Bringing the War Home

Where would you be if the year was 1914? For many of those that served, it would be almost impossible to describe to others what they experienced there. Perhaps to remedy this, when William Sturgeon returned home to Nelson after the World War I, he brought with him a selection of stereoscopic images he had…

2014 Sep 20 – 2014 Nov 23

Bringing the War Home: 3D Images from the Battlefields of WWI 

Curated by Rod Taylor

It’s springtime in Nelson. Like many other men in his community, a young accountant at the Bank of Montreal by the name of William Sturgeon has just enlisted. By August he’s in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war is taking place. The year is 1916, and it’s been two years since the start of World War I.   

By the time it ends, about nine million people in uniform would be dead, along with estimated twenty million civilians. Sturgeon would be one of the lucky ones – although severely wounded in the left hip by an exploding shell, he would survive. When he eventually returned home, he brought with him a selection of stereoscopic images of French soldiers taken on the front lines. Stereoscopy was an early form of 3D photography, and images of this sort were very affordable and popular for a time. When placed in a viewer, the images give the illusion of depth, bringing an added dimension to these sometimes chilling scenes.     

Nearly 100 years later they remain powerful images, and are a stark reminder of the loss and devastation that are at the core of any armed conflict. For this exhibit a selection of these images have been converted for use with 3D glasses, and will be projected in a darkened gallery. We are grateful to the family of William Sturgeon for the loan of the images and viewer, as well as local historian Steve Kobs for bringing them to our attention and helping in countless other respects. A warning: although black and white, some of these images contain graphic depictions of the dead that may be disturbing for some viewers. 

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