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- 03 -102015

“One hundred years of photography in the French Armed Forces. First episode. Pierre Machard: War and war wound during WWI in photographs.

Pierre Marchard began his career in the army’s photographic section (SPA) in May 1915 and produced his last report on 14 July 1919 at the victory celebrations. In other words, he worked for the section from its foundation to its transformation at the end of the war, producing 70 photo reports in France and on the eastern front.

"Jeune tirailleur sénégalais revenant de l'attaque", Verdun, Faubourg Pavé, 24 octobre 1916 @ ECPAD / Pierre MachardOne of his besf-known images shows a young Senegalese infantryman refurning from an attack, exhausted but safe and sound, probably at the battle on 24 October 1916 to reclaim the fort of Douaumont. Without showing the terrible reality of combat, Machard spontaneously captures all the helplessness of this man returning from the front line, one foot bare, posing gravely with hollow eyes.
Pierre Machard photographed the daily life of the war and its harshest consequences : injury and death, such as the censored series of images of French soldiers’ bodies resting on "Cadavres de soldats français entreposés dans l'église de Marbotte", Meuse, début novembre 1915 © ECPAD / Pierre Machardstretchers in a church, awaiting burial. Or, on the banal level of daily life, the logistics of death in its moss trivial aspecf : a soldier paramedic, loaded with wooden crosses, delivers soup to "Soldat ambulancier porteur de croix et livrant la soupe aux premières lignes, au moment de l'offensive de septembre 1916 sur le front de la Somme, Méharicourt (Somme), vers le 15 septembre 1916 © ECPAD / Pierre Machardthe front lines, carrying simultaneously the ordinary symbols of both life and death.

Machard sees himself also as a painter of light, depicting a soldier in a phantasmagoric scene pierced by the rays of the sun, the unexpected and sublime apparition of a hero of the Nibelung a world away from the thunder of the cannons.

"Au saut des Cuves, près de Gérardmer", Vosges, 20 janvier 1916 © ECPAD / Pierre Machard

Photo credits : © ECPAD / Pierre Machard

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