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Collection Selections: The First World War on camera

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On 4 August 1914 the largest global conflict the world had witnessed began. In this post, we reflect on the role that photography played in representing ‘The War to End All Wars’.

The First World War was captured through many different types of photography, from official war records to personal mementos.

The British government commissioned official photographers to capture images of First World War life—both on the battlefield and on the home front. They recognised the importance of photography, both as propaganda and as a historical record.

In 1914, cheap, easy-to-use snapshot cameras were widely available and many soldiers bought cameras to record their own wartime experiences. Kodak even advertised their popular Vest Pocket Kodak camera as ‘The Soldier’s Kodak’.

Black and white picture of soldiers waiting at London Victoria train station.

‘The Gate of Goodbye’, 1917, Francis James Mortimer
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

A World War One battlefield scene, with barbed wire fences and bodies on the floor

‘The gaps in the wire near Anvil Wood through which the 53rd Battn rushed the machine gun posts on Aug 31st 1918 were death traps’, 1918, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Snapshot of British soldiers in a trench in the First World War, 1915

Snapshot of British soldiers in a trench in the First World War, 1915, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of British soldiers baking bread

‘Bread Ovens of Army Bakery’, 1916, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

English prisoners of war in Sennelager, Germany, 1914

English prisoners of war in Sennelager, Germany, 1914, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of the silhouettes of World War One soldiers walking across the trenches

‘Supports going up after battle to relieve the front trenches’, 1917, James Francis Hurley
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of 'Hell Fire Corner' on the road between Ypres and Menin

‘Hell Fire Corner on the Menin Road’, c. 1917, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of Three soldiers with their Christmas turkey, 1916

Three soldiers with their Christmas turkey, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

A group of soldiers outside a tent, 1916

Group of soldiers outside a tent, 1916, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of Wild Eye, the Souvenir King, a British World War One soldier

‘Wild Eye, the Souvenir King’, c.1917, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

First World War Zeppelin Raid on London, 1915

First World War Zeppelin Raid on London, 1915, A C Cooper
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of the King and Queen visiting an army clothing factory in 1916

‘Their Majesties Visit to an Army Clothing Factory’, 1916, Horace Nicholls
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Black and white picture of a woman carrying a sack of coal on her back

‘Women at War’ Series, ‘Coal delivery’, 1916, Horace Nicholls
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

A dope room in an aircraft factory, 1915-1918

‘General view of dope room in aircraft factory’, 1915-1918, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of Private Joseph Bailey at the Somme, just hours before he was killed.

Private Joseph Bailey, Battle of the Somme, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Peace scenes in London, with wounded soldiers in wheelchairs waving with flags

Peace scenes in London, wounded soldiers with flags, 1919, Daily Herald Archive, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Picture of a street party in London celebrating the official declaration of peace, 1919

A street party in London celebrating the official declaration of peace, 1919, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Photograph of a memorial to a deceased sailor

In Memoriam photograph of a sailor, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

More photographs from the Official Australian photographs of World War One album are available on Flickr.

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