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Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe 1500-1960

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William A. Christian

Absence and presence in family photographs around World War I

Texte intégral

1Photomontage was used in real, studio portraits as well (the examples I have are Spanish, French, Belgian, Dutch, Russian and Italian) to unite couples and familles separated by emigration, military service, imprisonment or death. For separation is an intimation of death, death once removed.

2In the composite photographs we see an emulation, whether on the part of the studio photographers, their clients, or both, of the commercial cards centering on presence and absence. Indeed, in the case of the refine d Dutch and Belgian prisoner of war photomontages, the personal cards are at times hard to tell apart from commercial ones.

  • 1 Compare using Google N-Grams the incidence of the words “photographe” and “carte postale” or “phot (...)

3By the time of the postcard boom the shift from holy card and religious print to personal photos as treasured icons had already taken place, for Carte de Visite or Cabinet photographs were accessible to per-sons of modest means. In the commercial postcard pictures themselves, and in personal family photos, there is surprisingly little depiction of postcards. The photograph, not the commercial postcard, is what the women, the children, the parents at home frame, hold and look at, what the soldier and the prisoner of war have on their tables, their key chains, or in their hands. However artistic, expressive, entertaining, or moving, commercial postcards in their mighty billions were a blip on the screen compared to the emotional meaning of the photographs that precede d them, coincided with them, and outlasted them.1 (Figs. 143-1S9.)

  • 2 Spiritualism and its photographs are the attempt to reunite persons sundered. For the place of the (...)

4In this light, in family portraits with soldiers taken during World War I, many of them when the soldiers were on leave, we see the prospect of the ultimate separation. They are pictures in which the absent are fused with the present in case they are eternally sundered.2 These pictures are part of the family history of most of the inhabitants in Central and Western Europe (Figs. 160-174).

  • 3 As Alberti wrote, “Through painting the faces of the dead go on living for a very long time.” On P (...)

5Portraits pass from being mementos to memento mori.3 As such they can bridge the gap first between present and absent, then between the living and the de ad. Ail are potentially pictures of visions truly seen only by those who knew them. A Hungarian historian told me about her grandfather from Zemplén County who emigrated to South America to work in the mines and send money to his family. After a few letters the only time he was heard from again, years later, was a single photo postcard of him standing in a studio next to a column, leaning on a stand, with a phrase on the back with his date of death.

Fig. 143. Girl with mother’s portrait, c. 1910.
Photomontage on thick stock, Barcelona, J. Alonso.

Fig. 144. Man thinking of woman. “To my dear mother and sisters I dedicate this keepsake with all the affection of my heart, Jaime Monreal.” Spain, after 1905.

Fig. 145. Woman with two girls thinks of absent man, to whom photomontage was sent for saint’s day, July 14, 1915. Spain (sold from Elda, Alicante).

Fig. 146. “Lola Marignan and her grandchildren.”
Photomontage, Valencia, Foto Pavia.

Fig. 147. Soldier writes to absent woman. Photomontage on thick stock, c. 1915-1923. Cartagena, Haro Hermanos.

Fig. 148. Young woman writes to absent soldier.
Photomontage on thick stock, c. 1915-1923. Postcard. Spain.

Fig. 149. Italian soldier thinks of woman.
Photomontage, Livorno, Veroli.

Fig. 150. Soldier in studio.
Carte de Visite, Marseilles, L. Gaulard. 6.3x10.5 cm.

Fig. 151. Woman and child with absent soldier.
Photomontage on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.

Fig. 152. Soldier with photo of daughter.
France.

Fig. 153. Family and absent man, possibly prisoner of war.
Photomontage, Belgium? (purchased from Bruges).

Fig. 154. Family and absent soldier, possibly prisoner of war.
Photomontage on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.

Fig. 155. Soldier and absent family.
Photomontage, Germany.

Fig. 156. Children and absent soldier.
Photomontage on postcard – Carte Postale K Ltd stock. Belgium or France.

Fig. 157. Father and soldier prisoner. “Zaandam 31-1-1918.”
Photomontage, Netherlands.

Fig. 158. Berthe in Liège and Lambert Hermans, prisoner of war near Hannover. “Bonne fête.” Photomontage, Liège.

Fig. 159. Extended family in Liège garden, sent to Lambert Hermans, prisoner of war, from father, Sept. 22, 1915, with news and questions about money, letters and parcels. Liège.

Fig. 160. Soldier and family. Postcard – Carte Postale, France

Fig. 161. Soldier and wife. Germany.

Fig. 162. Soldier and family. Germany.

Fig. 163. Soldier and wife on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.

Fig. 164. Officer and family, “de 3 à 6 heures, Parc des Célestins Inférieur.”
Sept. 30, 1918. Vichy, Photo Ambrost.

Fig. 165. Soldier and family in courtyard, France.

Fig. 166. Soldiers and families in cafe. Postcard – Carte Postale. France.

Fig. 167. Soldier and family, Germany.

Fig. 168. Soldier on leave and family, St-Didier d’Assiat (Ain).

Fig. 169. Medic and two women, boy with hoop. Postcard – Carte Postale, France.

Fig. 170. Soldier, wife, and daughter, on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris), stock.

Fig. 171. Serbian soldier and extended family. “A keepsake to brother-in-law and sister from Zica, Kaja and the children. “Belgrade, Studio on Kralja Milana 93.

Fig 172. Soldier, wife, and dog. Postcard – Carte Postale. France.

Fig. 173. Soldier, wife, and daughter. Postcard – Carte Postale, cropped, France.

Fig. 174. Henri Rinsonnet, Caporal 5e Chasseurs a Pie, prisoner at Soltau (Hannover) to wife in Dison-lez-Verviers, Belgium, May 20, 1917. Family photomontages are in frames on table, cameo photo on watch chain, writing (not legible) on card in his hand. Soltau, Photo Dethmann (of Wolfenbüttel).

Notes

1 Compare using Google N-Grams the incidence of the words “photographe” and “carte postale” or “photograph” and “postcard” over the period 1800 to 2000.

2 Spiritualism and its photographs are the attempt to reunite persons sundered. For the place of the war missing and dead in spiritualism see Faust, Republic of Suffering, for the American Civil War, and Winter, Sites of Memory, 54–77, for World War I.

3 As Alberti wrote, “Through painting the faces of the dead go on living for a very long time.” On Painting, 60. See also Hirsch, Family Frames, and Bán and Turai, Exposed Memories.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 143. Girl with mother’s portrait, c. 1910.Photomontage on thick stock, Barcelona, J. Alonso.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 95k
Légende Fig. 144. Man thinking of woman. “To my dear mother and sisters I dedicate this keepsake with all the affection of my heart, Jaime Monreal.” Spain, after 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Légende Fig. 145. Woman with two girls thinks of absent man, to whom photomontage was sent for saint’s day, July 14, 1915. Spain (sold from Elda, Alicante).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 114k
Légende Fig. 146. “Lola Marignan and her grandchildren.”Photomontage, Valencia, Foto Pavia.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 86k
Légende Fig. 147. Soldier writes to absent woman. Photomontage on thick stock, c. 1915-1923. Cartagena, Haro Hermanos.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 182k
Légende Fig. 148. Young woman writes to absent soldier.Photomontage on thick stock, c. 1915-1923. Postcard. Spain.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 145k
Légende Fig. 149. Italian soldier thinks of woman.Photomontage, Livorno, Veroli.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 87k
Légende Fig. 150. Soldier in studio.Carte de Visite, Marseilles, L. Gaulard. 6.3x10.5 cm.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 125k
Légende Fig. 151. Woman and child with absent soldier.Photomontage on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 123k
Légende Fig. 152. Soldier with photo of daughter.France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 126k
Légende Fig. 153. Family and absent man, possibly prisoner of war.Photomontage, Belgium? (purchased from Bruges).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Légende Fig. 154. Family and absent soldier, possibly prisoner of war.Photomontage on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Légende Fig. 155. Soldier and absent family.Photomontage, Germany.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 191k
Légende Fig. 156. Children and absent soldier.Photomontage on postcard – Carte Postale K Ltd stock. Belgium or France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 97k
Légende Fig. 157. Father and soldier prisoner. “Zaandam 31-1-1918.”Photomontage, Netherlands.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Légende Fig. 158. Berthe in Liège and Lambert Hermans, prisoner of war near Hannover. “Bonne fête.” Photomontage, Liège.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Légende Fig. 159. Extended family in Liège garden, sent to Lambert Hermans, prisoner of war, from father, Sept. 22, 1915, with news and questions about money, letters and parcels. Liège.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Légende Fig. 160. Soldier and family. Postcard – Carte Postale, France
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 103k
Légende Fig. 161. Soldier and wife. Germany.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 177k
Légende Fig. 162. Soldier and family. Germany.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Légende Fig. 163. Soldier and wife on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris) stock.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Légende Fig. 164. Officer and family, “de 3 à 6 heures, Parc des Célestins Inférieur.”Sept. 30, 1918. Vichy, Photo Ambrost.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 158k
Légende Fig. 165. Soldier and family in courtyard, France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 217k
Légende Fig. 166. Soldiers and families in cafe. Postcard – Carte Postale. France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Légende Fig. 167. Soldier and family, Germany.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 146k
Légende Fig. 168. Soldier on leave and family, St-Didier d’Assiat (Ain).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 121k
Légende Fig. 169. Medic and two women, boy with hoop. Postcard – Carte Postale, France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Légende Fig. 170. Soldier, wife, and daughter, on Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie (Paris), stock.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 85k
Légende Fig. 171. Serbian soldier and extended family. “A keepsake to brother-in-law and sister from Zica, Kaja and the children. “Belgrade, Studio on Kralja Milana 93.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Légende Fig 172. Soldier, wife, and dog. Postcard – Carte Postale. France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 107k
Légende Fig. 173. Soldier, wife, and daughter. Postcard – Carte Postale, cropped, France.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 66k
Légende Fig. 174. Henri Rinsonnet, Caporal 5e Chasseurs a Pie, prisoner at Soltau (Hannover) to wife in Dison-lez-Verviers, Belgium, May 20, 1917. Family photomontages are in frames on table, cameo photo on watch chain, writing (not legible) on card in his hand. Soltau, Photo Dethmann (of Wolfenbüttel).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1933/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 55k

© Central European University Press, 2012

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540