The “Ghosts of War”

As November 11th approaches, Remembrance Day here in Canada, the ravages of wars past become prominent in our consciousness. This is not to say that the memories and realities of war (both past and present) are not in our thoughts throughout the year. It is only to say our consciousness is heightened by a national day of remembrance. Canada lost many, many citizens in the two world wars – 63,322 in WWI and 46,998 in WWII – more than any other modern battle in which we were involved which is probably why our thoughts primarily focus on those wars. At least, I know that mine do. As soon as I see a Remembrance Day poppy, a black and white film-strip moves through my mind, a collage of the thousands of images of world war battles I’ve seen over the years and collected in my memory.

Stories and images of these wars, although available throughout the year from thousands of sources, seem to come to the forefront of media at this time as well. No surprise there. If we’re thinking about a particular topic we’re more likely to look at it and read about it, and if we have more to look at and read about, we’re more likely to think about it. Kind of a chicken and egg thing…But there is also a saturation point. Although it is important for the story to be told, if the same story is told only one way over and over, it loses its effect. People appreciate and even thrive on innovation. Often an old photograph shown in a new light has more power than the blurred and yellowed original. Sometimes not, though, it depends on the skill of the story-teller or photographer.

Today I was struck by such a skilled individual. I found her images so compelling and so interesting and so unique I had to share them here with you. In fact, my 9-year-old son, who has become a World War II (enthusiast is so the wrong word here)…aficionado, was also completely fascinated by the images. Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse is a Dutch historian who worked in conjunction with several photographers in different countries and various collectors of WWII photos. Teeuwisse took great effort to research and identify the places in the photos that had been collected. She or one of the other photographers then visited the locations in Europe and took modern-day photos. Using a digital photo editor, Teeuwisse showed amazing accuracy and artistry in superimposing the old over the new. She created ghostly reminders of how the past and present cannot be separated.

Have a look here at her some of her work and then visit her Flickr page if you’re interested in seeing more.

German prisoners being taken to a POW camp located on the plateau of the Mountain Roule, near the farm of Fieffe, France.
Corner Covered, Italy
Cherbourg, avenue de Paris, ancien Poste de Police, jardin Public.

“By combining historical pictures with photos made on the exact same spot today, I try to make people realize that history is all around us. That where you live, work or go to school, once people fought, died or simply experienced a different kind of life. We are history, history is us.

Originally made as part of my research, I now make these combination photos because of my interest for the subject and to try and make people think about the past, remember and respect the sacrifices the generations before us made.” ~ Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse

Sources: Ghosts of War: WWII Photos Superimposed onto Modern Street Scenes, Bored Panda and Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse’s Flickr Photostream.

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16 thoughts on “The “Ghosts of War”

  1. More than once, while walking by the streets of Lima (especially the older parts of the city), I wonder how it all looked centuries ago. Something like the images you share here. So, I saw these pictures and felt the magic, although I am aware they represent terrible moments, for a war, no matter dates and places, is terrible.

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    1. Hi Gabriela. Apparently someone else did a similar project with the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It would be neat to see one that focuses on everyday street scenes in cities around the world combining the historical data and the new. Maybe you have a project for Lima? 🙂

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  2. I read your eloquent post and saw these amazing photographs minutes after you published but didn’t have a chance to comment until now (the internet has been down for the last couple of days over here). The first photo is hauntingly powerful and I find the whole idea of superimposing 2 eras exceptionally ingenious. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Abufares! I’m glad you were finally able to comment. Thank you. I agree with you, the first image is amazing. It’s my favourite. I love the process too and keep wondering if I could start a project of my own…but I’m not sure I have the skill in photo editing…

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