First World War Photographers by Jane Carmichael

167pp, many illustrations.

Casebound. Routledge. £16.95. (1989 pricing) 

Second hand copies available for under £5 (2021)

ISBN 0 415 01009 8.

[This review first appeared in the Winter 1989 edition of Stand To ! No.27 - less this selection of photographs]

An official home front photograph of 1918 showing a woman carter doing that had previously been regarded as a man’s job. British official, Horace Nicholls, Q 31003.

The author has been Keeper of the Department of Photographs at the Imperial War Museum since 1983; there can be few better qualified than she to select and present for us over 100 photographs from the Museum's collection and to write about the people who took the pictures, how and why they were taken and how they were used. 

Australian father (smoking pipe) and son (in front) serving together in the trenches on Walker’s Ridge, Gallipoli. Personal photograph, H.V.Woods HU 53364

As there were surprisingly few 'official' professional photographers and as the Press was restricted, the amateur played an important part and has not been neglected by Jane Carmichael. 

A most interesting chapter traces the development of the camera, which had become quite sophisticated by 1914, and describes the ubiquitous Vest Pocket Kodak which could produce excellent results in the hand of a gifted amateur. All those thousands of contact prints from the diminutive 127 film were the bottom end of the work by the non­ professional, without the negatives these little pictures add little to our knowledge. 

The siege of Kut: a wounded Turk being transported on one of the ubiquitous wooden carts during the retreat to Kut, November 1915. Personal photograph, P.C.Saunders, HU 51375

The amateur pictures shown here are in an entirely different category. What is particularly satisfying is the excellent quality of the reproduction of the originals here, it is as good as I have seen for a long time. 

The German Offensive 1918 : an old woman with her Cow in Amiens 28 March 1918;     Used in the press to who the human cost of the offensive. British official, Tom Aitken, Q 10836.

Do not go away with the wrong impression about this book. Superb though the pictures are, it is not just another high quality picture-book. Many of the pictures will be new to you, but you will have in your library a most interesting study about the background to the taking and displaying of the pictures during the War. 

A publicity photograph of ‘Tommy Atkins’ taken and published to show the ‘Spirit of Play Still Dancing the Wake of War’ in The Illustrated, 25 May 1918, during the German offensive. British official, John Warwick Brooke, Q 6536

Reviewed by Bob Wyatt