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wwi soldier with gas mask

Unknown photographer, French. Soldier wearing a gas mask in a dugout, 1915–1918. Gelatin silver print, 13 × 18 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/706.98 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

PHOTOGRAPHY: FIRST WORLD WAR, 1914 - 1918 (Part II)

November 10, 2018 – April 14, 2019

Part I: April 28 – October 28, 2018
Part II: November 10, 2018 – April 14, 2019

Located on the first floor in the Edmond G. Odette Family Gallery (Gallery 128) and the Robert & Cheryl McEwen Gallery (Gallery 129).

This exhibition is included with General Admission.

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EXHIBITION OVERVIEW

The First World War originated in Europe, but its spread was global: soldiers from a vast network of overseas colonies fought alongside Europeans in battles far from home. Advancements to compact cameras meant that soldiers, nurses and civilians could photograph their own experiences of war for the first time.

The history of the First World War is often presented as a simplified story of winners and losers, one that diminishes the complexity of war and the diversity of experience. To mark the centenary of the end of the conflict, this exhibition invites visitors to explore the AGO’s significant collection of photographic albums and objects from this period, donated in 2004 by a private collector. These photographic compilations—personal albums, commercial stereograph sets, press photographs—reveal how those involved in the war used photographs to tell stories and remember events.

These intimate objects, diverse in their materials, subjects, and makers, move viewers from fronts in the Middle East to Russia; from medical trains to makeshift hospitals; from high-ranking officers to conscripted colonized troops. The album of a British nurse details her journey through Northern France, alongside portraits of the brothers she lost in the war. The story of a German pilot killed on the Palestinian front is recounted by his brother in a handmade book, with photographs and calligraphied text. The experiences are vastly different, but death and destruction link these stories, as does the makers’ impulse to keep photographs and create albums in an effort to remember.

The exhibition will also feature photographs from Canada’s only segregated Black battalion, the No. 2 Construction Battalion – an overlooked narrative of Canada’s participation in the war.

Improvements to printing technology enabled the mass circulation of images to communicate the war’s events to those on the home front. A wall of press photographs—shown both recto and verso, complete with stamps, captions, markings – highlight how such photographs circulated throughout the war and shaped the image of the conflict’s progress.

In contrast to the personal material of the albums, in the adjacent McEwen Gallery, a selection of stereographs from Western Front 1914–1917 – presented as a digitized slideshow – follows a British troop through the grim realities and heroic victories of war. Realistic Travels produced, published and sold these sets after the war’s end, capitalizing on the patriotic adventure the war presented.

Together, this remarkable collection of personal, and often unfamiliar, representations of the conflict enriches our understanding of the complex histories of the First World War.


ARTWORKS FROM THE EXHIBITION

portrait of emily maxwell stuart from wwi

Emily Maxwell Stuart. From the album Emily Maxwell Stuart: Photos taken during the War of 1914, 1914–1918. Album: 354 gelatin silver prints, postcards, ephemera, leather cover. Anonymous Gift, 2004.599.2.2 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi emily maxwell stuart
portrait of private russell miller

Unknown photographer, Canadian or French. Private Russell Miller, around 1916. Postcard: gelatin silver print, 9.8 x 6.7 cm. Collection of Anthony Sherwood. © 2018 Photograph Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi pvt russell miller
wounded men in a wagon from wwi

Unknown photographer, French. Wounded men in a wagon, 1914–1918. Gelatin silver print, 12.8 × 10 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/507.144 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi images wounded men in a wagon
photos of nurses during wwi

Unknown photographer, Russian. From the album Nurse’s Album, 1914–1917. Album: 87 gelatin silver prints, fabric cover, 26.8 × 36.7 × 2.3 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/519.1–.13 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi nurses album
photos from the medic's album, wwi

Unknown photographer, German. From the album German Medic's Album, Belgium 1914-1915. Album: 417 gelatin silver prints, 7 negatives, ephemera, fabric cover, 31.3 × 24.1 × 2.9 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/573.1–.60 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi medics album
soliders on horses in front of the sphinx

Captain Basil Wood Bourne. From the album Egypt 1914–1916. Album: 95 gelatin silver prints, paper cover, 22.1 × 29.5 × 2.8 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/691.1-.48 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi capt basil bourne
wwi stereograph of an explosion

Realistic Travels, active London, Cape Town, Bombay, Melbourne, Toronto, around 1908–1921. Stereograph no. 84 from the series Western Front 1914–1917, 1914–1919. Stereograph: gelatin silver prints. From the set Realistic Travels: World War 1914–1918. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/527.13 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi stereograph 84
wwi stereograph scene with troops surrendering

Realistic Travels, active London, Cape Town, Bombay, Melbourne, Toronto, around 1908–1921. Stereograph no. 87 from the series Western Front 1914–1917, 1914–1919. Stereograph: gelatin silver prints. From the set Realistic Travels: World War 1914–1918. Anonymous Gift, 2004. 2004/527.13 © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

wwi stereograph 87

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