The first world war in colour



While armed conflict has been the subject of photographers since the American Civil War, there's something about the use of black and white pictures that somehow separates us from the event. In monochrome, these young men, with their moustaches, stiff postures and arcane uniforms seem a world away from the HD-ready, colour-soaked world of the 21st century. They are not us. 

However, that all changes when we see these scenes in colour. When we see that famous photo of the New York Lower East Side rendered in colour (see gallery below), the hundreds of people in suddenly seem contemporary, real – the same as we are. 

It's this intimacy that makes Taschen's The First World War in Colour so special. The book features photographs that were taken using the 'autochrome' method, which allowed snappers to take colour pictures for the first time. The method, though hugely advanced for the era, required subjects to stay still to avoid blurring, which explains some of the formal poises adopted in some pictures. But the destruction and the machinary look all too real. 

One-hundred years since the start of World War One, this volume provides a fitting memorial to the tens of millions that died in a conflict that still influences world events a century later.

The First World War in Colour is published by Taschen, out in August, priced $59.99

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