These are men and , very often, boys who were photographed by an unknown French photographer shortly before the battle of the Somme that claimed over 1 000 000 lives. I realise that the chances are that all the men in the photographs are dead now anyway, but how many of them had their lives cut short just days after they posed for the photos?
I have spent far too many hours, looking at their faces and into their eyes and wondering if I can see some hint of what was to come.
This boy looks too young to have a mustache, and his eyes look like he has already seen too much to bear.
There are over 400 photographs, and most of the people they depict are unknown.You can see them here and here
This one is the only photograph that includes a black soldier.
This boy looks like he was finding it hard to stand still. See how his feet are invisible in the photograph? I suspect that may be because he was moving them around. Many of them are standing next to a chair. I'm not sure what the significance of that was. To give scale? To symbolise that they were away from loved ones?
My grandfather on my father's side took part in the war, on the side of the allies and I suspect I may have had relations on my mother's side who were fighting for the Germans, but no stories of the war have come down through the generations. I think for many of the men who survived, talking about their experiences just wasn't an option.