21st March 1919

Our Verdun day…was almost too looked forward to to come up to expectations, as often happens.

The town itself was a most appalling heap of wreckage, evidently due to the heavy bombardment. The bridges remained intact, and I got a couple of views from the principal one by which we wentered the town. The view on the left included the meeting of two tributary rivers, and beautiful reflections in the water.


View of Verdun from a bridge entering the town, CRRMU : 2008.14.273 ©Cromer Museum.

The above negative was quite overexposed (you can see the original  version by clicking on the image) but I was able to adjust the levels digitally. I wonder what Edis would have made of that – it took me about 2 seconds, compared to the hours she might have spent getting a good image from it!

After getting these we bundled out of the car, and sought the American YMCA Canteen through absolute sloughs of mud… I found the desired group [photo] a very tiresome business, as the camera had to be almost in the doorway, in everyone’s way, and throngs of men were passing in. As I was working under extra difficulties…and as I was promptly “hustled” after securing it and not even allowed to get a single plate of the wonderful pile of ruins outside, in which the cathedral, or rather the skeleton of it, made a striking picture, I cannot look back at this visit with anything but vexation. The group was so particularly ugly, and quite unlike our usual working pictures, with a straight row of unattractive women, very much “set up” to be photographed, a style which with Lady Norman’s help I had so far quite managed to avoid.

Verdun YMCA

American YMCA Canteen at Verdun © IWM (Q 8077)

Edis was obviously feeling particularly frustrated with her work today. Based on my impressions of her character from the rest of the journal, it’s quite unlike her to use words like as “ugly” and “unattractive” to describe a subject. It’s interesting to read more about her style though, and her desire to avoid photographs that look set up, even though we know from earlier entries that many of the pictures from this trip were carefully arranged to get the shot she wanted. This is a skill she used in her portrait work too – she managed to set up quite technically formal portraits, but keep her subjects relaxed and very informal.

I have forgotten to mention our visit that afternoon to another Quaker settlement at Grainge-le-Compte, an old farm house which had at one time been the headquarters of the French army… We found that rabbit-keeping was one of the departments of the settlement, so I took a photo of a girl named “Bunny” Hall, so known from her school-days, and a most exemplary old rabbit named Rebecca who allowed to to take a 10 seconds’ exposure of her in the rather dark hutch-room.

Edis 002

Miss Hall rabbit-keeping at the farm at Grange-le-Comte, © IWM (Q 8080)


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