Monday, March 16, 2009

Kamerad Im Westen: 221 Bilder

I am always on the lookout for good books on World War I and a friend recently told me about one that he discovered called Kamerad Im Westen: 221 Bilder (Camrade in the West: 221 Pictures). This was published in 1930 by Societats-Verlag in Frankfurt.

A couple things make this interesting. First, it is from the German perspective and second, it follows the war on the western front in chronological order from the first declarations to the final 'hundred days offensive' which brought an end to the war.

The photography is from several documentarians and the quality of imagery is impressive. Several included will be well known to readers but much of this content I haven't seen before. All aspects of war are covered here from the dead (some rather graphic), to the life in trenches, to the destruction of the landscape, technology, and finally images that look to speak of the psychological toll on the soldiers. Each plate is captioned with place and month.

The book reproduces 221 plates in what looks to be gravure on thin paper stock. The graphic design is basic with pages of horizontal images laid vertically and some spreads that contain up to four photos. Even though the orientation of the horizontals as verticals was surely just a practical choice to allow for a bigger plate reproduction, I like that you operate the book by turning it in your hand.

Due to large bulky numbers that count off the sequence, it comes across as a random catalog. Many photos from this period are often subjected to heavy retouching and there is a bit of that going on here too. Much however is presented without such manipulation to plate.

This can still be found on various listings. Note that the cover boards generally get rather beat up and rubbed which is a shame because the cover design is pretty interesting. The binding seems well done on the copies I have seen as it remains strong yet allows the book to lay flat. Worth a look if this is your cup of tea.