The Great War Photographs of Captain Givord
Edited by Carlos Traspaderne
Uniform Press, 2015
The story of the pictures contained in this treasure trove of a book is fascinating in itself. Rescued from a souk in Tangiers by a Spanish phot-journalist in 1999, the archive consisted of ten boxes of ‘stereoscopic’ images, taken on a Verascope camera. Five of the boxes contained images relating to the Great War – 254 glass plates in total. How it ended up in Tangiers remains a mystery.
Subsequent analysis of the photographs and notes established the photographer’s identity as Captain Pierre Givord, who commanded a motorised transport unit and travelled along the western front. His war service is well-documented in the book, through the accompanying text as well at the photographs themselves.
The photographic record starts in 1916. The editorial treatment is sympathetic. The images are left to speak for themselves, presented in the order they were taken (with some omissions), with the original notes and a few additional lines providing explanation where required. The pictures themselves are exceptional; the quality is fantastic and most are reproduced at about A5 size. The only pity is that they cannot be seen by the reader in the full stereoscopic effect.
The pictures cover a variety of subjects, but an almost constant theme is the destruction that was everywhere. As well at the everyday and mundane (road building, food transportation) and moments of relaxation and frivolity, there are some impressive ‘action’ shots, such as the moment after a mortar has fired, or the destruction of a church tower. Each photo is rich in detail and requires several viewings just to take it all in. Many of the pictures have individuals (of all nationalities – French, British, German, Chinese labourers, Zouaves) and one cannot help wondering what became of these men after their image was captured in a brief moment of time. One of the most striking pictures for me was one of a large group of German prisoners, with just one or two looking directly at the camera, acknowledging its presence.
The pictures do not end with the Armistice, for after the war Givord took his family to some of the places he had seen; poignantly in some places they pose at the same locations, the pictures almost identical four years after the war had ended.
This is a fantastic collection and Uniform Press should be commended for the quality of the publication.
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Tangier Archive: The Great War Photographs of Captain Givord