Project update: finding new ways to reach out

Approach to Langemark German cemetery

Approach to Langemark German cemetery

When people ask about the work of the Remembrance Image Project, I normally tell them that primarily it aims to do three things:

  • to photograph a selection of WW1 sites at or close to their 100th anniversary.  The aim is to create images which are both a record of the sites at their centenary, and which also capture something of the emotion or spirit of each location.
  • to share these images with others, through exhibitions, presentations, talks and other media; and in so doing to promote awareness and debate about the war and about the role of remembrance.
  • to encourage others to create their own photographic images of remembrance, and to share these with the project as a means of opening up and spreading the discussion about the centenary.

It’s clear from those three that whilst creating photographs is a key part of the project, it is by no means the end of the story.  It is equally important to share those images with others, wherever possible in such a way as to foster debate, and hopefully also encourage a degree of participation in the project.

With all that in mind, I’m pleased to report that the interactive elements of the project have started to gain some real momentum over the past few months:

  • The project now has almost 600 followers on Twitter.  I am very grateful for all the support, interest and “onward sharing” which this ever-growing band of followers is offering!  The Facebook following, though slower to grow, is nonetheless developing too, and has seen the sharing of some really interesting comments and photographic contributions from other interested parties around the world.
  • I have now given the first of a series of public presentations on the project – in this first instance to a retirement group in London, who were very willing to engage in debate and discussion and were kind enough to give me some positive feedback on what I presented.  More community group presentations are scheduled over the coming months to groups as diverse as retirement circles, school workshops, camera clubs, the Women’s Institute and library groups, and I look forward to sharing and hearing more from the participants in those.  As ever, please just contact me if you are interested in a presentation on the project for a group with which you are involved.
  • I have been fortunate to be asked to contribute to my own local Council’s centenary planning group, which is proving a really useful network for exchanging and developing ideas.
  • Ultimately, I would like to share some of what I have learned so far on the project by taking others to visit battlefields and sites, and with that in mind I was privileged to attend a battlefield guide training day run by Travel Guide Training and Validation.  If anyone else has ambitions to be a battlefield guide, I cannot recommend this course highly enough.  Meantime, I am continuing to work on my own credentials in this area – of which more in future updates!
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Project update: exploring the southern section of the Western Front

In my last update, I mentioned that another field trip to the Western Front was in the planning stage, and this trip took place at the end of June.  This time, I explored and photographed parts of the southern section of the front, from Reims down to the Swiss border.

The trip took in the rolling green fields of the Champagne countryside, so peaceful and idyllic today in contrast with their appearance a century ago.  Then on to the mighty fortress at Verdun, and the ring of now ruined fortifications surrounding the town, each


The rolling countryside near Reims

with its own story to tell amongst the fractured concrete and the dripping dankness of a maze of underground passages.  Further south, I explored the hilltop trenches of Le Ligne and Hartmannswillerkopf, carved from the living rock, with trenchlines falling away along what seem like almost vertical drops.  And finally, I reached the Swiss border itself, where the long snaking line of the 400 or more miles of the Western Front finally petered out.

Hills at Hartmannswillerkopf

The hills at Hartmannswillerkopf

It was, as ever, an education to see the different landscapes across which this monumental conflict was fought.  I am gradually publishing the images from the trip on Twitter and on Facebook, and I hope that I have captured both the variety of landscapes and locations, and also some of the emotional charge which these locations still hold today.  As ever, comments and contributions in response to the images are not only welcomed, but encouraged.

In the meantime, I have a growing programme of talks and presentations to community and other groups over the next few months, and am really keen to extend this – so if you know anyone that might be interested in hearing a presentation, or hosting a workshop or seminar on the project, then please contact me.

I am also pleased to confirm that I now have five public exhibitions of images planned in between 2014 and 2018, which will provide the opportunity to show some of the photographs in print and at larger scale than is possible online.  More details will follow nearer the time.

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Project update: speaking out

One of the key aims of the Remembrance Image Project is to use photographs as a way of promoting understanding and discussion about the First World War, and debate on the role of remembrance itself.  So over the last few weeks, one of the main pieces of activity has been to try to secure speaking slots with school and community groups.

I am pleased to say that there has been some early success here, with a number of groups showing an interest.  One firm slot is in the diary already in the next few weeks, others are under discussion, and I even have an “audition” as a speaker for the Women’s Institute later in the year.  My aim in each of these presentations will be to introduce the project, share some of the photographs I have taken and the stories behind them, and hopefully encourage people to create and share their own remembrance images.

So if you know any groups who might be interested – whatever the age profile, location or nature of the group – then please do put them in touch with me.

More widely, I am really grateful for the support of other organisations who have been helping me to reach out and talk about the project.  These are too numerous to mention, but over the past month I am especially grateful to the Imperial War Museum, who featured a news item about the project on their web page; and to London Historians and the Friends of the City Churches, who both included the project in their respective members’ newsletters.

Meantime, work continues apace on the next photography field trip to the southern part of the Western Front, focussing on the stretch from Reims down to the Swiss border…of which more to follow!

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Project update: outreach programme taking shape

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has continued to encourage and engage with the project, and a very warm welcome to those that have just started to follow us either here on our website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Over the past few months, a focal point for activity has been a second photographic research trip to France and Belgium.  Starting at Veurne, the route took in Ypres, Mons, Loos and Neuve-Chapelle, as well as several other stopping points along the way.

As someone who is a photographer, I am on a steep learning curve with the history of this period, and itCanadian memorial at Vimy is really on these visits that I start to understand more of the detail of what happened.  Many of the sites were of course very moving places to visit, and there was a particularly memorable evening reflecting and taking photos as the sun set over the Canadian memorial at Vimy.  Photos from that evening and from the rest of the trip are being published more or less daily on the project’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

One of the key aims of the project is of course to share the images with as wide an audience as possible.  This is both to further debate and understanding about the war and about the role of remembrance; and also of course to encourage people to take and share their own remembrance images.  I am starting to put together a programme of presentations and discussion sessions with various community and school groups, so if you know anyone who might be interested in such a presentation, please do put them in touch with me.

Meantime, work continues on planning the third photography research trip in June, which will focus on the southernmost section of the western front, from Reims across to Verdun and then down to the Swiss border.  As ever, images will follow in due course, so watch this space!

Once again, thanks to everyone for their support, and please do keep in touch!

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Project update, and preparations for a second field trip

I am pleased to report that the project is starting to take shape well, not least as I learn in more detail about the history of the First World War and can start to identify locations for taking photographs during the 2014-18 period.  It’s a steep learning curve for me – the last time I studied this period in any detail was at GCSE, and sad to say the cogs from that era are a little rusty!  But I am making progress with the help of some superb books and some even more superb friends and colleagues.

As things stand, I am still having to fund the project entirely myself, so at most the number of trips I am going to be able to make abroad during the centenary period will be about 8-10.  Of necessity, therefore, I will have to be highly selective in the number of locations I visit, and possibly in some cases will have to sacrifice the element of being there close to the exact 100th anniversary of action.  However, that’s all part of the challenge of making the project work, and it just underscores the importance of the current process of researching and selecting battlesites.

With all that in mind, I am excited to say that following an initial field trip to the Western Front last October, I am in the final stages of planning a second towards the end of April.  The route for this will encompass Ypres, Poperinghe (and in particular Talbot House), Mons, Loos, Festubert, and Neuve-Chapelle.  On the way home I also plan to visit the St Omer base of the Royal Flying Corps, which will provide an interesting echo to my last historical photo project on the RAF.

Once that is complete, there should be plenty more photos to share, so please keep an eye on the website; you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where of course you can share your own WW1 remembrance images as well.

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Reaching out

So, this website is up and running, and the project is starting to feel slightly more real and more exciting than when it was just an idea on a piece of paper.  But clearly this is only the very start, and there is a lot to do to really get things moving.

The first phase of activity is reaching out to others and building awareness of the project.  With that in mind, there have been several new developments over the past couple of weeks.

First, I now have our Facebook and Twitter presence up and running.  Please do sign up to these yourself, and encourage others to do so as well.  These will hopefully become key places where you can view and respond to some of the images generated by the project; and just as importantly, to post up remembrance images of your own for others to see.

Second, I am starting to contact other organisations such as museums, charities and historical associations to establish whether there is any synergy between this project and their own plans for 2014-18.  It’s still too early to report back on anything specific from those approaches, but already there appear to be some exciting possibilities.  So watch this space!

Finally, I am starting to prepare ideas for funding bids for the project – the main costs are obviously the travel and subsistence costs associated with regular visits to the battlefield sites, and the costs of preparing and distributing the teaching resources which we are hoping to develop.  So if you have any ideas in this area, please do contact us.

Meantime, please just keep spreading the word – the project aims to promote discussion and interaction around the images produced, and I can’t do that without you!

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Welcome to the Remembrance Image Project

An action fought on the morning of May 9 1915;

a picture taken on the morning of May 9 2015.

The period 2014-18 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War.  The fighting of course occurred in many parts of the world; this project will focus on the Western Front in France and Belgium, where there was extended and ferocious fighting and huge loss of life on all sides.

Our aim is to produce something which is a lasting tribute to all those who lost their lives, or who were scarred physically or mentally by this terrible conflict.

Our first objective is to produce a library of creative photographs which document key sites of conflict, and capture some of the spirit and emotion of those locations.  The aim is to take these photographs at the one hundredth anniversary of conflict in that location, where possible down to the precise day and hour.  These images will be published over the period between now and 2018, and will hopefully form a lasting archive for future generations.

Alongside that, we aim to produce resource packs of these images with activities which teachers can use to help students to engage with and understand the conflict, its context and some of its consequences.  It is hoped that people will not only be able to respond to and critique images published here, but also to take their own images either on the western front itself, or at war memorials in their own locality.

To support this, there will be a Twitter feed and Facebook page where people can share their own images, and respond to those of others.  This means that alongside the core archive of images generated by the project, there will hopefully be a huge range of images taken by members of the public and shared widely.

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