Battle Of Waterloo Soldiers Remembered In Photo Portraits

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 39 months ago
Battle Of Waterloo Soldiers Remembered In Photo Portraits ★★★☆☆ 3
A drummer boy from the British 52nd Regiment. © Sam
Faulkner
A drummer boy from the British 52nd Regiment. © Sam Faulkner
A captain in the French 8th Infantry Regiment. © Sam
Faulkner
A captain in the French 8th Infantry Regiment. © Sam Faulkner
A cavalry officer in the Prussian army. © Sam
Faulkner
A cavalry officer in the Prussian army. © Sam Faulkner
A lieutenant in the French Hussars (light cavalry). © Sam
Faulkner
A lieutenant in the French Hussars (light cavalry). © Sam Faulkner
A Dutch infantry grenadier sergeant. © Sam Faulkner
A Dutch infantry grenadier sergeant. © Sam Faulkner
An officer in the French Imperial Guard. © Sam
Faulkner
An officer in the French Imperial Guard. © Sam Faulkner

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.

For more inspiring art visit the giant slides at the Hayward Gallery and another excellent Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Last Updated 17 June 2015