extraordinary sights and sounds that take place around me, and things which astounded me when I landed, now seem quite commonplace.

It is a weird, awful and terrible sight; yet somehow wildly beautiful. For my part, Ypres as it now is, has a curious fascination and aesthetically is far more interesting than the Ypres that was.

.
~ Excerpt from Frank Hurley’s diary

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Australian artillery gunners hard at work behind their 18 pounder field gun.

 

 

QF 18-pounder gun

The Ordnance QF 18-pounder, or simply 18-pounder gun, was the standard British Empire field gun of the First World War-era. It formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war, and was produced in large numbers. It was used by British Forces in all the main theatres, and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (84 mm) and shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The first versions were introduced in 1904. Later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. During the interwar period, the 18-pounder was developed into the early versions of the equally famous Ordnance QF 25-pounder, which would form the basis of the British artillery forces during and after the Second World War in much the same fashion as the 18-pounder had during the First.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information about the field gun please see the website

 

The Gun

The Quick Firing (QF) 18 Pounder was the principle Field Gun of the British Army in World War One. The gun saw service in every theatre of the Great War. Its calibre of 84mm and shell weight made it more brutal and destructive than the French 75mm and German 77mm. Its ammunition had the shell combined with the cartridge thus giving it the description of ‘quick firing’.

The gun and its ammunition limber were towed by a team of six light draught horses. A driver was allocated to each two horse team and rode the left horse of each pair. The two wheeled ammunition limber was hooked up to the horses and the trail of the gun was hooked to the limber. Further to this, each gun had two additional ammunition limbers towed by their own team. The photograph below illustrates the standard horse drawn configuration.

The gun detachments, led by the detachment sergeant on his own horse, rode into action either on the horses or on the limber. During the early stages of the war, an ammunition limber was positioned on the left of the gun, but as the war progressed and larger quantities of ammunition were being used, stockpiles of ammunition were dumped in pits next to the guns.

 

The Australian History

The 18 pounder gun was introduced into Australian service in 1906 and continued to be used until 1945. It was the standard field gun in service until 1940 when it began to be replaced by the 25 pounder gun. When World War 1 commenced there were 116 18-pounder guns in Australia and 76 of these were sent to Gallipoli and France during the war. In addition further guns were purchased to replace damaged guns and also to supply the increasing number of gun batteries in the AIF. It is estimated some 500 guns were obtained in all. 116 were brought back to Australia. Today only seven of this early model remain of which three are updated with pneumatic tyres and three are Museum items.

Anonymous text. “The 18 Pounder Project,” on the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company website Nd [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

18 Pounder field gun

 

The RAAHC 18 Pounder, before restoration

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Destroyed Ruined Cathedral Ypres (no text on rear of print)
Australian War Memorial title: An unidentified Australian soldier looking at a portion of the ruined Cathedral at Ypres

 

 

To drive the Boche from Ypres, it was necessary to practically raze the town; and now that we hold it we are shelled in return, but shelling now makes little difference, for the fine buildings and churches are scarce left stone on stone.

Roaming amongst the domestic ruins made me sad. Here and there were fragments of toys: what a source of happiness they once were.

The strafed trees were coming back to life and budding, and there beside a great shell crater blossomed a single rose. How out of place it seemed amidst all this ravage. I took compassion on it and plucked it – The last rose of Ypres.

.
~ Frank Hurley Diary September 3, 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: After the battle at Ypres (no text on verso of print)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '"Anzac" tank in the mud' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
“Anzac” tank in the mud
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

The ‘Anzac’ blockhouse on which Lieutenant Arthur Hull, 18th Battalion AIF, placed the Australian flag on 20 September 1917. When the battalion attacked this position the German garrison was attempting to evacuate the blockhouse, dragging their two machine-guns with them. The Germans were overpowered and captured. (AWM E02321)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

A pillbox known as Anzac Strong Post, captured by Australian troops in the attack of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions, on 20 September 1917, and on which they hoisted an Australian flag. To this position there subsequently came an enemy messenger dog with messages to a German officer, telling of the Australian attack and instructing him to hold out at all costs. The dog was killed by shellfire later in the day, and the flag was destroyed, for the pillbox suffered many direct hits from the enemy’s high explosive shells. This photograph was taken a week later. Note the ANZAC sign and the rifles leaning against the pill box.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Probably the reverse angle of the same gun in the photograph above

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Armoured cars' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Armoured cars held up for a time on the main Harbonnieres Road, by fallen trees
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Armoured cars (text on back of print)

 

 

“An armoured car, carrying a French flag, moving up the main Amiens Road from Warfusee Abancourt during the advance of the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. The two soldiers on the right are unidentified.”

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

This appears to be an Austin 1918 pattern car, probably belonging to the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion of the Tank Corps. This unit was in action in France from March of 1918. The flag is not a French Tricolor, but rather a two-colour signal flag – probably red and white.

For more information on the Austin Armoured Car please see the Wikipedia website

 

The last, and probably most familiar vehicle in the Austin line up, the Austin 3rd Series (Improved)/4th Series Armoured Car, yet again closely followed upon it’s immediate precursor, the Austin 3rd Series car. And like all its predecessors, including the “older” Austin 1st Series, and Austin 2nd Series Armoured Cars, it too was built for use by Russian forces. However, due to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, most sources state that none of the 4th Series vehicles were used by the Russians*. The approximately 70 completed and subsequently built cars were acquired by the British Army and used fairly successfully by them, most notably by the 17th Battalion Tank Corps in 1918.

The 4th Series cars are fairly similar to the 3rd Series vehicles, except for a very significant change, the fitting of a strengthened suspension, which included dual rear wheels. The new suspension would aid the cars in improving their mobility, although never to a point of them being considered especially agile. In addition, some cars used in the later stage of the war / post-war were mounted with solid disc wheels. Finally, the 4th Series vehicles were also armed with British weapons instead of the Maxim machine guns favoured by the Russians. Sources state that both .303 Vickers and .303 Hotchkiss machine guns were mounted at various times.

Anonymous text. “Austin 3rd (Improved)/4th Series Armored Car,” on the War Wheels website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (detail)
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."]' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in “The devil’s den”]
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, July 1863

July 1863

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (recto)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (verso)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne (recto)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (text on back of print)

 

 

The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne. Identified, left to right: 21492 Corporal J. F. Yates MM (partially obscured by the gun); 21437 Bombardier John Thomas Wharton MM (shovelling); 37417 Gunner (Gnr) Charles Edward Harnett (back to camera); 24557 Gnr C. F. H. Ipsen (looking up); 23094 Gnr John Southwell (extreme right foreground); 32887 Gnr Charles Edward Dun (in the background between Harnett and Ipsen); 23073 Gnr A. McDonald (directly behind Ipsen); 32962 Gnr Stockley (behind McDonald).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Oline] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (verso)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

QF 4.5-inch howitzer

The Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer was the standard British Empire field (or ‘light’) howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5-inch howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in the field by British forces in early 1942. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The QF 4.5-inch (110 mm) howitzer was used by British and Commonwealth forces in most theatres, by Russia and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (114 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent German field howitzer (105 mm); France did not have an equivalent. In the Second World War it equipped some units of the BEF and British, Australian, New Zealand and South African batteries in East Africa and the Middle and Far East.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the gun please see the website

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II. A breech-loading artillery piece fitted with a sliding breech block, axial recoil system, splinter-proof shield, and steel box carriage. The gun is fitted with two wooden spoked ‘Wheels 2nd Class ‘C’ No 45′, and is equipped with drag ropes, spare shovels, rammer, and leather sight and tool boxes. …

 

History / Summary

The QF [Quick Fire] 4.5 inch howitzer was initially brought into service in 1909. The Mark II was introduced in 1917, rectifying a breechblock design defect in the earlier Mark I. The gun was capable of firing a 16 kilogram shell to a range of almost 7 kilometres, however it was its capacity to fire at elevations of up to 45 degrees that made the weapon so effective. The high elevation allowed the gun to lob shells almost vertically into areas protected by traditional fortifications. The heavier 4.5 inch high explosive shell was found to be far more effective than the 18 pounder in damaging enemy parapets and trenches and thus found increasing use for this purpose.

Over 3,300 4.5 inch howitzers were manufactured during the First World War. The Mark II design remained in service into the Second World War when they were finally replaced by the QF 25-Pounder.

Text and photograph from the Australian War Memorial website [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (recto)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin

The Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin was a battle on the Western Front during World War I. As part of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front in the late summer of 1918, the Australian Corps crossed the Somme River on the night of 31 August and broke the German lines at Mont Saint-Quentin and Péronne. The British Fourth Army’s commander, General Henry Rawlinson, described the Australian advances of 31 August – 4 September as the greatest military achievement of the war. During the battle Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont Saint-Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.

 

Battle

The offensive was planned by General John Monash; Monash planned a high-risk frontal assault which required the Australian 2nd Division to cross a series of marshes to attack the heights. This plan failed when the assaulting troops could not cross the marshes. After this initial setback, Monash manoeuvred his divisions in the only free manoeuvre battle of any consequence undertaken by the Australians on the Western Front.

Australians of the 2nd Division crossed to the north bank of the Somme River on the evening of 30 August. At 5 am on 31 August, supported by artillery, two significantly undermanned Australian battalions charged up Mont St Quentin, ordered by Monash to “scream like bushrangers”. The Germans quickly surrendered and the Australians continued to the main German trench-line. In the rear, other Australians crossed the Somme by a bridge which Australian engineers had saved and repaired. The Australians were unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and German reserves regained the crest. However, the Australians held on just below the summit and next day it was recaptured and firmly held. On that day also, 1 September, Australian forces broke into Péronne and took most of the town. The next day it completely fell into Australian hands. In three days the Australians endured 3,000 casualties but ensured a general German withdrawal eastwards back to the Hindenburg Line.

 

Aftermath

Looking back after the event, Monash accounted for the success by the wonderful gallantry of the men, the rapidity with which the plan was carried out, and the sheer daring of the attempt. In his Australian Victories in France, Monash pays tribute to the commander of the 2nd Division, Major-General Charles Rosenthal, who was in charge of the operation. But Monash and his staff were responsible for the conception of the project and the working out of the plans.

The Allied victory at the Battle of Mont Saint Quentin dealt a strong blow to five German divisions, including the elite 2nd Guards Division. As the position overlooked much of the terrain east of Mont St. Quentin, it guaranteed that the Germans would not be able to stop the allies west of the Hindenburg Line (the same position from which the Germans had launched their offensive in the spring). A total of 2,600 prisoners were taken at a cost of slightly over 3,000 casualties.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (verso)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'St Quentin Canal' 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
St Quentin Canal
1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I that began on 29 September 1918 and involved British, Australian and American forces operating as part of the British Fourth Army under the overall command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson. Further north, part of the British Third Army also supported the attack. South of the Fourth Army’s 19 km (12 mi) front, the French First Army launched a coordinated attack on a 9.5 km (6 mi) front. The objective was to break through one of the most heavily defended stretches of the German Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line), which in this sector used the St Quentin Canal as part of its defences. The assault achieved its objectives (though not according to the planned timetable), resulting in the first full breach of the Hindenburg Line, in the face of heavy German resistance. In concert with other attacks of the Grand Offensive along the length of the line, Allied success convinced the German high command that there was little hope of an ultimate German victory.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the battle please see the website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal' 25 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal
25 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: No 18 Tank (no text on back of print)

This is a British Mark IV tank (female)

 

 

A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal to the main Hindenburg Line. Land mines, scattered about the Hindenburg trenches and the specially directed anti-tank gun fire caused heavy tank casualties. Notice the crew entry doors beneath the side sponsons.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

British Mk IV tank

The Mark IV (pronounced Mark four) was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefited from significant developments of the Mark I tank (the intervening designs being small batches used for training). The main improvements were in armour, the re-siting of the fuel tank and ease of transport. A total of 1,220 Mk IV were built: 420 “Males”, 595 “Females” and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies), which made it the most numerous British tank of the war. The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the Battle of Messines Ridge. It remained in British service until the end of the war, and a small number served briefly with other combatants afterwards.

The “Male” tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I. As opposed to the five machine guns of the “Female” version of the Mark I tank, the male version of the Mark I had a QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss and three machine guns.

 

Production

The Mark IV was built by six manufacturers: Metropolitan (the majority builder), Fosters of Lincoln, Armstrong-Whitworth, Coventry Ordnance Works, William Beardmore & Company and Mirrlees, Watson & Co., with the main production being in 1917. The first order was placed for 1,000 tanks with Metropolitan in August 1916. It was then cancelled, reinstated and then modified between August and December 1916. The other manufacturers, contracted for no more than 100 tanks each, were largely immune to the conflict between Stern and the War Office.

 

Service

The Mark IV was first used in large numbers on 7 June 1917, during the British assault on Messines Ridge. Crossing dry but heavily cratered terrain, many of the 60-plus Mark IVs lagged behind the infantry, but several made important contributions to the battle. By comparison, at the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) from 31 July, where the preliminary 24-day long barrage had destroyed all drainage and heavy rain had soaked the field, the tanks found it heavy going and contributed little; those that sank into the swampy ground were immobilised and became easy targets for enemy artillery.

Nearly 460 Mark IV tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, showing that a large concentration of tanks could quickly overcome even the most sophisticated trench systems.

In the aftermath of the German spring offensive on the Western Front, the first tank-to-tank battle was between Mk IV tanks and German A7Vs in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

About 40 captured Mark IVs were employed by the Germans as Beutepanzerwagen (the German word Beute means “loot” or “booty”) with a crew of 12. These formed four tank companies from December 1917. Some of these had their six pounders replaced by a German equivalent.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Trimming. '1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England' 19 March 2013

 

Peter Trimming
1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England
19 March 2013
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)?
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Diggers taking a break (no text on back of print)

 

 

The Australian War Memorial website notes that this photograph is by George Hubert Wilkins.

A group from the 38th Battalion, supporting the 27th US Division in the attack on the Hindenburg Line, pause after being held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire, 29 September 1918.

 

Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm, in which they were held by machine gun fire during the attack on the Hindenburg Line, near Bony. Identified, left to right: 5918 Private (Pte) Binion; 967 Sergeant A. E. Pegler MM; 3020 Corporal H. Amiet MM; Captain C. H. Peters MC; unidentified soldier (almost completely obscured by Buckland); 763 Company Sergeant Major (CSM) R. J. Buckland MM (smoking a pipe); 6217 Pte G. Bain.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm (detail)
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Rest after battle (no text on back of print)

 

 

A communication trench previously used by the Australian troops at Westhoek Ridge, in the Ypres section, during the attack of the 2nd Division further forward, near Passchendaele Ridge. Two unidentified members of the 2nd Division are seen watching the shellfire (not in view).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele (detail)
1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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13
Mar
22

Review: ‘Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2021 – 20th March 2022

Curator: Nathaniel Gaskell

Artists: Darogah Abbas Ali, Indu Antony, Felice Beato, Mitter Bedi, Jyoti Bhatt, Bourne & Shepherd, Samuel Bourne, Michael Bühler-Rose, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chunni Lall & Co., Lala Deen Dayal, Francis Frith & Co., Gauri Gill, Khubiram Gopilal, Hamilton Studios Ltd, Johnston and Hoffmann, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, William Johnson, John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson, Karen Knorr, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Steve McCurry, Saché & Murray Studios, Pushpamala N with Clare ARNI, Nicolas & Company (attributed), Norman Parkinson, Anoli Perera, Suresh Punjabi, Marc Riboud, John Edward Saché, Charles Scott, Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur, Edward Taurines (attributed), Waswo X Waswo, Wiele and Klein Studio, Wilson Studios Bombay

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne is at one and the same time, a fascinating, stimulating, frustrating, uplifting – and a little sad – overview of the history of the photography of India. I won’t say the history of Indian photography because most of the historical photographs are taken by European studios in India, and even an equal amount of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary photographs are taken by non-Indian born photographers residing in India or elsewhere. The title Visions of India is, therefore, undeniably apt – the exhibition being as much about how foreigners view the Indian continent, culture and people as how Indians picture themselves.

The fascinating, stimulating and sad elements of the exhibition are the “presence” of the historical photographs. These photographs range from the European architectural documentation of Indian temples through European colonial-ethnographic images which document Indian ethnic “types” – in the case of William Johnson montaging ethnic group portraits taken in the studio with appropriate views of actual buildings and scenes to picture oriental races and tribes – to European and Indigenous Indian photographers and ruling Indian princes’ photographs of themselves and their courtesans … taken in the European manner.

John Falconer in his book 2018 book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection observes, “A number of India’s princes became deeply interested in photography and both practiced and collected it, several also retaining state photographers… The portraiture of Indian royalty also proved a popular genre. Portraits posed in the setting of the European studio, but celebrating an oriental luxury of costume, jewellery and other accoutrements, were commissioned not only by rulers themselves but were also collected by Western customers, as the contents of many collections attest.”1

But by whoever they were taken – European photographer, Indian photographer or royal prince – these photographs are always taken from a position of power and authority by a male, either to reinforce through the male gaze their own splendour or to document their personal chattels, the tangible goods that they owned. For example, while texts by Mrinalini Venkateswaran (below) and Aparna Andhare argue that the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur are adept at revealing himself through his self-portraits “as a thoughtful person who intuitively understood the power of iconography and images,”2 and that he was adept at capturing the personalities of the heavily veiled inner circle of the zenana of the royal household, “that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types'”2 (at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view) … these observations belie the fact that it was he, the ruler, that found them “fit” subjects to be sitters.

And this is what I find particularly sad about these particular photographs – I don’t feel their personalities but I feel their pain. I look at their body language, the demurely clasped hands, the “dead” eyes as they stare at the camera (except one older women who stares defiantly), and the timidity of the body posture… some almost seem to cringe from the camera’s gaze, others look so alone and sad, as though they would wish to be anywhere but subject to (t)his intimidatory gaze – of the camera and the man. It’s disturbing, this feeling of vulnerability and betrayal, when compared to the majesty of Lala Deen Dayal’s photographs, his portrayal of male royal opulence and self-importance.

Pertaining to the Indigenous Indian uptake of photography John Falconer observes that, “[Samuel] Bourne may have viewed the western technology of the camera as yet another symbol of the dominance of European culture, but Indians had lost no time in embracing the new medium. Bourne himself had noted that Indian studios were not uncommon in the Calcutta of the early 1860s. But documentary evidence relating to the growth of an Indigenous photographic culture in India is at present frustratingly limited and has not been investigated with the same rigour as more easily accessible Western records. Even so, it is clear that photography was quickly taken up be sections of the Indian population, in general those who were in a position to associate with European society. …

The only Indian studio whose work has received similar attention and acclamation to that given to European contemporaries is that of Lala Deen Dayal. The success of the Dayal studio is comparable to that achieved by his English counterpart Bourne and Shepherd… The attention paid to Deen Dayal in recent years and his status as an Indian icon stands in marked contrast to the dearth of information available on the work of equally interesting contemporaries.”3

It is unclear in the essay in the book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection from where this information and research has been gathered, as few Indian sources are quoted in the footnotes. While I am no expert on Indigenous Indian photography, it would seem logical that non-European research has been undertaken into historical, home grown photographic studios and published in the Indian, and not English, language. Perhaps the observations can be seen as another example of the ongoing Western-centric view of historical photographs of India.

.
We then move onto the frustrating element of the exhibition, the contemporary photographs. As many of you may know I am not a great fan of contemporary photography but there is some focused, too focused, work on view. The frustrating element of the contemporary smorgasbord is the constant devolution of subject matter, the constant deconstruction of the (historical) minutiae of India – the small, precise, or trivial details of something – in which we never get a feeling for the personality of the Indian country or its people. The contemporary photographs are all about snippets, fragments, and traces of then and now, as though contemporary India is only ever constructed in order to be deconstructed out of its past. This constant prodding and poking at the multiple strings of history and its inequity is tiring and tiresome to say the least but contemporary Indian photography is not alone in this: Australian contemporary photography suffers from the same dis/ease.

The cacophony of “noise” which emanates from the contemporary photographs (and here I will use a section of text which mirrors the form) – – – from grids of hairy male legs seen from a child’s perspective (childhood memories / male figure / Indian family / perspectives of a child) to incarnations of mythological figures that examine “the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries” to conventions of colonial-era ethnographic portrait photographs of women dictated by male notions of femininity disrupted by deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable”, paradoxically making legible faces into ill/legible citizens, disturbed and defiant “others” (BIG BREATH!) – – – belies my lack of feeling for ANY of the photographs displayed.

After writing on photography since the year 2008 I keep coming up short / banging on the same drum about contemporary photography: I feel almost nothing for any of these photographs even as I appreciate their historical re-“visions”, their self-awareness and self-reflexivity (as much about the photographer as the subject), their intellectual rigour and conceptual contortions. They leave me feeling like I have been playing Twister with too many hands and feet, my mind tied up in an infinite library of thoughts and ideas while ruminating on less than stimulating images.

.
And so to the glorious, uplifting denouement of the exhibition which are the dynamic photographs of Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh. I am in love with them.

Reminiscent of the photographs of Africans by Malike Sidibé (Malian, 1935-2016), Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921-2001) and Sanlé Sory (West African, b. 1943), Punjabi’s visions of Indian life possess a vital energy unlike anything else in this exhibition, and get as close to capturing the spirit of the Indian people as anything I have ever seen from the continent. This is because, at the time, Punjabi’s photographs (like the photographs of Atget) were not considered art but were documents taken for a broad set of purposes: from wedding and family albums to passport photos, from administrative photos to personal souvenirs, from family groups to playful contexts. Through their lack of pretension (ah, there is the key!) “Punjabi’s photographs chronicle daily life in small-town India, a context that many photographic histories from the subcontinent often miss… These portraits are the result of a deeply personal and unique relationship between Punjabi and his clients…”

Punjabi’s clients were like family to him, and he wanted to photograph them in the best way possible, to picture them how they wanted to see themselves. Deceptively simple and formal in their pictorial construction, Punjabi’s photographs allow us to touch the aspirations of everyday Indians – with their hopes and dreams, their communion with family and friends, lost in the moment of dance or conversation, or crowded together in a small 10 x 20 feet studio with painted backdrop. “You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera.” Simply put, these “playfully intimate” and grounded photographs are a refreshing counterpoint to so many conceptual contemporary photographs which lead nowhere, for they have an immediacy and intimacy which touches us (through their palpable aura) as only the best photographs can. “He doesn’t really take pictures of people and things (or, God forbid, grind out endless examples of his own cleverness). He photographs feelings and relationships.” (U.S. Camera ’62)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, p. 35
  2. Aparna Andhare, Curator of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum quoted in “King’s Circle – Ram Singh & the Art of Intimate Portraiture,” on the Sarmaya website January 16, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/03/2022
  3. Falconer, op. cit., pp. 34-35

 

John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, pp. 34-35.

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the Monash Gallery of Art. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s) 'Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh' 1915

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s)
Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh
1915
Hand-coloured albumen print
46.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The leading photography studio of Johnston & Hoffman was established at 22 Chowringhee Road, Calcutta around 1882 by Theodore Julius Hoffman and Peter Arthur Johnston. A branch was opened in Darjeeling in 1890 and Simla in the mid 1890s. There was also a Burma branch at 70 Phayre Street, Rangoon for a short period between 1889-1890. Hoffmann took over the business on the death of Johnston – which was around 1886 and soon after the Calcutta business commenced. Theodore Hoffman died in Calcutta, India in December 1921. It was possibly the second largest commercial photographers in India after the studios of Bourne and Shepherd and were one of the first to publish postcards in Calcutta from at least 1898 onwards.

Anonymous text from the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) website Nd [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur showing his self-portrait (c. 1860, centre, see below) and portraits of courtesans (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Informally called the ‘photographer prince of India,’ Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II was an avid photographer, creating over six thousand individual photographs and nearly two thousand glass plate negatives throughout his life. He is renowned for having photographed women residing in the zenana of the royal household – at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view – using modes of representation similar to traditional Victorian portraiture.

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The ‘zenana’ portraits [zenana: the part of a house for the seclusion of women], as they are often called, are among the most remarkable of these negatives. They show many individual South Asian women: some look away, others dress up and pose, and several stare down the photographer (and today’s viewer), challenging both to uncover their personalities and stories. That Sawai Ram Singh was able to achieve at least the former – that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types’ – is one of the special qualities of his images. He seems not to have photographed any of his wives, but that he photographed so many women; that he found them ‘fit’ subjects to be sitters, is unusual for this period. Nothing comparable has emerged from any other contemporary Indian court. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure who all these women are – history is poor at remembering their names – but many were women at his court. Perhaps they were performers; some may have been paaswaans.

Mrinalini Venkateswaran. “How a 19th Century Jaipur Ruler Mastered Photography,” on the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ram Singh was passionate about art and photography; he captured (and developed) numerous photographs of women, junior functionaries (like tailors) and nobles of his court. It is believed that Ram Singh was introduced to a camera in 1864 when photographer T. Murray visited Jaipur. After learning how to photograph, he used to carry his camera on all his trips. When western visitors came to his court, he used to learn photography from them.

Many of the photographs taken by him were of elite women who so-far lived an entirely secluded private life in the zenanas of his palace; captured in an western artificial setting, consisting of elegant backdrops, Victorian furniture and Persian carpets. It has been since considered as a pioneer effort at portraying Rajput women behind the purdah. Prior to Ram Singh’s photographs, portraits of specific Rajput women were nearly unknown and artists mass-produced idealised representations of women based on a single model, to serve a variety of occasions, for centuries. Interestingly, the names of the photographed women were not mentioned and whether the Maharanis allowed themselves to be photographed is unknown.

Laura Weinstein, an acclaimed art curator argues that the photographs served as an important tool to engage in the widespread discourse about Indian women behind the purdah [the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain] and they stood out as a rare group of photographs that did not mirror oriental conceptions of Indian domestic life. By appropriating the very European model of portrait photography – which emphasised the dignity and propriety of women, he infused dignity into the life of his photograph-figures unlike other concurrent attempts and refuted the colonial notion of the zenana-inhabitants being idle, unhygienic, superstitious, sexually deviant and oppressed. Rather than reforming the purdah system or associated woman issues, his photographs were modern tools that staunchly defended the tradition, much more than it breached, by portraying an apparent normalcy.

Ram Singh had also commissioned numerous self-portraits in a variety of poses ranging from a Hindu holy man to a Rajput warrior to a Western gentleman. Vikramaditya Prakash, an art-historian had described them as “self-consciously hybridised representations [which] straddle and contest the separating boundary – between coloniser and colonised, English and native – the preservation and reaffirmation of which was crucial for colonial discourse.”

The glass negatives that produced the portraits, the albumen print photograph collection and his own self-portraits are now displayed at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur. He was also a life-time member of Bengal Photographic Society.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Self-portrait' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Self-portrait
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'The Kulis of the West of India' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
The Kulis of the West of India
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Chambhars' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Chambhars
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Four members of the Chambhar community, historically associated with leather work, pose for an outdoor portrait by William Johnson, co-author and photographer of two-volume collection of albumen prints The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors of Bombay. The photographs with letter-press description are largely considered to be the first published ethnographic study of Indian people to use photos as well as written descriptions.

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Kharavas' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Kharavas
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson

 

William Johnson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing in the bottom image at left and right, Wilson Brothers Bombay Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (both c. 1930, below); and at centre Hamilton Studios Ltd Portrait of Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia (c. 1940, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. ‘Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarbae’ c. 1930 (installation view)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (installation view)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd. 'Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia' c. 1940

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd
Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. 'Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba' c. 1930

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Chunni Lall & Co Portrait of a man (1860-1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer Portrait of a royal figure (1860-1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Chunni Lall & Co ‘Portrait of a man’ 1860-1880 (installation view)

 

Chunni Lall & Co
Portrait of a man (installation view)
1860-1880
Hand-coloured albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a royal figure' 1860-1980 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a royal figure (detail)
1860-1980
Hand-coloured albumen print
26.6 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) ‘A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda’ c. 1940 (installation view)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda (installation view)
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) 'A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda' c. 1940

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal was a painter, studio photographer and collagist who specialised in a style of portrait called Manorath paintings, made for pilgrims visiting the Shrinarhji temple in the town of Nathdwara in Rajasthan (in northern India). To make these pictures, he photographed his subjects, carefully cut out their faces and hands and then pasted them into painted templates, using a brush and paint to mask the difference between the two mediums, making the final result appear like a detailed painting.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing artworks (left to right) by Johnson & Hoffman, Lala Deen Dayal and Bourne & Shepherd (see below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Johnston & Hoffmann’s Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi (1887, below): and at right, four images by Layla Deen Dayal (c. 1880) from the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maha Rao of Kutch' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maha Rao of Kutch
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)

Raja Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल; 1844-1905; also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years), famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

He received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897.

 

Career

In 1866, Deen Dayal entered government service as head estimator and draughtsman in the Department of Works Secretariat Office in Indore. Meanwhile, he took up photography. His first patron in Indore was Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore state, who in turn introduced him to Sir Henry Daly, agent to the Governor General for Central India (1871-1881) and the founder of Daly College, who encouraged his work, along with the Maharaja himself who encouraged him to set up his studio in Indore. Soon he was getting commissions from Maharajas and the British Raj. The following year he was commissioned to photograph the governor general’s tour of Central India. In 1868, Deen Dayal founded his studio – Lala Deen Dayal & Sons – and was subsequently commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. He established studios in Indore (Mid 1870s), Secunderabad (1886) and Bombay (1896).

In 1875-1876, Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

The next year he retired from government service and concentrated on his career as a professional photographer. Deen Dayal became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad in 1885. Soon afterward he moved from Indore to Hyderabad. In the same year he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India. In time, the Nizam of Hyderabad conferred the honorary title of Raja upon him. It was at this time that Dayal created the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in Hyderabad.

Deen Dayal was appointed photographer to Queen Victoria in 1897. In 1905–1906, Raja Deen Dayal accompanied the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Johnston & Hoffmann. 'Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi' 1887

 

Johnston & Hoffmann
Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi
1887
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A note with this striking portrait of Maharao Raja Ram Singh Sahib Bahadur, of Bundi, describes him as a “wild fellow”. This image was taken from a four-volume album of photogravure prints, the only other copy belonging to Queen Victoria.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Bourne and Shepherd Ranbir Singh Maharaja of Kashmir (1875, below); at centre right, Unknown photographer. Unidentified Maharaja (c. 1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer. HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (c. 1870, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Maharaja' c. 1880 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
Unidentified Maharaja (installation view)
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar' c. 1870 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (installation view)
c. 1870
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s) 'Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir' 1875

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s)
Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir
1875
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing three portraits of a courtesan (all 1874) by Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown) 'Portrait of a courtesan' 1874

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Portrait of a courtesan
1874
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at top left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (c. 1880, below); at top right, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Sacred tank (c. 1860); at bottom left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Temple, Madurai (c. 1880); and at bottom right, Wiele and Klein Studio The Southern Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (1895)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed) 'Meenakshi Temple, Madurai' c. 1880

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed)
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at left, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a woman carrying pots c. 1870; at centre, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a man c. 1860-1880; and at right, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a couple c. 1860-1880
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Willoughby Wallace Hooper (England, 1837-1912) The game brought into camp (c. 1880); and at right, Francis Frith & Co. Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam (c. 1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith & Co. 'Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam' c. 1880

 

Francis Frith & Co.
Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at top left, Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown). Brahmins of Bombay (c. 1880, below); at bottom left, Charles Scott (attributed, dates unknown). Caves of Karlie – seven attendant musicians (c. 1855-1862) from the album Photographs of Western India; and at right, Unknown photographer. A group portrait of British officials (c. 1880)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown) 'Brahmins of Bombay' c. 1880

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown)
Brahmins of Bombay
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing photographs by Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) with at left, Kaiser Bagh (1857); at centre, The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November (1858, below); and at right, Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate (1858)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A pioneer of war photography who worked extensively in the Mediterranean, Middle East and South and East Asia, Felice Beato’s photographs reveal the brutality and aftermath of the conflicts he photographed. His reportage on the Crimean War (1853-1856), for instance, contrasted from that of his predecessor, the early British war photographer Roger Fenton, who was more restrained in depicting the lasting impressions of violence. In 1858, Beato travelled to India, after hearing about the rebellion that had broken out the previous year, and applied a similar approach. With the help of military personnel, he traversed the north of the country, documenting its aftermath in cities like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur, where his photographs often depicted bullet-ridden facades and desecrated battlefields.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882) 'Four ayahs from Naintal Region' 1865 (installation view)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882)
Four ayahs from Naintal Region (installation view)
1865
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912) 'Taj Mahal, Agra' c. 1860

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)
Taj Mahal, Agra
c. 1860
Albumen print
16.0 x 20.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)

Samuel Bourne (30 October 1834 – 24 April 1912) was a British photographer known for his prolific seven years’ work in India, from 1863 to 1870. Together with Charles Shepherd, he set up Bourne & Shepherd first in Shimla in 1863 and later in Kolkata (Calcutta); the company closed in June 2016. …

 

Work in India

He initially set up in partnership with an already established Calcutta photographer, William Howard. They moved up to Simla, where they established a new studio ‘Howard & Bourne’, to be joined in 1864 by Charles Shepherd, to form ‘Howard, Bourne & Shepherd’. By 1866, after the departure of Howard, it became ‘Bourne & Shepherd’, which became the premier photographic studio in India, and until it closed in June 2016 was perhaps the world’s oldest photographic business. Charles Shepherd evidently remained in Simla, to carry out the commercial and portrait studio work, and to supervise the printing and marketing of Bourne’s landscape and architectural studies, whilst Bourne was away travelling around the sub-continent.

Bourne spent six extremely productive years in India, and by the time he returned to England in January 1871, he had made approximately 2,200 fine images of the landscape and architecture of India and the Himalayas. Working primarily with a 10 x 12 inch plate camera, and using the complicated and laborious Wet Plate Collodion process, the impressive body of work he produced was always of superb technical quality and often of artistic brilliance. His ability to create superb photographs whilst travelling in the remotest areas of the Himalayas and working under the most exacting physical conditions, places him firmly amongst the very finest of nineteenth century travel photographers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, a group of work by Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan' 1972

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan
1972
Pigment ink-jet print
45.6 x 30.4cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)

Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt (12 March 1934), better known as Jyoti Bhatt, is an Indian artist best known for his modernist work in painting and printmaking and also his photographic documentation of rural Indian culture. He studied painting under N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.), Baroda. Later he studied fresco and mural painting at Banasthali Vidyapith in Rajasthan, and in the early 1960s went on to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Naples, Italy, as well the Pratt Institute in New York. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019.

 

Biography

Bhatt moved from a cubist influence in his early work to a lighthearted and colourful Pop art that often drew its imagery from traditional Indian folk designs. Though Bhatt worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolours and oils, it is his printmaking that ultimately garnered him the most attention. In 1966 Bhatt returned to M.S.U. Baroda with a thorough knowledge of the intaglio process that he had gained at the Pratt Institute at Brooklyn in New York. It was partially Bhatt’s enthusiasm for intaglio that caused other artists such as Jeram Patel, Bhupen Khakhar and Gulammohammed Sheikh, to take up the same process. Bhatt, and his compatriots at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, soon came to be known as “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Late in the 1960s, Bhatt was asked to take photographs of Gujarati folk art. Initially, this work was done for a seminar, but it soon became one of the artist’s passions to document traditional Indian craft and design work. The disappearing arts of rural Gujarat became a focus. Though Bhatt’s investigations into a village and tribal designs certainly influenced the motifs he used in his printmaking, Bhatt considers his documentary photographs to be an art form in themselves. His direct and simply composed photographs have become valued on their own merit.

Throughout Bhatt’s long career as a teacher at the M.S.U. Faculty of Fine Arts, he has photographed the evolution of the university, the artistic activities of its faculty and students, and the architecturally significant buildings of Baroda. This huge body of work is perhaps the best assembled photographic documentation that pertains to “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival' 1989

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival
1989
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 51.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at right in the bottom image, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below); and at right, A Place Like Amravati 2, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2011)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)

Karen Knorr HonFRPS is a German-born American photographer who lives in London.

Knorr was born in Frankfurt and raised in the 1960s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, she moved to Great Britain where she has lived ever since. Knorr is a graduate of the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), and has an MA from the University of Derby. She is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts.

Knorr’s work explores Western cultural traditions, mainly British society, with widely ranging topics, from lifestyle to animals. She is interested in conceptual art, visual culture, feminism, and animal studies, and her art maintains connections with these topics.

Between 1979 and 1981 Knorr produced Belgravia, a series of black and white photographs each accompanied by a short text, typically critical to the British class system of the time. Subsequently, she produced Gentlemen (1981-1983), a series consisting of photographs of gentlemen’s members clubs and texts taken from parliamentary speeches and news reports. In these series, Knorr investigated values of the English upper middle classes, comparing them with aristocratic values. In 1986, the series Connoisseurs was made in colour. The series incorporates staged events into English architectural interiors. Between 1994 and 2004, Knorr photographed fine art academies throughout Europe, which resulted in the series Academies.

In 2008, she traveled to Rajasthan and took a large series of photographs, predominantly showing Indian interiors, often with animals from Indian folklore inside. She subsequently became a frequent traveller to India, visiting the country 15 times between 2008 and 2014. She mentioned that most of the buildings in India were never photographed, and they are not less interesting than common tourist attractions.

From 2014 to 2015, one room of Tate Britain hosted an exhibition of her photographs of “posh west Londoners in domestic settings and portraits of members at a gentlemen’s club” (Belgravia series).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer uses digital image manipulation to create scenes that critique upper caste Rajput culture and examine marginalisation, mythology and power.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, two photographs by Gauri Gill (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar' 1948

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar
1948
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Darjeeling, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Darjeeling, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
24.0 x 36.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Benares, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Benares, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 36cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) announce the upcoming exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary featuring works from the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru. Since its invention in Europe in the 1840s, the genre of photography has played an integral role in the course of Indian art history. Although it is often quoted that India is the most photographed country in the world, the history of its representation is more complicated, and more political than initially meets the eye. Within just a few months of its invention, the camera arrived in the subcontinent at the height of British colonial rule. Photographs from the time typically served the colonial purpose of administration and control, and thus, often reflected colonial views. Over the subsequent few decades, and at an unprecedented scale, India – its landscapes, people, traditions and archaeological history – was catalogued for the colonial eye and transformed into a governable ‘object.’

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary will be the first major survey of Indian photography in Australia, and all artworks showcased will be from the collection of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, which is one of the most celebrated photographic collections in India. The exhibition will be on view at MGA until 20 March 2022.

‘While this exhibition takes the context of colonialism as an entry point – both chronologically and conceptually – the historical arc of photography in India extends far beyond this initial point of contact, encompassing a range of shifts in artistic, cultural and political attitudes, and other voices who exist outside the traditional canon. With this exhibition, we will uncover not only the primary history of the genre, but also the multiple parallel and lesser-known photographic practices in the subcontinent that re-emphasise the diverse and socially significant story of Indian photography.’ ~ Nathaniel Gaskell, curator

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One such narrative will be highlighted through a section looking at the work of Suresh Punjabi, the photographer and owner of the Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh, established in 1979. Punjabi made portraits for a broad set of purposes, from wedding and family albums to passport photos to personal souvenirs. Working at the time in a small 10 x 20 feet studio. His photographs chronicle the human drama of life in a small-town in the heart of India; a history told through faces and attest to the existence of vast and distinct photographic histories that extend beyond formal archives and institutions.

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary offers a journey through one of the most complex and photographed countries in the world. This ground-breaking exhibition is curated by Nathaniel Gaskell from MAP’s unique photographic collection specifically for MGA. For many of our audience members, this may be their first encounter with these artists, their works and even with the history of India, while others may recognise places or feel resonance with their Indian cultural heritage. The exhibition draws together an array of unique and fascinating works from the earliest days of colonial India through to some of the nation’s most remarkable contemporary photographers, in the first survey of its kind in Australia.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Gallery Director

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The exhibition will begin its journey from 1860 onwards, displaying portraits of India’s ruling elite by pioneering photographers and studios of the time, such as Samuel Bourne, Francis Frith & Co., Felicé Beato, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, Lala Deen Dayal and Khubiram Gopilal, as well as looking at some more creative, non-commercial studios, such as that of Maharaja Ram Singh II, ‘The photographer Prince’ who had established a studio at his palace in Jaipur.

Entering the decades following India’s independence in 1947, the exhibition will showcase works by well-known mid-century European photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson to reveal how photography remained entrenched in orientalist ways of seeing, for the benefit of Western media. However, a number of Indian photographers, such as Mitter Bedi and Jyoti Bhatt, were also using photography to represent tradition, inequity and modernity in a changing world, responding to the industrialisation and the economic progress of the country.

The third section, featuring photographic practices from the 1990s onwards, will highlight themes of Western hegemony, postcolonialism, identity politics and the ethics of representation through the works of celebrated contemporary photographers, Pushpamala N and her collaborator Clare Arni, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Anoli Perera, and Michael Bühler-Rose, an American ordained Hindu priest who pledges spiritual allegiance to India whilst working from his studios in both Mysore and New York.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) with at left, Hindustan lever pipeline to success (1961, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) 'Hindustan lever pipeline to success' 1961

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)
Hindustan lever pipeline to success
1961
Gelatin silver print
100.0 x 75.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer’s shots of industrial subjects from a newly independent India aimed to represent the ideals of an economically self-reliant and rapidly mechanised country, in line with the vision of its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)

Mitter Bedi (26 January 1926 – 11 March 1985) was an Indian photographer, specialising in industrial photography, and a teacher. Prior to his interest in the field there was little photographic use in advertising and his images have become classic icons. He was a recipient of several awards and he had his own photographic agency in Bombay (now Mumbai), which became well known in Asia. …

 

Career

Bedi started his career by working for a printing press and the publicity department of a commercial firm and then took up a job in the film industry in 1947, the year of the partitioning of India and Pakistan into independent nations. At the start of his career in the early 1950s, his photographic assignments covered small events, mostly related to weddings and birthday celebrations or serving as the third or fourth assistant to a Bollywood film director. He frequented the airport to photograph passengers departing and arriving, which prompted his father-in-law B.N. Goenka, an industrialist, to suggest that Bedi change professions or travel abroad. However Bedi was firm in his resolve to continue in his chosen profession and said: “I am never going to leave the profession but bring it to the heights it deserves”. In 1959 his photographic assignments saw a drastic change when he met Arthur D’Arzian, who had specialised in photography of the steel and oil industry, during a social function of the Standard Oil Company in Bombay. Bedi then pursued engagements of Industrial photography, a new field just taking off in the country.

Bedi’s assignments covered public sector corporations and private enterprises. From 1960 to 1985, he traversed the industrial regions of India taking pictures. He took more than 2,000 photo shoots during the span of his career and covered projects from industries such as steel and oil, hospitality, mines, sugar, pharmaceuticals and many more. To propagate black-and-white photography as a profession in the country he wrote many articles and also established an academy in Bombay which is still operational under the direction of his family members. His photographs depicted a nation in which the factory and reactor dominated over the Indian people. He also worked as visiting professor in: K.C. College of Journalism, Bombay during 1974-1975; National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in 1976; in Rajednra Prasad Institute of Communication, Bombay in 1978; and in SNDT Women’s University, Bombay, 1978. His academy in Bombay was a prominent institution in photography which enrolled national and international students and teachers.

Bedi’s images have become classic icons of the industrialisation which was carried out in India under Nehru. In spite of the limiting aspects of photographs taken primarily for advertising, Bedi introduced shape, design and geometric planes to create artistic rather than simply functional images. His visual expressions and artistry were used by both the state and industrialists to drive national development. An oeuvre of his black-and-white photographs taken during the period 1960s to 1970s, was held at the Piramal Centre for Photography representing an Art Form in Mumbai.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Feather Indian/Dot Indian' 2008-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Feather Indian/Dot Indian
2008-2009
From the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4cm (each image)
Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Near-identical photographs place two “Indians” side by side. A double portrait framed in a leather case, made to appear as a traditional orotone. Matthew’s series An Indian from India addresses the historical identities of Indians and Native Americans, who – owing to Christopher Columbus’s erroneous identification on arriving in the Antilles in the late 15th century – have long been misidentified, and questions the nature of assimilation within and beyond the US.

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Noble savage/savage noble' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Noble savage/savage noble
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Anoli Perera
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art with in the bottom image, showing at left, three works by Anoli Perera (see below); at centre right, two photographs by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni. Returning from the tank (2001, below) and Lakshmi (2001, below); and at right, work by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni from the series Native women of South India (manners and customs) (see below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series I
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Young women in 2010-2011 pose according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography with deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable.”

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series IV
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Hair covers the face of a young woman who poses according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography. The Sri Lankan-born, Delhi-based artist is inspired not only by colonial-ethnographic images but also by portraits of women she saw as a child, often dictated by male notions of femininity. ‘Hair in its proper place is seen as a mark of beauty,’ she says. ‘Hair out of place is seen as significations of hysterical, uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable behaviour’.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Lakshmi' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Lakshmi
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Cracking the whip D-4' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Cracking the whip D-4
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

“In which the original Native Types characters perform as ethnographic objects”

Pushpamala N. (born 1956) is a photo and visual artist based in Bangalore, India. Born in Bangalore, Pushpamala formally trained as a sculptor and eventually shifted to photography to explore her interest in narrative figuration. Pushpamala has been referred to as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”. Her work has been described as performance photography, as she frequently uses herself as a model in her own work. “She is known for her strongly feminist work and for her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. As one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a leading figure in the feminist experiments in subject, material and language, her inventive work in sculpture, conceptual photography, video and performance have had a deep influence on art practice in India.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clare Arni is a photographer whose work encompasses social documentary and cultural heritage. Clare’s body of work has been exhibited extensively, both in private galleries and cultural institutions. Her solo exhibitions document the lives of marginalised communities in some of the most remote regions of India and the disappearing trades of urban India.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank 1' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank 1
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Artist Pushpamala measures herself in front of a Lamprey grid, a dehumanising ethnographic tool deployed to standardise the photography of people during and after the late 19th century. By satirically re-enacting this form of subjugation, Pushpamala, in collaboration with fellow artist Arni, questions the colonial gaze and critiques its obsession with classification.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Velankani F6-A' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Velankani F6-A
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) with at left, Tribal dreams (2008, below); and at right, Night prowl (2008, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Tribal dreams' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Tribal dreams
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Waswo X. Waswo first visited India in 1993; after several trips in the intervening years, he finally moved to India, renting a home and building a studio in Udaipur in 2006. This series is a comprises of Waswo’s hand-coloured work through a wide selection of photographs produced in his studio.

Playfully examining the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Waswo creates a unique brand of contemporary photography that is an inspired mix of homage and critique. Ranging from shots of single figures to theatrically arranged tableaux, these photographs feature everyone from Gauri dancers to flower sellers, the incarnations of mythological figures, farmers and school children. In the tradition of pictorialism, Waswo’s carefully crafted images with their pastoral backdrops and hand-tinted processing resonate with a romantic sensibility, while yet remaining humorously self-aware and self-reflexive.

Anonymous text from the TARQ website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Night prowl' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Night prowl
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980) 'Camphor flame on pedestal' 2010

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980)
Camphor flame on pedestal
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) with at left, Madhu (2003, below); and at right, Revanti (2003, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Madhu' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Madhu
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In 2003 the non profit organisation Urmul Setu Sansthan organised a Balika Mela – or fair for girls, in Lunkaransar town, attended by almost fifteen hundred adolescent girls from seventy surrounding villages. The Mela had various stalls, food, performances, a Ferris wheel, magicians, puppet shows, games and competitions, similar to any other small town fair. Urmul Setu invited the photographer to “do something with photography” at the Mela.

“I created a photo-stall for anyone to come in and have their portrait taken, and later buy the silver gelatin print at a subsidised rate if they wished. I had a few basic props and backdrops, whatever we could get from the local town studio and cloth shop on a very limited budget, but it was fairly minimal, and since it can get windy out in the desert everything would keep getting blown around, or periodically struck down. The light was the broad, even light of a desert sky, filtered through the cloth roof of our tent. Many of the more striking props – like the peacock and the paper hats – were brought in by the girls themselves. Girls came in, and decided how and with whom they would like to be photographed – best friends, new friends, sisters, the odd younger brother who had tagged along, girls with their teachers, the whole class, the local girl scouts. Some of those who posed for the pictures went on to learn photography in the workshops that we started in May of that year, and two years later they photographed the fair themselves.”

Gauri Gill, 2009

Text from the Nature Morte website [Online] Cited 08/03/2022

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Revanti' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Revanti
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982) 'Uncle Had Hairy Legs' 2017

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982)
Uncle Had Hairy Legs
2017
From the series Vincent Uncle
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A set of 21 similarly composed photographs depict the legs of men wearing mundus. In her 2017 series Vincent Uncle, Antony investigates childhood memories and comments on the male figure within the Indian family by portraying her subjects from the perspective of a child.

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Suresh Punjabi’s Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman) (Nd, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“I was never lonely. Through these mute photographs, this town slowly started to become my family. We were having a conversation that needed no words.”

.
Suresh Punjabi

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' Nd (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman by Suresh Punjabi. The owner and photographer of Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh – one of thousands of photographers who opened studios in small towns after the 1950s – foregrounds the copper armbands synonymous with the sitters’ professions. These carried cultural and social capital, as evidenced by Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of the porter as a working-class hero in the 1983 Bollywood movie Coolie.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983-1984

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983-1984
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A farmer from near Nagda visits Punjabi’s studio to have his portrait made for the first time. While the purpose of the photo is unclear, the man’s wide-eyed stare suggests that the camera either caught him by surprise or that he was overly exerting himself in an attempt to pose appropriately. His all-white attire, turban and Punjabi’s use of a shallow depth of field add to the portrait’s intrigue.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Some of the earliest and perhaps most obvious drivers of Suhag Studio’s business were administrative portraits, which Punjabi’s clients requested frequently and for a number of reasons, from paperwork for school admissions to procuring disability benefits. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clientele, who appear to us as a mosaic of faces, registering the Indian bureaucracy’s efforts to account for them as formal and formally documented citizens.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

An older woman poses for a formal portrait at Suhag Studio. Like many of the other women photographed by Punjabi for this reason, this sitter too has a chunni (thin scarf) draped over her head, a convention that has since changed as the production of administrative photographs such as these has become increasingly standardised.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Unlike the other administrative images in Punjabi’s archive, this is a full-length portrait because the older man in it asked to be photographed on his crutches, so he could claim disability entitlements from the government. The evidentiary quality of the photograph meant it was an important tool for India’s expanding identification and welfare system. With three studio lights focused directly on the standing subject, the portrait highlights both the man and his condition, making Punjabi an important middleman in the way he is able to be ‘seen’ by the state.

 

Identification & Records

By the late 1970s, identity documents had embedded themselves deeply into Indian civic life. Standardised photographs became necessary for many administrative activities, from accessing food subsidies to completing job applications. Punjabi’s studio provided an essential administrative service – and for Nagda’s poor and working classes, it became one of the few ways in which the presence of India’s creaking bureaucracy was felt.

Most people interpreted these photographic services through their own needs. One man insisted on a full-length portrait showing his crutches in order to qualify for disability entitlements; another arrived in a crisp white shirt for a passport photograph. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clients, who collectively appear as a mosaic of faces, registering the state’s efforts to make them ‘legible’ citizens.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“Rooted to the hallowed tradition of studio photography that began in 19th-century India with pioneers like Samuel Bourne and Lala Deen Dayal, Punjabi was also a visionary entrepreneur-artist. When he stood before his sitters, the film of familiarity lifted from their faces, exposing their fondest dreams and desires. In a sense, Punjabi donned the mantle of a dream merchant, as the archivist of the Great Indian Dream. And to such dreams, he himself had also been susceptible. …

In the 1970s, the family business had started to dwindle, forcing Punjabi to move to Nagda, a small town, some 100 km away from Indore. There, he opened Suhag Studio – the name was meant to drawn in clients interested in taking matrimonial photographs – to help his family. It proved to be a lifelong move, indeed an obsession.

Punjabi’s archives, as Gaskell and Nayar indicate in their curation, could be divided into several segments, first of which is his administrative photographs, which cover almost 30% of his archives. These images are mostly mug shots of individuals, taken for the purpose of identification papers and bureaucratic documents. But even in these fairly generic images, the drama of the human face is dimly palpable. You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera. Punjabi seems to avoid the vapid blandness of documentary studio photography, where the subject is usually leached of all character and presented sans expression for the unfeeling scrutiny of the state.

A man in crutches is photographed in full profile by Punjabi on his request, with the camera lights included in the frame. The image is meant to be evidentiary record of his disability. Another man in a turban stares back at the camera, his pupils dilated, like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of the Indian state. The incongruity of the carpeted studio floor, the sophisticated props (by the standard of those days) and the intensely ordinary attire of these people are starkly noticeable.

A woman dangles a bunch of grapes before her mouth, recreating the cliché of a lovestruck / lascivious heroine from the annals of Indian cinema. A man poses stiffly in tie and a pair of bell-bottoms, his hair neatly combed. Another one, in a vest, presents a study in contrasts, his hair stylishly long, a kerchief tied to his neck, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He rocks the archetypal mawali look to a T. You can sense the shadow of a slightly crumpled angry young man about his persona, modelled perhaps after Amitabh Bachchan, who was still the reigning hero in the galaxy of Bollywood cinema in the 1980s, when these photographs were taken.

If the influence of cinema shines through these compositions, more intriguing insinuations are made by some of the group photographs. In one, for instance, three men are seated close to one another, two of them locking fingers. The one in the middle stares at the camera, while the other two look in different directions.

These “playfully intimate” photographs, as Nayar calls them, are mementos of different kinds of bonds – filial, friendly, romantic – that were enacted inside the realms of the studio. Thus, Punjabi’s Suhag Studio opened up a space, where much more than plain documentation could be wagered. …

While each of these images stands boldly on its own – carrying its individual aura of distinction and enveloped by its unspoken narratorial arc – they also exist within an ecosystem of emotions that coursed through a nation during a certain phase of its development. With their thoughtful curation and textual notes, Gaskell and Nayar draw our attention to details that would otherwise have escaped our untrained eyes. They also make crucial connections between Punjabi’s work and those of Malike Sidibé’s (1935-2016) from Mali and Hashem El Madani’s (1928-2017) from Lebanon, among others. These photographers, legends in their own rights, also documented the seen and unseen faces of their nations with skill, complexity and exquisite artistry.

Extract from Somak Ghoshal. “Suresh Punjabi: The man who captured the Great Indian Dream,” on the Mint Lounge website 24/01/2021 [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985-1986

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985-1986
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two friends, dressed rather stylishly, stand in a slight three-quarter profile while looking directly into the camera. Punjabi often offered props such as sunglasses and hats to his sitters, however the origin of the pieces of clothing featured here – including the flared trousers and blazers – remains unclear. One interesting clue, likely intended to be cropped, is the pair of slippers near the bottom left of the frame. Only one of the men is wearing shoes, suggesting that the shoes are props and the slippers belong to him.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s childhood coincided with the waning years of the Golden Era of Hindi cinema, which he regularly drew inspiration from when developing his own visual style. Each of these images are largely inspired by the cultural lexicon of the times – outward expressions of heroism, villainy, aspiration, camaraderie, romance, and above all, personal style – and expresses a distinct style of playful formality, seemingly both rehearsed and improvised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

On first meeting the man photographed here, Punjabi remarked how much he resembled the actor Amitabh Bachchan. In this portrait, the man’s long legs – much like Bachchan’s – appear even longer in his flared pants. The man’s distant stare, and the peeking studio lights on either edge of the frame, add further credibility to the fiction that this man is perhaps a body double preparing himself for an actual film scene. Being one of the most recognisable of Punjabi’s individual portraits, this image also appears on the cover of scholar Christopher Pinney’s book Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (2013).

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1986-1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1986-1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Life in Nagda, like in many towns in India, moved along a network of overlapping social relationships – friends, lovers, community members, coworkers. As photography opened up new opportunities for self-representation, these relationships seeped into the studio as well. Punjabi worked to represent his sitters against the social contexts, resulting in images that show us packed families, impassive coworkers, bashful lovers, playful friends and various expressions of cultural and religious celebration; connections, seen and unseen, caught mid-pose.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of Punjabi’s most crowded compositions, a family of eight gathers into a tight frame for a group portrait. During this period, it was not uncommon for Punjabi to leave his studio (and sometimes Nagda as well) to photograph large families, often in front of their ancestral homes. In this case however, the family just about manages to squeeze into the indoor space. Accommodating all eight members also brings the studio’s ceiling into view, highlighting the limited, 10 x 20 feet space in which he worked during those years.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Although it’s difficult to say with certainty, the three young girls in this portrait are likely sisters who planned to have their photograph made on this day. Lending further credence to this assumption is the fact that two of the three girls are wearing identical patterns. At this time, especially in small and mid-sized towns in India, it wasn’t uncommon for households to have matching clothes stitched from the same piece of fabric, especially for siblings to wear. Another interesting aspect of this portrait, although not obvious at first glance, is that the girls on either side are far taller than the one in the middle, who must stand on a small stool – partly concealed by the other girls’ patterned clothing – to help retain a sense of continuity across the faces in the portrait.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

On entering Suhag Studio, the man in this portrait had one simple request for Punjabi: to be photographed with his beloved pet bird. In the resulting image, the man appears in flared trousers, thick-rimmed glasses and a rounded hat, leaning on a stool as his bird sits on his left index finger. In a bid to further accentuate the man’s lean, Punjabi tilts his camera to his right when taking the image, causing the painted background to appear slanted.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In this informal group portrait, the relationship between three male friends finds an intriguing physical manifestation. The man in the centre stares directly into the lens, deadpan, while holding the hand of the man to his right who, in turn, gazes at the third man on the very left, whose focus is caught by something beyond the frame. The language of eyes and hands gains an almost filmic intensity through Punjabi’s treatment, which highlights his enduring interest in capturing unseen and understated gestures in his portraits.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

While many came to Punjabi with the hope of enacting the role of a film hero, others brought in a different set of influences. Working outside Suhag Studio selling tea, this boy was photographed by Punjabi in a highly stylised way, mimicking the temperament of a cinematic villain. The sunglasses, scarf and unlit cigarette – likely all props – contribute to this overall effect and lend a certain swagger to the thin boy’s leaning posture.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams

This film tells the remarkable story of a photography studio in central India, established by Suresh Punjabi in the 1970s. Punjabi took tens of thousands of photographs over nearly half a century, documenting the lives and people of Nagda. The film forms part of an online exhibition of the same name, curated by Nathaniel Gaskell and Varun Nayar, for the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bangalore and has been directed by Naveed Mulki / Faraway Originals. Special thanks to Pratik and Suresh Punjabi and family, and to the people of Nagda who appear in the film.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s sitters, two unnamed men, pose holding a smaller transistor radio – the first in Nagda – up to their ears.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

While the language of Hindi cinema had a significant impact on Punjabi, it was part of a larger constellation of influences. His work also captured how people from Nagda – a fast-industrialising town that sat outside but was never delinked from India’s urban centres – articulated their evolving ambitions and self-conceptions; a context in which a particular posture or prop could reveal a host of personal preferences and worldviews.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A landline telephone makes an appearance in this individual portrait that features a slender young man pretending to be preoccupied for the camera. Apparent in the photograph is the sitter’s desire to associate himself with the sense of modernity and connectivity that the telephone – regardless of who is on the other side – symbolises.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi recalls this young man asking for a portrait that would make him look like a “smart, gentleman photographer.” The magazine, camera and tie featured in this image are all props, demonstrating Punjabi’s effort to meet his client’s expectations.

Magazines appear frequently in many of Punjabi’s portraits, where they express a certain urbane and sophisticated form of indulgence that was an important cultural signifier for India’s emerging middle class. Typically, this prop magazine was just whatever was lying around in the studio – often an issue of an entertainment magazine such as Bombay Screen or Mayapuri, from which Punjabi also drew visual inspiration.

The Japanese Yashica – presumably Punjabi’s – slung on this man’s shoulder was a pricey piece of equipment that didn’t typically circulate beyond urban markets. Its existence in this portrait speaks to the sitter’s desire for ‘smartness,’ expressing a degree of professional acuity as well as socioeconomic mobility and access.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Four men standing in front of a truck) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

There were times when Punjabi ventured out of his studio and into both nearby streets and remote villages, into temples and bars and through wedding processions and funerals. Having started out working weddings, Punjabi had become a keen-eyed and quick-footed photographer, rarely without a camera when the moment demanded it. These outdoor images provide a crucial bridge between the regulated and consciously arranged dream-world of his studio and the teeming human drama of everyday life just outside its doors.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of many images Punjabi made outside his studio, a group of five men pose near a truck in Nagda, which is decorated with lights and flowers to commemorate Diwali. One of the men is hanging off the passenger side of the vehicle, though it is unclear whether he is its owner. Punjabi often ventured out into town with his camera and took photographs of everything from upturned vehicles for insurance claims to mass processions for funerals of important local figures.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In one of Punjabi’s more crowded outdoor photographs, made at a local wedding, a number of men huddle around a bench at night, exchanging cigarettes, gestures and conversation. Nearly all of them are dressed in white, leading one to believe that they may have all been at the same event prior to – or even during – the point at which this image was made. In the background of the image, written in large Hindi letters on the back of a small wooden shack are the words: “The country’s leader, Indira Gandhi.” The 1970s and early 80s were a tumultuous time for the nation, primarily due to Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency from 1975-1977. This image was made after the state of emergency and before Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1980

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1980
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The subject does not see the bright flash of Punjabi’s camera as he dances energetically alongside the wedding band and many guests at his friend’s wedding. A good wedding photographer must be invisible. Punjabi’s knack for framing an image inconspicuously and at the right moment reflects in a number of his outdoor photographs, especially of ceremonial events.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams – The Business of Dreams Chapter 1, 1970s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams Chapter 2, 1980s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

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08
Aug
21

Review: ‘An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Hanoi' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Hanoi
1995
From the series Viêt Nam (1994-98)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In their essential nature men do not change. The great and noble, the Masters of Life, will be great and noble to the end of time, and to contemplate them and their deeds inspires us to endeavour to emulate them. Learn whom a man venerates, and you can come to judge his character. Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

.
Alvin Langdon

 

 

Disguising power as virtue or, the Inner Landscape of Beauty

One of the great assets of VR, especially in times of lockdown, is that you can view an exhibition from a distance. Such is the case with this strong exhibition by Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. It gives the viewer the ability to come to grips with an artists work displayed as a whole, to contemplate the myriad threads that run through the five bodies of work that are presented in the exhibition.

While there are no remarkable “hero” shots contained within the body of Lê’s work, collectively the photographs from each series build a serious interrogation into the contested terrains of colonialism, war, the military, racism and protest. As we know with life nothing is ever black and white, and through her classically inspired photographs Lê probes the interweaving of existence, desire, possession and control in the landscape, in the landscape of life. As assistant curator Kirsten Gaylord observes, “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world?” These are complex issues which Lê addresses with intelligence and rigorous conceptualisation, fully aware of the paradoxes that exist within her inquiry.

My favourite series are the more personal and engaging, the more empathetic and feeling of the works – the first and the last, Viêt Nam (1994-98) and Silent General (2015-ongoing). In Viêt Nam, Lê returns to her homeland of Vietnam after almost 20 years with her large format camera. The resulting meditation on homeland evidenced in beautiful, perfectly formed photographs are moving and touching, poetic reveries on lost innocence, regained? In Silent General, Lê again again puts more of her self on the line, her photographs confronting the “issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.”

I am ambivalent about the other series in the exhibition, which while beautiful have a slightly chilly aura.

In the series Small Wars (1999-2002), Lê photographs Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia with the utmost sense of “authenticity” creating images that “explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.” In 29 Palms (2003-04) she photographs troops training in an American landscape similar to the one they would soon be deployed to in Iraq. In Events Ashore (2005-14) the artist photographs the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world exploring the global reach of the American military, its diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

In Small Wars and 29 Palms, Lê pictures a simulacra of war, simulations of a war already past (and lost), and a war yet to run its course, which would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of US forces. Her work blurs the boundaries between photojournalism and reality / fiction.

The photograph Ambush I (1999-2002, below) from Small Wars is eerily similar to Henri Huet’s photograph of Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows struggling through elephant grass in 1970 (below) with the difference that Burrows is helping to evacuate a wounded soldier, and that Huet, Burrows and two other photojournalists would be killed when their helicopter was shot down over Laos later in February 1971. Similarly, Lê’s photographs Mechanized Assault (2003-2004) shows a pristine landscape foregrounded with immaculate tanks and personnel carriers in the American landscape… when in reality, American Marines photograph the burnt remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks amongst a non-descript landscape of shell holes and mundane buildings (16 April 2003, below). Further, while not a simulation, the very stillness and chillness of Events Ashore – the physical and metaphorical distance of the photographer from the subject, from the reason of the existence of the military – make the photographs in that series seem almost an apologia for the military.

In a quotation, Lê states that, “… I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

I understand what the photographer is attempting, but in one sense I remain unconvinced about the success of the mission.

Simply put, the raison d’etre for the military – despite all protestations to the contrary, despite all the good works they otherwise undertake – is “to engage in combat, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history.” (Wikipedia) In terms of military doctrine,1 we note that in the history of the United States of America, the country has been at war 225 out of 243 years since 1776. America is a militarised society where the military prosecutes war on its own terms, disguising power as virtue. In terms of the prosecution of war, the country seems to be manifestly belligerent.

The outcome of any war is death. Sure, the soldiers might be there for economic or social reasons, they may experience fear and exhilaration, boredom and dreams, brotherhood and purpose, travel and education… but ultimately the military is a fighting and killing machine. “Young soldiers in combat inevitably confront killing. They take life away from others, and in so doing breach one of the most fundamental moral values of their society, often with long-term consequences.” Listening to an American veteran from the battle of Caens after the D-Day landings in 1944 recently in a documentary, he observed that all war is, is death – dead German soldiers, dead American soldiers, dead civilians. The reality (not a simulation or a reenactment) of Henri Huet’s photograph of dead soldiers, Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh (1965, below) is shocking and unimpeachable.

Soldiers kill. Human beings, civilian and military, die.

And then the military doesn’t want you to know about that. They cover it up. In World War 1, the British stopped posting lists of the missing and dead in the newspapers because there were so many of them. And in the Iraq war, the American military didn’t want photographs of American coffins in the back of a transport plane published because it would upset the families and the public. Even the metadata (hidden text data) written by the military contained in a public domain image of destroyed Iraqi tanks (see below) in 2003 states, “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein.” Outright lies and deception … the invasion was illegal under international law as it violated the UN Charter, there were no weapons of mass destruction found, and no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The Iraq War caused at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths, as well as tens of thousands of military deaths.

Everyone is involved in the construction of the world. You can be informed or not. You have choices. Human beings have a choice to go into the military, or not. The problem is that human beings in power, in control (at the top of the military for example) inspire others to endeavour to emulate them. As Alvin Langdon observes, “Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

Now, in another sense I believe that Lê achieves her aim, to suggest a universal history, a personal history, and a history of culture embodied in the landscape, suggestions that possibly sweep away landscapes of control.

As the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue observed, “Even in landscapes of control you can be swept off your feet by sheer beauty.” Landscapes of control cannot stand before the power of beauty embodied in the landscape and in Lê’s photographs the memory of the landscape, its music, embeds itself in the photograph. Through the power of beauty, the Inner Landscape of Beauty (one that is metaphorical as much as physical, in the mind as much as it is externally verbalised), the photographs of An-My Lê subversively undermine the control of the military over the land: its occupation and colonisation of it, its wars to control it, and its very “uniform” presence in it. Look again at the photograph Mechanized Assault (2003-4, below) and now it is the distance of the photographer from the subject – the infinite sublime as I call it – that upends the punitive intentions of the military and overwhelms their puny vehicles. It’s an earth, spirit and mind thing.

In the viewers recognition of the beauty of this land(e)scape, we acknowledge our own virtue and assert our desire to be free. Free from restrictive control. Free from oppression. Free from war. The military, police “force” and government are and always will be, afraid of the infinite within us…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,540

 

Footnotes

  1. “Development of military doctrine is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed and equipped personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war, campaign, battle, engagement, and action.” (Wikipedia)

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Many thankx to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP 'Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh' 18 September 1965

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh
18 September 1965

 

 

The paratroopers, of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were hit by heavy fire from guerrillas that began as soon as the first elements of the unit landed. The dead and wounded were later evacuated to An Khe, where the 101st was based. The battle was one of the first of the war between major units of US forces and the Vietcong.

 

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring exhibition considers the celebrated photographer’s nearly 25-year career exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs.

Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê was evacuated with her family by the U.S. military. She has spent decades considering the complexity of American history and conflict, from war reenactments to the removal of Confederate monuments. This timely exhibition explores politically-charged topics through Lê’s subtle, evocative images that avoid the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. Sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war display the artist’s technical strengths in the classical landscape tradition, which she uses to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

 

 

” …as a photographer, I’m interested in looking at and representing the real world, and interpreting it in ways that allow me to learn from it and enlighten the issues I am trying to understand. I feel entirely comfortable using photographs with simple titles and explanatory texts. And I feel comfortable with the fact that some people may interpret a photograph differently from others. My photographs are visually complicated and carry complex messages because of the way I pack the information into the frame and structure the picture. People need to spend time with the work in order to piece together all the information. But of course the reading is subjective. I like that. I like that it could be contradictory, that it could be full of surprises, that it could be confusing. I see a fragile construct between the objective and subjective.

Ultimately, the picture is there to incite someone to think about the issues at stake, rather than say explicitly how I myself feel about the American military. Some of my work could be understood as being supportive of the military. You could look at some pictures and think: wow, those young Americans are so heroic! Or you could see in the same image a reflection of American imperialism: look at the American guy standing there, trying to teach the locals how to do it the American way! There are so many possible interpretations. Sometimes the US military comes in and does help people. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, the military was able to accomplish what no one else could. It was there with supplies in a matter of hours. But there’s a fine line between coming to help and invading, and it has to do with physical and economic presence and the ways in which Americans occupy the land. So the work is about those tensions.

I think it goes back to my own conflicted perceptions of the US military and what it did to Vietnam. At the end of the war, it was the Americans who could help us escape from the approach of communism. Everyone tried to scale the walls of the American Embassy, not the French Embassy. So it’s about all those conflicted things.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“Living through the Vietnam War as a child and immigrating to the United States as a teenager, An-My Lê’s life has been indelibly marked by international conflict. For over two decades, her work as a photographer has engaged the unseen facets within the theater of war. With her large-format camera in tow, she has immersed herself in the Appalachian forest with Vietnam War reenactors, and traveled aboard U.S. aircraft carriers around the globe. Lê identifies as a landscape photographer, a perspective that grounds her subtle, impactful images of American interventionism within a larger history of violence.”

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Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

 

 

Photographer An-My Lê: 2012 MacArthur Fellow | MacArthur Foundation | October 2012

Meet An-My Lê and learn about how she came to photography, her work with the U.S. military, and her 19th-century-style camera.

Photographer An-My Lê was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. The Fellowship is a $500,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: Landscapes of war | July 2018

Find out more about An-My Lê’s series Small Wars (1992-2002), and Lê’s experiences photographing Vietnam war reenactors.

Photographer An-My Lê, who grew up in Saigon during the Vietnam War, describes her series Small Wars (1999-2002) and 29 Palms (2003-2004). She discusses how contemporary landscape photography can be used to present more than just scenery; it can illuminate culture, architecture, and social and political issues that citizens are concerned with today.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain' at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

In 1994, Lê returned to her home country for the first time since being evacuated as a teenager in 1975, arriving shortly after relations between the U.S. and Vietnam were normalised. She brought her camera with her, hoping to untangle the reality of her childhood memories from what she had seen over the years in movies and the news. She started the project in her mother’s birthplace, Hanoi, which she had never visited before, and returned to Vietnam three more times, spending about a month there on each trip. Using a large-format camera and shooting from an elevated perspective, Lê portrayed the landscape as a backdrop for human activity – particularly war and conflict – throughout history and into the present. Her series began with images of traditional, rural landscape she recalled from her childhood but eventually evolved into a photographic meditation on the fog of war and its tendency to scramble perceptions. Other images include scenes from urban and modern-day Vietnam unlike anything she had seen represented in the U.S. In this series Lê refined her working methods and began engaging with themes that remain cornerstones of her practice today.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

This was the first photograph Lê made in Vietnam after almost twenty years away. It reflects her directorial style: Unlike a photojournalist, who strives to record events without intervening, Lê instructed the members of this farming family to stand still and look at the camera. The movement of their livestock and the surrounding foliage in the wind creates blur – perhaps a nod to the quickening pace of modern life in Vietnam.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City
1995
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Thanh Hoa' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Thanh Hoa
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858
1858

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)

Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) was a British pioneer of photography, best known for his photographs of India and Burma taken in the 1850s.

Linnaeus Tripe was born in Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devon, to Mary (1786-1842) and Cornelius (1785-1860). He was the ninth of twelve children. He joined the East India Company army in 1838, and in 1840, became a lieutenant based in the south of India. He returned to England in 1850, on a leave that was extended due to ill health until 1854. During this time he began to experiment with photography, and joined the Photographic Society of London in 1853. He returned to Bangalore, India, as a captain in June 1854. In December of that year he made his first photographs of India. In February of the following year he took part in the Madras Exhibition of Raw Products, Arts, and Manufactures of Southern India, displaying 68 photographs of previously unphotographed temples. The jury declared these photographs the “Best series of photographic views on paper.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 - c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879) 'Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi' 1880

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 – c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879)
Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi
1880
From “The trip from Egypt to Indochina” (Voyage de l’ Egypte à l’ Indochine)

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, But Thap' 1996

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, But Thap
1996
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In graduate school, I was nudged to draw from my personal experience. This was in 1992, before Bill Clinton lifted the economic embargo against Vietnam, so it was not easy to travel there. Having escaped Vietnam in 1975 without our family albums, I pored through the photography catalogs in the libraries at Yale for references to Vietnam. I was shocked to find devastating images of war, and also patronising ethnographic photographs taken by European photographers during the colonial period, but nothing else. When I was finally able to travel there a few years later, I made a series of black-and-white photographs, mostly landscapes, that were intended to fill in the gaps that existed between the war documentation and the ethnographic archive.”

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An-My Lê, 2021. Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen, The New York Review of Books

 

“For me, the landscape has always been the constant in my work. I work with scale as a way to give context to human endeavours, military endeavours, and the history of power. In the end, Vietnam has endured many battles and gone through so many changes. The Chinese invasion, the Japanese occupation, the colonialism of the French, the Indochina War, the Americans – the constancy was always the landscape. And people change, cultures change over time, but there is something about the land. Even as our world modernises, there is a certain consistency, a certain authenticity.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“When I first made the pictures in Vietnam, I was not ready to deal with the war. Being able to go back to Vietnam was a way to reconnect with a homeland, or with the idea of what a homeland is and with the idea of going home. When you live in exile, things like smells and memories and stories from childhood all take on such importance. So, this was an opportunity to reconnect with the real thing, and to be confronted with contemporary Vietnam. It’s not the way it was twenty years ago, or the way it’s described in folktales my grandmother and mother used to tell me, or even in stories from my mother’s own childhood in the North. So, I really looked for things that suggested a certain way of life – agrarian life – things that connect you to the land. Unfortunately, pictures don’t smell; but if I could do that, they would be about smells as well.”

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An-My Lê quoted in “Vietnam: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Son Tay' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Son Tay
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“People always say that it is so bizarre how these men reenact the Vietnam War, and go to so much trouble to do so! But then, you think about Steven Spielberg or even Kathryn Bigelow, and in a way, their work is a kind of reenactment pushed to the extreme. And no one has any issues with that! Just because it is a movie and there are millions of dollars involved, it is entertainment. And then you look to the military. All the training, practice drills, etc. They use the same language of reenactment. ‘Today, our scenario is…'”

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An-My Lê, 2015

Read the poem “A Brief History of Reënactment” by Vietnamese-American poet Hai-Dang Phan that was inspired by Lê’s series ‘Small Wars’.

 

“I feared for my safety on my first trip to Virginia, because I didn’t know the reenactors or their motivations. They called themselves ‘living historians.’ They grew up collecting badges and they knew everything about war histories, and this was a way for them to live out some of these fantasies. […]

It was so interesting to see the way who played what was economically replicated in real life. The kids who had more money would play the Americans because the American gear was more expensive, and they also tended to be less fit. They were always up on the hill sleeping on air mattresses and eating C-rations. And then us, the North Vietnamese Army or Viet Cong, we were down sleeping on the ground or in hammocks. We were always hiking up and ambushing them.”

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An-My Lê, 2019 conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen in the catalogue for “An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain.”

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Viet Cong Camp' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Viet Cong Camp
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

While researching the Vietnam War for her work, Lê discovered small groups of Vietnam War reenactors based in Virginia and North Carolina who were primarily civilians with little or no military experience. The organisers agreed to let her photograph if she also participated, and over the course of three summers she attended and photographed four or five reenactments, which became her series Small Wars. Even though Lê is from South Vietnam and had little firsthand knowledge of the North, she was often enlisted to play the role of North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. The other reenactors appreciated the “authenticity” she brought to the scenes, in part because it made their own experience feel more realistic. Lê’s participation became a way for her to understand personal histories and associations the reenactors brought with them to their performances, and it helped her better imagine what it might have been like for the North Vietnamese soldiers who fought in the war. Matching the reenactors’ commitment to authenticity, and underscoring her control of the scenes occurring in front of her camera, Lê consulted a military expert to restage certain moments and ensure that every detail, from the uniforms to the equipment, was as historically accurate as possible.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Stars and Stripes' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Stars and Stripes
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Sniper I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Sniper I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP ''Life' magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia' 4 May 1970

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971) / AP
‘Life’ magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia
4 May 1970

 

 

Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia on 4 May 1970. The evacuation came during the US incursion into Cambodia. Burrows was killed on 10 February 1971, along with the photographer who took this picture, Henri Huet, and two other photojournalists – Kent Potter of UPI and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek – when their helicopter was shot down over Laos.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ambush I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ambush I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Rescue' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Rescue
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

The Vietnam War reenactors Lê photographed were committed to creating “authentic” scenarios. This meant that every element, from their uniforms to their weapons and even their encampments, was meticulously researched and either purchased from approved sources or carefully fabricated. To further heighten the realism of their scenes, the reenactors gained access to Fort Story, a Joint Expeditionary Base in Virginia Beach that has been used as a training site for amphibious combat exercises since the end of World War II. A Vietnam-era jet that is grounded there became the site of a crash reenactment.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Colonel Greenwood' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Colonel Greenwood
2003-2004
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago, Gift of Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“I came to understand a lot about life in the military through conversations with the marines. At that point, I had never quite understood why someone would join the military. I thought people join because they want to fight, because they want to shoot guns, because they want to combat evil forces. But I realised that some join for economic reasons: just to get a job. Some want to travel. Some see it as a way to get out of difficult circumstances: Some were orphans who grew up in tough foster homes and felt the military gave them an opportunity to escape. So I gradually came to understand the human component, the redemptive aspect of this complicated equation.”

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An-My Lê in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

From War Reenactors to the Removal of Confederate Monuments, An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain Spotlights Politically Charged Work that Resonates Today

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) will present the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê (b. 1960), on view April 18 through August 8, 2021. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain draws connections across Lê’s career and provides unprecedented insight into her subtle, evocative images that draw on the classical landscape tradition to explore the complexity of American history and conflict.

Celebrated photographer Lê has spent nearly 25 years exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs. Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê vividly remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in a war zone. She and her family were eventually evacuated by the U.S. military in 1975. It would take another 20 years for Lê to return to her homeland, this time with a large-format camera in tow.

“We are proud to bring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain to our North Texas community,” said Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “Lê’s photographs bring history into conversation with the present, confronting head-on, complicated questions that remain relevant today. It feels especially important that we are spotlighting her work during our anniversary year, as it draws on the traditions reflected in our historical photography collection and underlines our 60-year commitment to exhibiting the best American photographers at the Carter.”

Lê follows in the tradition of nineteenth-century photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan and Mathew Brady, whose images of the Civil War brought the realities of combat to everyday Americans. Crafting sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war, Lê captures the complexity of conflict and the full scope of military life, avoiding the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. On Contested Terrain highlights the artist’s technical strengths, used to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

The exhibition presents selections from five of Lê’s major series:

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

Almost 20 years after her family was evacuated, Lê returned to Vietnam with her large-format camera. The resulting series is a meditation on her homeland, addressing both her memories of it and the country’s reality decades later. It depicts the landscape as a backdrop for human history, a theme Lê would return to again and again.

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

Back in the United States, Lê photographed Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia, often participating as a North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. Working with the reenactors, many of whom had not fought in the war, to achieve “authenticity” whenever possible, Lê made images that explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.

 

29 Palms (2003-2004)

Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War, Lê traveled to a California military base to photograph troops training in a landscape similar to the environment in which they would soon be deployed. In addition to the desert training exercises, Lê photographed the debriefings and downtime that filled the soldiers’ days.

 

Events Ashore (2005-2014)

This series, the artist’s first foray into colour photography, was created over nine years that Lê spent photographing the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world. An extensive exploration of the global reach of the American military, Events Ashore includes scenes of everyday life on an aircraft carrier alongside diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

In her current series, Lê grapples with the legacy of America’s Civil War and responds to the complexities of the current socio-political moment. Her poetic photographs of polarised landscapes confront issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.

 

“An-My Lê has spent decades investigating conflicted terrains, both physical and metaphorical” stated Kristen Gaylord, Assistant Curator of Photographs. “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world? These questions are especially salient for the City of Fort Worth, which includes a major defence contractor, the first Joint Reserve Base in the country, and residents and refugees from around the world, including Vietnam, Somalia, Guatemala, and Afghanistan. The generosity and incisiveness of Lê’s vision are a model for how we can navigate these complexities together.”

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is organised by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Major support for this exhibition is provided by Lannan Foundation and the William Talbott Hillman Foundation. Additional support is generously provided by the Virginia Kaufman Fund, the Henry John Simonds Foundation, the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Jennifer and Karl Salatka, and the Virginia S. Warner Foundation. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by Marian Goodman Gallery. The exhibition debuted at Carnegie Museum of Art in March 2020 and is on view there through January 18, 2021. Following the presentation at the Carter, the exhibition will travel to the Milwaukee Art Museum in fall 2021. An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is included in the museum’s free admission. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring many images never-before-published.

 

About An-My Lê

An-My Lê was born in Saigon in 1960. She and her family fled Vietnam in 1975, living for a short period of time in Paris, France, before settling in the United States as a political refugee. Lê received her BAS (1981) and MS (1985) degrees in biology from Stanford University and an MFA from Yale University in 1993. While Lê is represented in many major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Dallas Museum of Art – An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first survey of her work in an American museum. Currently, a professor of photography at Bard, Lê has received many awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2012), the Tiffany Comfort Foundation Fellowship (2010), the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Award (2007), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1997). Her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the world, including the Baltimore Museum of Art; Dia Beacon, Beacon, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; MoMA PS1, New York; and more, and her photography was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Night Operations VII' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Night Operations VII
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Twentynine Palms was the first extended period of time I spent in an unpopulated landscape. That was where I first started to think about this idea of the sublime. You see this extraordinary, open land, and you understand how insignificant we are. The most powerful experience I had happened during a night exercise in the middle of the desert. It was completely dark. We were at least a two-hour drive from the camp, and then the whole sky lit up. It was the most extraordinary fireworks I have ever seen – 20 minutes of jets dropping bombs, howitzers firing, and tracers in the air. […] You could feel the tremors in your heart. It was a rush of life power, but at the same time, it was devastating. The kind of destruction that this exercise entails is a destruction that is all our own doing.”

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An-My Lê, 2015

 

 

29 Palms (2003-04)

For her series 29 Palms, Lê turned to real soldiers acting out possible scenarios for a war that was still developing. Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War (2003-2011), she instead sought access to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, also known as Twentynine Palms, outside Joshua Tree National Park in California – a base that was also used by Marines preparing for the Vietnam War decades earlier. Military command had determined that the arid, mountainous landscape was a good approximation to parts of Afghanistan and Iraq, where these soldiers would eventually de deployed. At Twentynine Palms, Lê focused her camera on field exercises, from special ops tactical training to sweeping views of tanks rolling across the desert. Some of the photographs are indistinguishable from images of actual war, while in others the artificiality of the scenario is obvious. She also captured moments that don’t appear in military promotional materials: troops whose attention is drifting during debriefings, huddled together to avoid the hot sun, and smoking and chatting during downtime.

At Twentynine Palms, entire buildings were given over to re-creations of Iraqi towns for security and stabilisation exercises, and cadets were conscripted to role play as Iraqi police. Three images in this gallery show the exercises as well as the facilities, which have been sprayed with anti-USA and pro-Saddam graffiti meant to impart a sense of realism. Simplistic phrases like “Good Saddam” and “Down USA” could never encapsulate an Iraqi’s complicated feelings about the war. Those sentiments, coupled with fake Arabic graffiti, leave a viewer wondering how well the military is preparing these troops who are about to be dropped into a completely foreign country on the other side of the globe.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: “29 Palms” | Art21 “Extended Play” | February 2011

“I just wanted to approach the idea of war in a more complicated and more challenging way” says artist An-My Lê, whose photographic series and film “29 Palms” (2003-04) explore the training exercises and desert landscape near Joshua Tree National Park as a staging ground for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An-My Lê’s photographs and films examine the impact, consequences, and representation of war, framing a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlefields. Suspended between the formal traditions of documentary and staged photography, Lê’s work explores the disjunction between wars as historical events and the ubiquitous representation of war in contemporary entertainment, politics, and collective consciousness.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, Museum Purchase
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti
2003-4
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps. 'T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq' 16 April 2003

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps
T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq
16 April 2003
Public domain

 

 

The destroyed remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) litter an Iraqi military complex West of Diwaniyah, near Al Qadisiyah, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Visible on the picture are also two ARVs (the upper one is a Chinese-made Type 653 while the lower one is a Polish-made WZT-2). The tank in the bottom of the picture is a Type 69 as evidenced by the fender-mounted headlights.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Mechanized Assault' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Mechanized Assault
2003-4
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“The kind of work that I make is not the standard political work. It’s not agitprop. You would think, because I’ve seen so much devastation and lived through a war, that I should make something that’s outwardly antiwar. But I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

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An-My Lê quoted in “War and Aesthetics: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

“I love the way things are drawn in black and white but it was evident to me Events Ashore needed to be in color. It was at first a technical issue. I found the [black-and-white] palette restrictive. I was frustrated not being able to distinguish colder from warmer gray. [Black and white] is about a removal of the information provided by color, which is interesting in itself. Only the essential is retained, and this forces the imagination to go into overdrive to compensate. As I was exploring this huge global enterprise that is the U.S. Navy, I wanted to describe my experience in details and overwhelm the viewer with information. Bringing color back was crucial.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Jon Feinstein. “An-My Lê: The Landscape of Conflict,” on the Daylight website 10th February 2017 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Events Ashore (2005-2014)

Lê’s time at Twentynine Palms let to friendships with military personnel that facilitated her next series, titled Events Ashore. She was invited to join a Marine Expeditionary Unit on an aircraft carrier and over the next nine years spent weeks at a time visiting twenty different countries aboard U.S. naval vessels travelling the world, from Antartica to Greenland. Events Ashore was Lê’s first foray into colour photography, made in part because her standard black-and-white film could not capture the subtle differences in the tonalities of ships, sky and water that filled the views from aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, and nuclear-powered submarines.

In this series intimate scenes of life aboard an aircraft carrier are interspersed with coverage of less-known military outreach efforts, like tutoring individuals for an English proficiency exam, and landmark geopolitical moments including the first U.S. naval exchange with Vietnam since the Vietnam War (1955-75). Lê attempts to fathom the full scope fo the navy’s activities around the world. The result is an extensive exploration of the environmental, financial, human, and political costs of military intervention.

 

 

“I [am] interested in many aspects of the military endeavour, from humanitarian missions in Africa and Asia and strategic trainings and engagements in the North Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean to scientific missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. This work is as much about my perspective and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes. It is also about how the U.S. military is seen around the world, and how it represents our country. A polarising subject in popular imagination, the U.S. military has inspired fear, patriotism, debate, and suspicion. My goal has been to give a visual analog to that complex topic, to address issues of power and fragility. […] My intention is to stir up thought but not dictate a message. It is not a call to action so much as a call for perspective.”

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An-My Lê, 2014 from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Lê has said that her ultimate subject in Events Ashore was scale, and the ocean is one of the only environments vast enough to dwarf the massive ships of the U.S. Navy. USNS Mercy is the lead ship of a class of hospital ships that are the third largest ship class in the navy, although in this image it seems small. Hospital ships carry only defensive weapons, and it is a war crime to attack them. Last spring, Mercy was sent to Los Angeles to provide relief to local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases. A train engineer deliberately ran a train off the tracks in an attempt to crash into it, saying he was suspicious of Mercy and did not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas' 2011

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas
2011
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“[Walt] Whitman epitomises the acknowledgment that art offers the most inclusive and accurate method for addressing an experience. Whitman’s work resisted easy categorisation – it was neither journalism nor poetry. It allowed him to explore his curiosity about himself and the world in a way that always inspired complex responses. In a way, a photographer’s independence is what defines their identity as an artist. If your work doesn’t serve a story, document an event, or promote a product, then it must be art. But, in another sense, a photography artist is usually excited by the risk of their work not being considered art at all. When you decide to look at a polarising subject that plenty of non-artists are also working with – like a newsworthy event – then you are begging a question: ‘Are you doing anything better as an artist? Might you be doing something worse?'”

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An-My Lê quoted in Tom Seymour. “An-My Lê: Landscape is not a narrow category – it is a source of surprise,” on The Art Newspaper website 13th August 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

Lê’s current project examines the contemporary state of affairs in the united States through the lens of history. It takes its title from Walt Whitman’s tribute to Ulysses S. Grant in Specimen Days (1882), an autobiographical account of Whitman’s time tending to wounded Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (1861-65), another fractured moment in the countries history. Her arrangement of these photographs in groups, or what she calls “fragments,” is an homage to the literary structure of Specimen Days and a poetic way of sequencing the pictures.

Lê made her first photographs for the series in 2015, when the news was dominated by Donald Trump’s candidacy for president and public controversy over monuments commemorating the Confederacy. Since then, Lê has photographed politically polarised landscapes from Louisiana to New York, California to Texas, and down into Mexico. The images in Silent General address much-debated issues including citizenship, immigration, labour rights, land access, and racism, and often trace them back to their historical roots.

Wall text

 

 

 

Confederate Memorials in Texas

The photographs in this gallery address significant and contested issues facing our country, including the presence of Confederate monuments and markers throughout the United States.

Should these memorials remain, or should they be removed? While some believe that removing them erases history, others think that they were created to assert dominance over Black people.

There are over 150 Confederate memorials in Texas, most of which were created in two eras: first, the 1900 to the mid-1930s, as Jim Crow laws were passed and the Ku Klux Klan resurged; and second, the 1950s and 1960s, during the civil rights movement and coinciding with the centennial of the Civil War.

What, if anything, surprises you about Confederate monuments and markers in Texas?

Information on this map was gathered from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Texas Historical Commission, “The Texas Tribune,” and various private databases.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was a well-known Confederate general who conveyed racist views about Black people before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. But he was adamantly against the federalist Reconstruction policies of the postwar period and became part of a group that advocated for Black suffrage and equal rights as a way of uniting Southern interests against them. A statue of him as a Confederate general was unveiled at the main entrance of New Orleans’ City Park in 1915. One hundred years later, it was one of four memorials related to the Confederacy that the New Orleans City Council voted to remove, although the removal took over a year and a half.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans' 2017

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans
2017
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“We should start with the paradoxical ideas about photography and truth, journalism, and the issue that a photograph is an evidence of something. In film for example, if you talk about documentary films, or feature films, or fictional films, there is never any issue with which is which, but somehow for photography when people see a photograph, they think it is showing the truth. But we know that all photographs are fictional. This creates a kind of dichotomy, but I think artists such as myself like to take advantage of this misunderstanding. I do straddle that, but my pictures are not photojournalism. They do not attest to anything except perhaps of my interest in the world, and what I bring in terms of my baggage and personal biography to it.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Cleo Roberts. “Complicated Truths: Interview with An-My Lê,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website Feb 24, 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Protest is a commitment to clarity, urgency, and spontaneity. The slogans and chants only work if they can be shared and invested with belief. I used to shy away from explicit language, political or otherwise, as a subject for my work because I feared I would neither document nor reveal anything that wasn’t already there or already stated. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that the language of protest and resistance is not complete without a response… It invites and demands a response. So, with these photographs, I’ve tried to present protest and public address as intimate and integral gestures, within time and place, that hopefully push back at the more predictable images and commentaries we expect.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Fi Churchman. “‘We Will Dance Again’: Photographer An-My Lê on Reconnecting with New York in Lockdown,” on the ArtReview website 23 September 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York' 2018

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York
2018
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

 

Monsen Photography Lecture: An-My Lê | March 2021

The annual Monsen Photography Lecture brings key makers and thinkers in photographic practice to the Henry Art Gallery. Named after Drs. Elaine & Joseph Monsen, the series is designed to further knowledge about and appreciation for the art of photography.

The Henry welcomed An-My Lê as the 2018 Monsen Photography Lecture speaker. Lê is renowned for creating images that raise questions about the representations and effects of war, and for leveraging photographic techniques to challenge understandings of what is fictional or historical. Her work “Small Wars (Ambush I)”, (1999-2002) was included in the Henry’s exhibition, “The Time. The Place: Contemporary Art from the Collection.”

 

 

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29
May
21

Photographs: ‘The “Green Ticket” roundup – first roundup of Jews in France during World War II’, Memorial de la Shoah, Paris

May 2021

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs. The centre of the gymnasium is emptied. Only police officers circulate. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the summoned Jews have entered the mousetrap. We see for the first time the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together.

 

 

Death, duplicity and dishonour

Recently discovered at a Normandy flea market, these photographs by German photographer Harry Croner are taken from 5 contact sheets of 35mm negatives (probably taken on a Leica or similar). These documentary photographs are efficient, well seen, silent and in light of subsequent events… eloquent and emotional. They depict the first roundup of French Jews in Paris on May 14, 1941 at the Japy Gymnasium and a day later at the internment camps into which they were placed.

Lured to several places across the city in a pre-planned trap, Jews were “summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities… As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.”

Today, we know that these images are probably the last photographs of these men alive that were ever taken. They were held in the internment camps for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. A year later during the “during the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp”

In collusion with and at the behest of their Nazi overlords, this was not the French government’s finest hour.

The roundup – overseen by the Germans, supervised by government officials (through the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, created by the Vichy State in March 1941 and run by fascist and anti-Semite Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Commissioner-General for Jewish Affairs), enforced by the French police – was undertaken with alacrity, complicity and a ruthless efficiency.

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The ironic aspect of these photographs is that Harry Croner, the German Army photographer, was soon after kicked out of the German Army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish. “In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.” So Croner ended up in the very place, a concentration camp, which he depicted so efficiently a few years earlier.

The head of the museum’s photography department Lior Lalieu-Smadja has wondered whether this knowledge of his Jewish father made Croner capture these Jewish men in a more humane light than other propaganda photographs of the same event. In an emotional sense I would say “yes” to this question, but in a technical sense, I do not think so. I don’t think the knowledge of his heritage would have influenced the aesthetic and pictorial construction of the images. In the photographs we can observe a wonderful balance within the picture frame – the use of strong intersectional points, the use of diagonals (the angle of the buses in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station), the use of near to far, the massing of bodies in crowd scenes, the use of flash, evidence of the decisive moment (Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station) as the gendarme and the man turn to look at the camera coupled with the attitude of the man’s leg as he kisses his partner goodbye, and the use of the punctum in the image… the couple sitting on the stairs at top right in Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941; the boy with his hands in his pockets in Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons; and the women staring out of the window of the Boutique à Louer at far right in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station, reminiscent of the ghostly faces of men pictured by Eugène Atget staring out of the windows of Parisian bars and cafés.

But above all these are now, today, emotional photographs, ultimately a memorialisation of the soon to be dead, photographs of people that we know are soon to be dead. They are gut wrenching in their simplicity, heart wrenching in their emotional power – the anguish of the women, that last kiss, the stoicism and calm of the men – as we trace the journey of the condemned. We can literally follow the route of one unknown man (see the first three images below) to his known fate.

A final thought enters my head… would Croner have still been in the German Army for the rest of the war, part of the Nazi war machine, if it was not discovered that his father was Jewish? Would he have hidden that fact in order to survive while at the same time serving the fascists even as they killed his own kind? The paradox of this seemingly absurd and contradictory proposition, might have been undeniable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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All photographs digitally cleaned and balanced by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Many thankx to the Memorial de la Shoah for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

5 contact sheets were recently discovered by the Shoah Memorial, retracing photo after photo of the fate of the Jews summoned by the “green ticket round-up”, the context of the raid, the German and French sponsors and especially the families excluded until now from the known propaganda photos of this roundup. While the press echoed it at the time, the official images were intended to be dehumanising and humiliating for these foreign Jews. The emotion and the dismay of these families, shown in these photos, are a rare illustration of the Shoah in France.

 

 

“Pure evil operates tidily, silently and seems so stylish.”

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Jane Silberman

 

“The French gendarmes had licence to slap, beat, kick, whip, or insult any prisoner who broke the [Drancy] camp rules, but since these rules were never published it meant that they could ill-treat whomever they wanted whenever they wanted – and, with one or two honourable exceptions, this is just what they did. In 1942, when there were female and male prisoners in the camp, the French commandant of the camp, Marcelin Vieux, was seen whipping a woman for being too slow to move away from the middle of the yard. Another inmate remembered Vieux punching inmates and beating them with his truncheon. He also vividly recalled his two violently anti-Semitic French subordinates, who never went on patrol without their truncheons at the ready. Dr. Falkenstein, another prisoner, saw one of these men hit a four-year-old girl so hard that he knocked her unconscious.”

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David Drake. ‘Paris at War: 1939-1944’. Harvard University Press, 2015, p. 209.

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Never-before-seen photos going on display in Paris this week shine a light on a dark moment in France’s role in rounding up Jews to send to Nazi death camps during World War II. The “green ticket round-up” was first carried out in Paris on May 14 and 15, 1941, with more than 6,000 foreign-born Jews summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities and shipped to camps south of Paris. Thousands more were rounded up in the following months.

They were held there for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz death camp.

By chance, a stash of 98 photos from the first green ticket round-up, taken by a German soldier on propaganda duty, were recently discovered by the Memorial de la Shoah, the Holocaust Museum of Paris.

Most were taken at the Japy sports hall in the city’s 11th arrondissement, where close to 1,000 were arrested, and where the photos are being put on display from Friday, exactly 80 years on. One shows SS officer Theodor Dannecker, who was in charge of implementing the “Final Solution” in France, alongside French police commissioner Francois Bard in the hall. Others show couples embracing outside, unaware that they would never see each other again.

“These photos are important because we see the opposite of Nazi propaganda that tried to depict these people as sub-human ‘parasites’,” said Lior Lalieu-Smadja, who heads the museum’s photography department. Was that a deliberate move by the photographer? “One has to wonder,” said Lalieu-Smadja, not least because the photographer was identified as Harry Croner, who was soon after kicked out of the German army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish.

The photos were bought years ago by an antiques dealer in Normandy who had found them at a flea market. He pulled them out of storage recently and contacted the museum, who informed him they were the only known pictures from the infamous round-up. Little else is known about the photos’ journey.

“The only thing we know for certain is that once they were taken, they were sent directly to Berlin. The photographer himself could not keep them, which makes this discovery even more incredible,” said Lalieu-Smadja.

Press release from the Memorial de la Shoah website

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]
May 14, 1941

 

 

A German delegation with SS Theodor Dannecker, responsible for Jewish affairs in France, and French led by the prefect of police François Bard, comes to inspect the operation.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men. They are asked to come back with some things for 2 to 3 days. The reasons given are the same: “examination of the situation”.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons and are received by the police who guard the entrance to the gymnasium. Women with children arrive with suitcases and packages. The following scenes show them standing in line and waiting their turn to hand over the suitcases.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Green Ticket roundup: The Shoah Memorial discovers a previously unpublished photo-reportage

The Shoah Memorial announces the recent acquisition of five contact sheets, totalling 98 photographs. This as yet unreleased photo-reportage accurately details every step of the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police forces on the orders of the German authorities 80 years ago, on May 14, 1941.

 

The discovery in detail

The Shoah Memorial has purchased five contact sheets – documenting the location of the roundup known as the “Green Ticket” on May 14, 1941 – from two specialised collectors. The contact sheets acquired by the Memorial, numbered 182 to 187 (contact sheet 185 is missing), represent 98 photographs. The photographer’s five rolls of film provide a reality that differs greatly from the photos released by the collaborationist press alone. For the first time, the location of the arrests as well as the protagonists of the roundup are captured from multiple angles. Dehumanised until then by propaganda and even completely erased from reportages, the families of the detainees are shown during their emotional farewells, before the very eyes of onlookers and neighbours. The most important element of this discovery, which is indispensable to history and to the duty of remembrance, allows us to follow the trajectory of these rounded-up men, from their arrival at the Japy gymnasium – the site of the trap, in Paris – up to their internment in the camps of the Loiret.

 

What the photographs reveal

The 98 photographs printed on contact sheets give a chronological, step-by-step run-down of the roundup.

  1. The first images show the protagonists of the roundup engaged in a discussion inside the Japy gymnasium. The two German and French sponsors are perfectly recognisable:
    – Théodor Dannecker (1913-1945), who represents Eichmann in France and heads Section IV J of the Gestapo, in charge of Jewish affairs
    – Admiral François Bard (1889-1944), the recently appointed Prefect of the Paris Police
  2. The Japy photo series: the arrested men are confined to the upper floor bleachers. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the Jews who have been summoned have entered the trap. These as yet unreleased photos show the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together, as well as those accompanying them, often their wives
  3. The exterior of Japy: men are still arriving carrying their summons and are received by the police officers at the entrance to the gymnasium. They bid farewell to their families while a line of women and children is formed. They wait to hand over clothes to their loved ones
  4. The neighbourhood is closed off. Neighbours are at their windows. Families are pushed to the back of the street and wait to hear from their loved one. They have anguished faces. The police blocks the street, then evacuates it
  5. Men of all ages who have been arrested come out one by one, watched over by police officers and carrying their belongings, board buses parked just outside the gymnasium, rue Japy
  6. The arrival at the Paris-Austerlitz railway station through the rear entrance to the station
  7. At Pithiviers, a previously unpublished view of the black hangar – of which there were no images until now – during the internment of the Jews, which will subsequently serve as the registration centre for the Vel’ d’Hiv’ detainees and for deportations

 

The “Green Ticket” roundup: first roundup of Jews in France during World War II

The “Green Ticket” Roundup is the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris, and it takes place on Wednesday May 14, 1941. These unsuspecting men, mainly foreigners from Eastern Europe are summoned on Wednesday morning by the Police Prefecture with a “green ticket” for a “status review” and asked to be accompanied by a relative or friend.

The men, most of them family men who were army volunteers at the beginning of the war and therefore fought for France, expect a verification of their status. Fleeing antisemitism and persecutions in their countries of origin – Poland, USSR, Romania, Czechoslovakia – and believing that they will find refuge in the land of freedom, they are arrested chiefly because they are Jewish and foreigners.

Several assembly points are indicated on the “green tickets”: the Caserne Napoléon (in the 4th arrondissement), the Caserne des Minimes (in the 3rd arrondissement), 52 rue Edouard Pailleron (in the 19th arrondissement), 33 rue de la Grange-aux-belles (in the 10th arrondissement) and the Japy gymnasium (in the 11th arrondissement) as well as other centres in the arrondissement police stations and Paris suburbs.

As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.

After that, the 3,700 arrested Jews are taken to the Paris-Austerlitz railway station in special buses, under the supervision of French police officers, and interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps (in the Loiret). They spend more than a year there before being deported directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Convoy #4 on June 25, 1942, #5 on June 28, 1942 and #6 on July 17, 1942. During the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp between July and September 1942.

 

Propoganda photographs

As of the Armistice on June 25, 1940, the press is muzzled in France by the German occupier, and press photography is placed under censorship control. The Propaganda Kompanie (PK), set up within the Wehrmacht, is made up of photographers, cameramen, radio and press reporters, who are equipped with high-performance photographic material. This unit, under the direct control of Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is in charge of documenting the historic dimension of the military effort and producing propaganda reports for foreign countries, for the press and for domestic agencies.

 

The Shoah Memorial

The Shoah Memorial, Europe’s largest archives center dedicated to the history of the Shoah, is a place of remembrance, of education and of transmission on the history of the genocide of the Jews during World War II in Europe. Today it incorporates five sites: the Shoah Memorial in Paris and the Shoah Memorial in Drancy, the Lieu de mémoire du Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), the CERCIL Musée – Mémorial des Enfants du Vel d’Hiv (Loiret), and the Centre culturel Jules Isaac de Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme).

Opened to the public on January 27, 2005 in the historic Marais district, the Paris site provides multiple spaces and an awareness program catering to all audiences: a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and the history of the Jews in France during World War II; a temporary exhibition space; an auditorium programming screenings and symposia; The Wall of Names on which the names of 76,000 Jewish men, women and children deported from France between 1942 and 1944 as part of the “Final Solution” are engraved; the documentation center (50 million archive materials and 1,500 sound archives, 350,000 photographs, 3,900 drawings and objects, 12,000 posters and postcards, 30,000 cinema documents, 14,500 movie titles including 2,500 testimonials, and 80,000 books) and its reading room; educational spaces where children’s workshops and activities for classrooms and teachers take place; a specialty bookstore.

Better understanding the history of the Holocaust is also aimed at preventing the return of hatred and all forms of intolerance today. The Memorial has also been working for more than a decade on education programs focusing on other genocides of the 20th century, such as the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, or the Armenian genocide.

Press release from the Shoah Memorial

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]
May 14, 1941

 

 

The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours and the unusual emotion that reigns around the Japy gymnasium.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)

West Berlin stage: Harry Croner’s photographs from four decades

For 40 years, press photographer Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) accompanied life in Halbstadt with his camera: the reconstruction and creation of new landmarks, large and small events, celebrities from culture and politics, especially what happened on the city’s stages. His acquaintance with many artists living and visiting Berlin made it possible for him to take impressive snapshots and portraits. Croner’s photographic work, which is being presented for the first time with this selection, is the chronicle of an era and at the same time an homage to a small island of world politics, which was above all one thing, the big stage for culture.

 

Late career as a photographer

Harry Croner was born on March 16, 1903 in Berlin. From 1920 to 1922 he completed a commercial apprenticeship, worked for various automobile companies as an advertising manager and finally as a travel representative for Bayerische Motorenwerke. When he set up his own photo business in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1933, he probably already had a career as a photographer in mind. In addition to selling cameras and accessories, he also took portraits. In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.

 

The estate

With the support of the Prussian Sea Trade Foundation, the extensive archive (around 100,000 black and white photographs and over 1.3 million negatives) was acquired in February 1989. A representative part of the estate was digitised in 2013, supported by the Digitalization Service of the State of Berlin. Around 8,000 photos are already accessible online.

Text from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin website [Online] Cited 20/05/2021 translated from the German by Google Translate

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

After a few hours, the men left the scene under police custody and had to board requisitioned buses for transfer to the Austerlitz station.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

The 3,710 men arrested in Paris at the various summons were transferred to the Austerlitz station to be interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps. Four convoys of passenger wagons are formed, two convoys with 2140 men to the camp of Beaune-la-Rolande and two convoys with 1570 men to that of Pithiviers. These convoys arrive on the afternoon of May 14.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station. His presence in the photos in this roundup shows that he followed and supervised the entire roundup.

 

 

Theodor Dannecker (German, 1913-1945)

Theodor Dannecker (German, 27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS-captain (Hauptsturmführer), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a specialist on Nazi anti-Jewish policies (Judenberater), he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the World War II genocide of European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust … In December 1945, Dannecker was arrested by the United States Army, and, on 10 December, he committed suicide in Bad Tölz. …

From September 1940 until July 1942, Dannecker was leader of the Judenreferat at the SD office in Paris, where he ordered and oversaw round ups by French Police. More than 13,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where most died in the Final Solution. …

Dannecker developed under Eichmann into one of the SS’s most ruthless and experienced experts on the “Jewish Question”, and his involvement in the genocide of European Jewry was one of primary responsibility. A passage from a 1942 report by Dannecker illustrates how the “Jewish Question” was handled in France:

“Subject: Points for the discussion with the French State Secretary for Police, Bousquet… The recent operation for arresting stateless Jews in Paris has yielded only about 8,000 adults and about 4,000 children. But trains for the deportation of 40,000 Jews, for the moment, have been put in readiness by the Reich Ministry of Transport. Since the deportation of the children is not possible for the time being, the number of Jews ready for removal is quite insufficient. A further Jewish operation must therefore be started immediately. For this purpose Jews of Belgian and Dutch nationality may be taken into consideration, in addition to the former German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Russian Jews who have so far been considered as being stateless. It must be expected, however, that this category will not yield sufficient numbers, and thus the French have no choice but to include those Jews who were naturalised in France after 1927, or even after 1919.”1

Text from the Wikipedia website

  1. “Eichmann trial – The District Court Sessions”. Nizkor Project. 9 May 1961. Retrieved 23 December 2013

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to settle in cold and unsanitary barracks under construction. The straw that will serve as mattresses in the bedsteads is still outside the barracks.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp] (detail)
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d'Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d’Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The gendarme to the left of the photo, posted in a watchtower, monitoring the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, is the emblematic photo from the film Nuit et Brouillard, censored when it was released in 1955.

 

 

Nuit Et Brouillard
Alain Resnais
1955

 

 

Memorial de la Shoah
17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier
75004 Paris
Phone: + 33 (0)1 42 77 44 72

Opening hours:
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Memorial de la Shoah website

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13
Oct
20

Photographs: ‘Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941’ and other WW2 Australian photographs

October 2020

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

These photographs were given to me in an envelope titled “Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941”. I have carefully digitally scanned and cleaned them. The attribution seems correct for the first group of photographs in the posting, Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore, but not for the rest. I have located Rumann’s POW record and found several pictures of the ship he would have taken to travel to Singapore.

The other photographs in the posting show Australian armed services personnel (none are American), but there are several anomalies that enable me to say that these are later photographs. Four Australian women personnel stand in front of an American Red Cross sign, and the ARC (or Amcross) did not arrive in Australia until 1942. And in the photograph Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23, the men an women are standing on a US Army transportation barge, unlikely to have been in Australian waters before 1942. Behind them Carley floats hang from their tethers.

As always, what interests me most about these photographs are the details contained within: the casualness of the men waiting at Post Exchange No. 2, with their sandals, singlets and slough hats; the man caught mid-clamber, climbing up into the truck in Taking out the rubbish; the women in dark glasses and hat sheltering her eyes from the sun in BKC*23; the men peering out of the portholes in the same photograph, one with a fag in his mouth.

We can feel the heat emanating from these photographs (it must be summer). All the men are in shorts and topless. In photographs such as Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23 and Embarkation we can admire their lithe bodies, and observe the ubiquitous 1940s mop of curly hair with short back and sides. They were already athletic before departure, but imagine fighting in the stinking hot forests of Burma on Army rations, or ending up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with so little meat on the bone to start with. You would be a skeleton before long. Finally, there is one personal sign that you can make out in the crowd seeing off the troops to Singapore from Circular Quay in 1941. “Jim Carr” it reads. Did he survive the war? Who knows.

More than 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured at the fall of Singapore. Of these, more than 7000 would die as prisoners of war, some in transport ships on their way to Japan, sadly torpedoed by Allied submarines. Andrew Rumann survived his trip to Japan as a POW and returned to Australia after the war. He died in 1974 aged 68 years old.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs have been digitally scanned and cleaned by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann

Headquarters, Royal Australian Artillery, 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Service Number – NX26452
Date of birth – 13 Sep 1905
Place of birth – Hungary
Place of enlistment – Paddington NSW
Next of Kin – Rumann, Rena

Malaya, captured at Singapore

Camp: Osaka, Japan

Andrew died in 1974 in Toor, Australia at 68 years old

 

In January 1941 a large component of the Australian Army’s recently raised 8th Division was posted to Malaya. An element of some 6000 men departed Sydney in the liner Queen Mary as part of Convoy US9 on 4 February 1941, arriving in Singapore two weeks later on 18 February. A further 5000 troops in Convoy US11B arrived at Keppel Harbour on 15 August 1941. Under the command of Major General Gordon Bennett, the force initially established its headquarters at Kuala Lumpur. Bennett had urged for specific territorial responsibility for his Division, and this resulted in an area which included Johore and Malacca, coming within his responsibility.

The Australian Army 8th Division in Malaya eventually reached about 15,000 men. An apt description of the commander, Major General Henry (Gordon) Bennett, found in a Veterans’ Affairs publication, (Moremon & Reid 2002) reads:

“A prominent citizen soldier, he had proven himself in World War I to be a fierce fighter and leader, but he was well known for his prickly temperament, argumentative nature and proneness to quarrel. His relations with senior British commanders and staff in Malaya were, at times, strained, as he grappled to maintain control of the Australian troops.”

Bennett’s independent spirit did not fit into the Allied command structure, however his Division generally acquitted themselves well against a seasoned enemy.

Walter Burroughs. “The Naval Evacuation of Singapore – February 1942,” on the Naval Historical Society of Australia website. June 2019 edition of the Naval Historical Review  [Online] Cited 04/09/2020.

 

Convoy US11B

Convoy US11B

Departed Sydney 29/7/1941 – Arrived Fremantle 6/8/1941
Departed Fremantle 8/8/1941 – Arrived Singapore 15/8/1941

Ships: Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, Katoomba, HMAS Sydney, Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, HMAS Canberra, Sibajak.

In late July 1941 a convoy was organised to transport 8th Division troops to Singapore. The convoy included three Dutch passenger ships, and escort ships from the Royal Australian Navy.

 

Summary of Embarkation for Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (HMT FF)

The following troops embarked Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt at Woolloomooloo, Sydney on 29/7/1941 for the voyage to Singapore.

61524 – 8 Division Artillery

29 men arrived including 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, 3 sergeants, 22 corporals and privates.

(Source: Australian Army War Diary 1/15/14 – District Records Office Eastern Command May – July 1941)

 

Troopship 32 – Voyage 4

She [JVO] departed Sydney on July 17 and headed for Auckland New Zealand where she arrived on July 21 and departed again on the 22nd. She returned to Sydney arriving on July 25 and departed again on the 29th, sailing via Fremantle to Singapore arriving on August 15. End of Troop voyage 4.

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941
Aerial Starboard side view of the Dutch liner Johan van Oldenbarnevelt transporting Australian troops to the Middle East as part of convoy US11B. Note the 4.7 pound gun and 12 pounder AA gun aft
1st August 1941
Australian War Memorial Naval Historical Collection
Public domain

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941 – Note the guns up on the aft section!

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Trust building at left in the background. The spire is the CQ Fire Station No. 3.

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941 (detail)

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore] (detail)
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

NX26452 Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Encampment]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Encampment]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

The American Red Cross (ARC or Amcross) in Australia during WW2 became the largest hotel and restaurant chain in Australia at the time. Amcross was headed by Norman H. Davis with its headquarters in Sydney, NSW. …

Four American women led by Miss Helen Hall arrived in Australia in about late August 1942 to take charge of American Red Cross Service Personnel and to establish new American Red Cross centres and to extend existing centres. Miss Hall was the administrative assistant to the delegate in charge of American Red Cross Service Clubs and Leave Areas in Australia. The other three women were Miss Hannah More Frazer, who was appointed Director of the American Red Cross Service Club in Melbourne in about September 1942; Miss Florice Langley who opened an ARC Service Club in Cairns, in far north Queensland; and Mrs. Anita Woodworth who opened an ARC Service Club in Charters Towers in north Queensland.

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2] (detail)
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23] (detail)
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]
1942-1945
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Mike Peel. 'Carley float' 2018

 

Mike Peel
Carley float
2018
CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

Carley float

The Carley float (sometimes Carley raft) was a form of invertible liferaft designed by American inventor Horace Carley (1838-1918). Supplied mainly to warships, it saw widespread use in a number of navies during peacetime and both World Wars until superseded by more modern rigid or inflatable designs. Carley was awarded a patent in 1903 after establishing the Carley Life Float Company of Philadelphia. …

Simply by casting it over the side, the lightweight Carley float could be launched more rapidly than traditional rigid lifeboat designs, and without the need for specialised hoists. It could be mounted on any convenient surface and survive the battering against the ship’s sides during heavy seas. Unlike the rubber inflat