Photo Gallery The World of Trench Warfare in Color

An arresting new set of color photographs from World War I mends a hole in our visual memory and brings to life a war that many still imagine in black and white.
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Although color photography has existed since at least 1879, it didn't become popular until many decades later. The overwhelming majority of photos taken during World War I were black and white, lending the conflict a stark aesthetic which dominates our visual memory of the war.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Hans Hildenbrand, one of nineteen photographers employed by the Kaiser to document the war, was the only German to take photos of the war in color. Here, a group of German soliders stand in the ruins of Sommepy, a French village on the river Marne.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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A mass grave. Some 30,000 soldiers were buried here.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Hildenbrand was "embedded" with a platoon of German troops in Champagne from June 1915 to January 1916. This photo of a military camp was published by Hildenbrand as a post card.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Hildenbrand, who first started experimenting with the "autochrome" color technique in 1909, founded a society for color photography in 1911 his native Stuttgart.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Hildenbrand's scenes are all posed, not for reasons of propaganda, but rather because the film he was working with wasn't sensitive enough to capture movement.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Hildenbrand also experimented with stereoscopic images.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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A German soldier posing with a machine gun.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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A scene over Hartmannsweilerkopf, in the Vosge mountain range.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Military engineers in front of a bunker in Champagne.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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One of the most striking things about Hildenbrand's oeuvre is how freely he records scenes of destruction. During World War II, both sides became much pickier about what kinds of scenes they would let photographers document. During World War I, images of destroyed churches were a persistent motif.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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A scene over Hartmannsweiler Kopf. When Hildenbrand went to photograph the front lines in the summer of 1916, many of the troops had been stationed around this strategic mountain for more than a year.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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Winter in Alsace, 1916.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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The French village Sainte-Marie-a-Py, summer 1915.

Foto: Hans Hildenbrand
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The French photographer Jule Gervais-Courtellemont, who took the following images, has up till now been better known than his German counterpart, Hans Hildenbrand.

Foto: Jules Gervais-Courtellemont
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An bird's eye view of Verdun, summer 1916. About 350,000 soliders on both sides died at Verdun over the course of that year.

Foto: Jules Gervais-Courtellemont
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Although Gervais-Courtellemont and Hildenbrand captured images for opposite sides of the war, they both ended up working for an American publication afterwards. Both became important photographers for National Geographic.

Foto: Jules Gervais-Courtellemont
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The book "Endzeit Europa" was just published this year and contains color photos from World War I.

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