You never can tell…

How did I land in this photography workshop?
This is still a mystery to me!

In June 2015, I decided not to sign up for another weekly class as my schedule was packed.
Left classless, I asked my teacher what other formula I could join in.

There was a spot on World War 1 thematic…
No way… if there was one topic I wasn’t interested in…
So summer came and each time I thought of my next photography assignment, I ended up bewildered!
I didn’t even like landscape photography and WW1 seemed miles away from any interest of mine.

Came our first gathering, in Laon, France. I had never heard of that village of course, nor of its whereabouts during the war. Along the group came, WW1 specialized writer / reporter Isabelle Masson-Loodts. She is captivating, even a fish would find the Great War fascinating when told by such a passionate person. That was the end of it for me, or rather the beginning. 

I listened to the group vivid conversations during meal breaks. I was discovering a contemporary war…a hundred years old, yes, when it came to combats but not when it came to politics and ecology. It was the start for a quest, a long journey into my family history and the “we shall not forget” mantra.

Today, with social media, TV, radio, the information comes and goes. We forget, especially if it seems so far away in time. Why and how would a hundred years old war have any impact on our contemporary life?

Well, think again: it was the first modern war, with planes, tanks, gaz bombs… it left Europe with political decisions which still rule our life. Our soils and land suffered, as much as the soldiers, and some regions are still unfit to be cultivated. Everyday bombshells are found and people are dying every year because of them. So many families had to leave their home, village, to never come back. Seven hundred kilometers of war front, just on the Western European side. Soldiers came from everywhere on the planet that had a connection with the Western European colonies.

Modern European democracy or what is left of it, was born from the blood of millions of soldiers. So we shall not forget them, we shall fight for their lives not be worth nothing. Let’s not believe peace is granted because it has been here for over sixty years.

I discovered my grandfather’s history on these fields, he was born in Montpellier, France, in 1899, he was a Great War soldier, on the Eastern European front, with the French army. He later on married his “marraine de guerre”, a Belgian. He gained Belgian citizenship in 1938, and served as such in the second World War.

My son was born a hundred years after him, in 1999. When I started the assignment my son was the age of my grandfather when he left for the war, 16. This couldn’t just be a coincidence. My father had never told me his father’s story before. When I came back from my first week-end on the front, he gave me my grandfather’s war photographs…what a discovery.  

Each time I am on a battle field, I have vivid emotions and I am grateful for these men because what they went through I wouldn’t dream it even in my worst nightmare. It is a “no man’s land”. Whatever side you were fighting for, your life was a misery. That’s war. There is no “good side” to be on. It is not the PEOPLE who create the war but it is THEM who fight in it.

Sometimes my stories are not so silly after all.

Until next time little fellow humans,

Sophie

Using Format