Underground Art from World War I
We received the following media release about a man, Dr. Jeff Gusky, who has photographed the “trench art” carved into walls of the underground passageways of the First World War. After clicking the link (The Hidden World of WWI, www.JeffGusky.com) to check out his photos ourselves, we had to share this. The image above is part of one of the photographs taken in a French sector, Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Gusky; All rights reserved by copyright owner.
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Hidden beneath the French countryside are miles of mysterious and all but forgotten underground cities, lying in complete darkness and frozen in time. For the last 100 years, only the landowners and a few history enthusiasts have known these spaces. The subterranean cities are filled with beautiful art, inspiring inscriptions and thousands of names left behind by WWI soldiers from both sides of the conflict who occupied the spaces at various times. In many cases, records show that men w rote or inscribed their names only to die in battle hours or days later. It may have been the last time these soldiers signed their own names.
Jeff Gusky, M.D., FACEP, a Dallas-based emergency physician, fine art photographer and explorer, is believed to be the first person ever to bring to light the large number of underground cities through his photographs, revealing the abundance of artifacts, sculptures and graffiti hidden there. With thousands of striking images, the public now has the opportunity to see what Gusky saw — his haunting black-and-white photographs reflect what the soldiers were thinking and feeling as they dealt with the first examples of modern warfare and mass destruction. They expressed longings for home or religious beliefs or simply provided much-needed creative outlets — a degree of what passed for normalcy when what they were living through was anything but normal. At times the men were stopped in the middle of whatever they were doing when called to action.
The photographer spent a total of six months exploring miles of these underground spaces. The often treacherous work was performed in complete darkness and sometimes required him to crawl on hands and knees through tight spaces, over jagged rocks, and to lean down over ledges, balancing his camera in one hand. He had to exercise caution around the numerous unexploded hand grenades and live artillery shells he encountered.
Gusky states, “The first carving I saw was a museum quality image of a woman’s head, which was absolutely stunning. It took time for me to realize that the soldiers of WWI came from all walks of life — artists and poets, cooks and mechanics, doctors and lawyers. Literally every profession was represented in the troops. So, of course, their carvings and inscriptions ran the gamut from simple expressions of “I was here” to beautiful works of art.
“My mission is to two-fold: to bring these images to light through my photography and to help the landowners protect them for posterity.”
Gusky has released the images in a series called The Hidden World of WWI, which can be found at www.JeffGusky.com. His discoveries and photographs are featured in the August 2014 issue of National Geographic, The Hidden World of the Great War.