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Between ‘Then and Now’ – An Exploration of Commemorative First World War Photography

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

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David Charles Harvey - Lecturer

James Wallis - Lecturer

This paper explores the commemoration of the First World War through the lens of ‘Then and Now’ comparative photography. An inherently spatial medium that links people, their surroundings and the past, photography has always been a key vehicle through which the First World War has reached the British public. One of its most enduring practices has been the ‘then-and-now’ concept, in which the same landscapes – principally located on the former Western Front – were repeatedly ‘captured’ at various time intervals, notably during the late 1920s, and for the conflict’s fiftieth anniversary in the 1960s. This paper explores how these practices and their palimpsest-like qualities, continue to function as dynamic sites of memory, amidst a desire to connect the spatiality of such landscapes with the processes of how they have been depicted, and literally framed, through photography. Drawing upon findings from an ongoing project partnered by the Royal Photographic Society, this paper critically examines the intended use of select images to convey particular narratives over a changing temporal context. Moreover, it considers the recent impact of ever-changing digital technologies – not only that ongoing digitisation projects are enabling unprecedented access, and therefore interaction, with existing photographic resources, but specifically the ways in which such engagements are being defined by ‘Then and Now’ narratives. In so doing, this paper identifies the extent to which photography serves as a remembrance-infused act of ‘witnessing’ within the context of the conflict’s centennial commemorations.
30 Aug 2017

Event (Conference)

TitleRoyal Geographical Society with the IBG Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG
LocationRoyal Geographical Society
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

ID: 118469666