As an emergency physician, artist, and explorer, I’m passionate about creating photographs that connect us to participants in World War I in a human way. Their experiences teach us how easily our humanity can be diminished when technologies of great scale and impact dominate historical events; something we confront in our contemporary world.
The battlefield of WWI was utterly inhospitable to life. Soldiers went underground to create a semblance of a livable existence. The artworks and personal inscriptions they left behind are messages to the future and vivid reminders that our humanity is our salvation in war, and remains crucial to sustaining us through the challenges of our complex modern world.
In 2012, Joseph Zimet, the director of France’s WWI Centenary Commission, connected me with local officials who led me to WWI experts who shared their discoveries and welcomed me into their trusted circle. Dr. Franck Viltart introduced me to the underground spaces of WWI, and Gilles Chauwin spent many weeks exploring them with me.
A major turning point came when Soissonnais 14-18, the leading association in France dedicated to preserving and protecting the WWI underground, agreed to a long-term collaboration. Special thanks to Stéphane Gonzalez, Jean-Luc Pamart, Marc Pamart, François and Nathalie Delaleau, Hervé and Phanie Col, Hervé Vatel, Jean and Lyne Lysik, Serge Hoyet, Roger Pannier, Xavier François, and Jéröme Buttet.
Others who have been indispensable to my journey and work are Jean Klinkert, Nadine Delforge, Gilbert Wagner, Roland Bodo, Général Dominique Muller, Thierry Ehret, Christian Chaton, Marie-Thérèse Brunstein, Pascal Gadroy, Jean-Luc Rouvillain and family, Denis Hébrard, Isabelle Leijn, Yannick Baraban, Bertrand Courot, and Isabelle Pilarowski. Thanks also to Charles Dreyfus, Général André Bach, and Iain McHenry, who were critically important to the birth of the project.