As we note the passing of 100 years since the end of WW1 and commemorate those who lost their lives during the conflict, Jonathan Beamish revisits the sites of the battles, using infrared photography to capture them like never before.
The Great War, as it came to be known, was the first conflict of it’s kind when looking at it’s sheer size and loss of life. The effects of the conflict spread all over Europe, but the physical changes made to the landscape are still very much visible today.
“Though much has grown back in the countryside and farmland of the Western Front, in many places the terrain still bears the unmistakable scars, gouges and fissures of battle,” says Beamish.
In this collection of photos, Beamish highlights these lasting effects with a real eerie but also calm quality to the shots.
Using infrared photography, he is able to pick up a different pallet of colours from each picture, impossible to see with the naked eye. As the infrared picks up different light frequencies, Beamish explains how it creates ‘other-wordly’ colours and appearances.
“Infrared photography allows a wide range of visual options especially with new digital technology. Visually it can seem ethereal and bring gravitas to an image, he says.
“In many places, the terrain still shows the unmistakable seams, gouges and fissures of battle,” says Beamish.
“Infrared photography has always interested me as it can allow you to see beyond normal vision, to see colours normally invisible and even the ability to see in the dark.”
Pictured below is a good example of how Beamish can manipulate the colours to create beautifully rich pictures, which all but accentuate the impact of what the photos convey.
He used two processes to filter the images, one which emphasises reds and blues and a second which leaves skies blue but foliage bright and pale.
The bright red draped over the fort is showing the principal position posts that were guarding the city of Verdun, that in February 1916 were captured by the Germans. The Battle of Verdun was an infamous part of the war, in which there were more than 700,000 casualties.
Reinforced trenches, like the ones we see below, were commonplace during the battles of WW1, and there are some trenches in and around Sanctuary Wood in Ypres, Belgium which have been preserved to allow people to really feel what it would’ve been like to be fighting and living in these trenches.
Here British soldiers would’ve been preparing for a full-scale offensive on the German lines at the
This chilling picture, which looks as if the crosses are laying among snow, tells the tale of the 27,000 French soldiers that lost their lives on 22 August 1914 in Rossignol during the Battle of the Frontiers. They were buried where they had fallen directly after the battle; it
Beamish discovered this technique and began experimenting, first finding himself in Italy.
“I started in Solferino near Lake Garda in Italy, the site of a terrible one-day battle in 1859 with nearly 40,000 casualties. The horrors of Solferino, especially the total lack of care for the injured would lead to the foundation of the International Red Cross,” says Beamish.
As the end of WW1 was reaching its centenary year, Beamish figured he would pay his respects through creating the photos.
“I wanted to do some act of remembrance and however minor, some reconstitution or consideration of the devastating history. Like many others I have ancestors that died on the Western Front. How many of us have had the chilling experience of seeing our surnames on the Menin or Thiepval Monuments?
“And what of the disappeared people and villages and the still cratered landscape?”
These stunning pictures help us to remember those that gave their lives a hundred years ago on these very fields and forests.