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Fields of Battle - Lands of Peace: 14-18
Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace was first shown in Passchendaele in 2007 and since then it has been shown in seven countries and received over five million visitors. The work is presented as an outdoor exhibition in public places. This enables the greatest number of people access in the hope that even those who have no interest or immediate connection will become involved in appreciating the history of events which shaped the 20th century.
The men of 1914-18 largely saw the land torn apart and stripped of its covering mantle of grass and trees, it's bones literally laid bare as they sought shelter within its protective skin. Today living memory of those times has, sadly, all but disappeared but the landscape, which was the setting for those tumultuous events, still reflects its violent past. Nature may have healed the tortured landscape of the battle but the searching eye can frequently spot the place where concrete and steel push upwards from the soil like some strange fungus and the imprint of fighting trenches indicate where men fought and died. For me, the challenge is to combine the elements of light and land to document the dramatic history of these fields.
I started working on this project in conjunction with the late Prof Richard Holmes, the eminent military historian and writer who sadly died in April 2011. Richard was a magical man whose enthusiasm and knowledge were instrumental in conceiving this project which is now well on its way towards its intention of documenting the fields of battle of the First World War as they are today, 100 years after their devastation. I miss Richard more than I can say and I can only hope that my work will stand as a fitting tribute to the inspiration and encouragement which he gave in such huge measure.
These fields of battle extend far beyond the 600 kms. of the Western Front which stretches from the coast of the English Channel, across Belgium and northern and eastern France to the Swiss border. This project has taken me from the wilderness of the Namib Desert to the forest of eastern Europe, from the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the vertiginous walls of the Dolomites.
These are all places where men fought and died: a century ago they were places of suffering and horror but today time and nature have eased the scars of war and created landscapes of great beauty and tranquillity. But these pictures are not just a commemoration of that war but a celebration of the reconciliation between the combatants: as we stand and reflect upon the war let us consider our own times and conflicts and ponder on what legacy we will leave for future generations.
Badge Member [ No. 38 ] International Guild of Battlefield Guides