Wednesday, February 5, 2014


  The photo of a former village in Northern France is framed with texts above and below it, something like you see here. Toby Everett and I took this a few days before Christmas in 2013. It was the second time we had been there, and had been talking for quite some time about what kind of image would be adequate to represent the history of this landscape.

Douaumont has Gallo-Roman origins and was called “divine name” (divus noms) in Latin; at 380 meters in altitude, the village sat on the highest land of the region. Two hundred and eighty-eight people lived here in 1914. On their land grew potatoes, linen, hemp and fruit trees. Horses, chickens, cows, dogs and pigs were part of everyday life in the streets, homes and yards. In February of 1916, as the Battle of Verdun began, Douaumont was erased. Today it remains a destroyed village, a permanent reminder of the cost of war.

Vibrant grass and mature trees grow over a rolling aggregate of brick, cement, limestone, bones, barnyard, household items, and artillery shells. Yet aggregate is too mild a term to describe this violently haphazard assemblage, this polluted, exploded land whose permanently mixed (yet never thoroughly fused) materials had once made up a place and a community. We saw this unidentifiable mixture laid bare where the grass had been pulled away by a souvenir hunter with an illicit metal detector or a wild boar rooting in the soil.

These are photos of Douaumont and its one main street, before and after the war. 



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