A story related to Springwood Historians recently suggested that soldiers serving overseas in World War One were deprived of recording their experiences in photographs. However, an advertisement in a newspaper and subsequent research has revealed that Australian and indeed British soldiers were entitled to take a 'small personal camera' with them on active service.(1)
An article in the Photographic Collection of The First World War Poetry Digital Archive confirmed three main categories of photographers during World War One; official, press and amateur. Official photographers - like Charles Bean - were given commissioned status and documented the conflict at home and on the Western fronts. However, even though photographs were distributed broadly in newspapers and in propaganda material and provided official military records they were still subject to military and civilian censorship.
Press photographers had a degree of freedom in Egypt and Mesopotamia but rigorously restricted in places like the Western Front.(2) While restricted, these photographs provide evidence of the growing participation of civilians - especially women - and are a valued social history and military resource.
Limitations of the equipment then available limited the quality of the photographs. Nevertheless, they are an important and extraordinary birds eye account of the conflict and the individual experience.
1. Oxford University, The First World War Poetry Archive, The Photographic Collection, http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/photo, accessed 23.10.2012.
3. Unidentified article, What Every Soldier Needs - the Vest Pocket Kodak.
Camerapedia, Vest Pocket Kodak, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Vest_Pocket_Kodak, accessed 23.10.2012.
Photographs: Google Images