Captured in colour: rare photographs from the First World War - Hurley in Palestine
Hurley in Palestine
In October 1917 the Australian War Records Section assigned Hurley to document the Australian experience in Palestine. He arrived during a quiet period. The famous charge at Beersheba and the fight for Gaza had already occurred, while the war-winning offensive against the Turks in September 1918 lay ahead.
Hurley was struck by the contrast with the Western Front: “it would be a man’s bad luck to be killed here in action”, he wrote, “whilst in France he might consider himself lucky to escape with his life. France is Hell, Palestine more or less a holiday.” Free of Bean’s supervision and with the army’s cooperation, Hurley was able to shoot re-enactments of events he had missed. He was particularly pleased with his colour photographs: “the colour negatives are a revelation and I am securing many fine results.”
Hurley was fascinated by the Holy Land, with the people and the architecture, and many of his photographs reflect a picturesque style, more reminiscent of travel photography than wartime photojournalism. During the 1940s, he returned to the region, as he had earlier promised himself he would, and spent several years there.