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Face of Battle.

There’s always a lot of nostalgic folklore that props up around remembrance day and I’m typically quick to tune out. Sorry… I know that will alienate some but I honestly feel that all the song-and-dance tends to GLORIFY war more than the intended aim to remind us of its horrors. Having said that there are always compelling stories and documentarians that will manage to get the message across.
One such documentarian is surgeon/painter Henry Tonks. I’ll leave you to do further digging on the man and his biography but here’s a heavily truncated rundown: he studied medicine and was a successful doctor; he regularly took drawing lessons and had a passion for art; during the first world war he produced pastel drawings of facial injuries suffered by soldiers for documentation purposes; as the war carried on he become an ‘official war artist’ alongside John Singer Sargent; after the war he went on to teach at Slade School of Art.
Here are a selection of his drawings. Obviously the primitive and non-exacting weaponry of the first world war led to especially horrific injuries. More can be found at The Royal College of Surgeons. And the Tate.
Tonks’ work reminds me a lot of one of my contemporary favorites, photographer Nina Berman. Her Marine Wedding and Purple Hearts portfolios were some of the earliest and ballsiest Iraq-war projects.

Photo: Nina Berman

Here is a NYT Lens showcase on Nina, her website, and part of the Purple Hearts project.
S.
PS – not to make light of anything but really, UK poppies beat the shit out of the Canadian ones. So much more elegant and precious.

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