With the centenary of the beginning of World War One this year there are a lot of books about the conflict both on shelves now and due for release soon – as well as World War One-related comics and collections we’ve mentioned.
One of the latest an amazing-looking book from specialist publisher, Taschen – the 384-page The First World War in Colour by Peter Walther – and it looks pretty impressive.
The devastating events of the First World War were of course captured in myriad photographs on all sides of the front. Since then, thousands of books of black-and-white photographs of the war have been published, and Charley’s War arist Joe Colquhoun used them extensively to draw the strip, some of them supplied by Pat Mills for reference. Far less familiar though are the rare colour images of the World War One, taken at the time by a small group of photographers pioneering recently developed autochrome technology.
To mark the centenary of the outbreak of war, The First World War in Colour brings together all of these remarkable, fully hued pictures of the “war to end wars”. Assembled from archives in Europe, the United States and Australia, more than 320 colour photos provide unprecedented access to the most important developments of the period – from the mobilization of 1914 to the victory celebrations in Paris, London and New York in 1919. The volume represents the work of each of the major autochrome pioneers of the period, including Paul Castelnau, Fernand Cuville, Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, Léon Gimpel, Hans Hildenbrand, Frank Hurley, Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud and Charles C. Zoller.
Since the autochrome process required a relatively long exposure time, almost all of the photos depict carefully composed scenes, behind the rapid front-line action. We see poignant group portraits, soldiers preparing for battle, cities ravaged by military bombardment – daily human existence and the devastating consequences on the front. A century on, this unprecedented publication brings a startling human reality to one of the most momentous upheavals in history.
Author Peter Walther has edited various publications on literary, photographic, and contemporary historical themes, including books on Goethe, Fontane, Thomas Mann, and writers in the First World War, as well as several illustrated books with historical colour photographs. He has also curated several exhibitions. He is particularly interested in early colour photography techniques.
• The First World War in Colour by Peter Walther is out next month. There’s more information about it on the Taschen web site here