Book of the week: Shots from the front line

19th September 2003 at 01:00

The Eye of War
By Phillip Knightley, with an introduction by John Keegan
Weidenfeld and Nicolson pound;30

Military commanders in the First World War were so concerned about photographic material falling into enemy hands that soldiers were forbidden to carry cameras in the trenches, on pain of death. Whether anyone was actually shot for taking a picture this book does not say, though some brave souls did manage to smuggle out action shots, but the result was that most of the images we have of the trenches come from official photographers, whose work was closely supervised and censored.
They were not allowed to show dead bodies, and few shots of the desolation of the battleground were permitted, which is why so many images show soldiers posing, and the few exceptions are reproduced so frequently.

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