Battle Of Waterloo Soldiers Remembered In Photo Portraits
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where a British-led coalition allied with the Prussian army defeated the forces of Napoleon. As the battle took place before the age of photography, only the leaders of the armies are immortalised in portraits, while most of the 50,000 soldiers who fought and died have been long forgotten. Now though, photographer Sam Faulkner has come up with a series of images to remember those who lost their lives.
Faulkner has visited Waterloo in modern day Belgium and photographed those who participate in battle re-enactments. Capturing them against a black background, and painting the walls of the gallery red, lends these portraits a dramatic, commemorative feel. Attention to detail on the uniforms is excellent; they are not pristine and it looks like these 'soldiers' have actually marched into battle in these clothes. We like how all armies are represented here including British, French, Prussian and Dutch soldiers, right from infantry to a General's aide-de-camp.
It's a clever concept, but even without reading the blurb it's clear these are people who act out battles, rather than actual soldiers. When viewing war photography from the likes of Vietnam and Afghanistan, portraits of soldiers have a steely look in their eyes, because they've witnessed the true nature of war. Such depth is understandably lacking here — an effect that could have been recreated by placing today's soldiers in these period uniforms.
This quibble aside, it is still a brilliantly composed set of photographs hung in dramatic style, which offers a look into the forgotten faces of the Battle of Waterloo.
Unseen Waterloo: Conflict Revisited is on at Somerset House, South Wing until 31 August. Entrance is free. For another historical exhibition, see Tate Britain's Fighting History. For more great photography, see these microscopic grains of sand and environmental photography from across the world.
Last Updated 17 June 2015