Sunday 10 July 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Photographers in WW1

Ernest Brooks

1838 - 1936

Ernest Brooks was assigned to the Western Front in 1916 as the first official WW1 photographer. Brooks had previously worked with the Daily Mirror newspaper and his orders, as an honorary Second Lieutenant, was to take as many photographs as possible. He went on to produce several thousand war images between 1916 - 1918.

Brooks had previously enlisted in 1915 in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was appointed as the Admiralty's official photographer as they prepared for the Gallipoli landings. However, in March 1916 Brookes was transferred to the War Office where he was appointed official war photographer. He was the only professional photographer to take photographs of the Battle of the Somme.

This is one of his most iconic war images which was taken at the Battle of Broodseinde near Ypres in October 1917

Ernest Brooks

Many other images were captured by the ordinary soldier on small pocket sized cameras. The Vest Pocket Kodak Camera (1912) and the Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak Camera (1915) were produced in the United States by the Kodak Eastman company between 1912 and 1926. During that period the company sold well over 2,000,000 models. In 1914 about 5,500 Vest Pocket Kodaks were sold in Britain. The following year, in 1915 this number had increased to over 28,000.

The convenient size of the camera (2.5 x 6 x 12 cms ) made it a popular choice for soldiers. The cameras were small, reliable and simple and could fit easily into a tunic pocket. The soldiers going out to the Western Front in 1914 were initially encouraged to make a visual record of events, but as the war progressed and the threat from increasing propaganda escalated, amateur photography was actively discouraged, with the threat of Court Marshall if the soldiers were found to have a camera on their person.

Taking pictures with 127 roll film, the black & white images, measuring just 4 x 6.4 cms, provided a comprehensive visual account of the life, and death, of the ordinary soldier during the First World War.

Very often photographs were collected as souvenirs and my husband's grandfather Sam Whalley, who served in the First World War with the Royal Fusiliers as a sixteen year old stable lad, and later with the 17th Lancers, had this German WW1 photograph amongst his war effects. 

Showing German soldiers waiting at a food wagon.

Barton Family Archive

It's worth mentioning, perhaps, and to put it into context, that today's modern iPhone is roughly the same height and width as the Vest Kodak Camera but what a difference a hundred years brings !!

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