Thursday, February 02, 2012

World War I in Color

Even those who dream in color are likely to imagine World War I in black and white. The vast majority of the images that have come down to us, both photographs and a few movies, are monochromatic. Even All Quiet on the Western Front, the classic film about World War I that was released in 1930 is available only in black and white (having apparently escaped the colorization efforts of Turner Classic Movies).

There is, however, a trove of color photographs from World War I available online.  The photographs were taken by the French army during the last two years of the war using a color film that had been developed by Auguste and Louis Lumiere in 1907.  Here's one showing French troops posing in a trench.

One of the points that comes through in even a very cursory look at the photographs is the extent to which the war was in fact a world war.  There are soldiers pictured from various French colonies including Senegal, Algeria, and Indochina.  Woodrow Wilson's call for national self-determination must have been very unnerving to allies fighting the war with considerable help from their colonies.