When the First World War began in 1914, colour photography was little more than ten years old. It was one more technical marvel in an era dominated by scientific progress.
War photographers were keen to use this “modern” technique. While colour images could not easily be reproduced on paper or in the daily press, they were sometimes used in French magazines. More often, they were projected as coloured slide shows in public lectures and exhibitions, presenting the war in dramatic, larger-than-life images guaranteed to gain attention.
As public slide shows, the scale as well as the colour of these images dramatically conveyed the devastation of war: the endless muddy battlefields, the colours of a national flag, the vast armies in uniforms of khaki and blue.
Today, in a world more used to seeing this war in the black-and-white photography of the time, these coloured images are surprising. No doubt these war photographers had hoped for just such a response from their audience.