Project Battlefields

Eveline Kooijman sent these images to How to be a Retronaut. Over to Eve:

“I am a Dutch photographer, and one of my favorite themes is bringing the past into the present. As a way of doing this, I have been photographing the sites of battles fought prior to the invention of the camera.

I go to a battlefield within a week of the battle’s anniversary, choosing a day when the weather conditions are almost identical to that of the battle itself. Then I try to capture a glimpse of past.

So far I have photographed six Dutch battlefields and in the Spring I will be photographing German battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars”

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10 comments to Project Battlefields

  • Jimmy A

    Probably a dense, philistine comment but are these deliberately blurred abstractions?

  • mushroom

    Looks like a bunch of blurry photos to me

  • Yaffle

    is it just my rheumy old eyes, or does she need to work on the focussing?

  • Paddy

    It’s a *really* nice idea and I can see why a bit of blurring may help to remove any modern traces, but these are so blurred and abstract that they don’t give us any hint of what the scene is like. They could be anywhere! Oh well, good marks for concept

  • There are some locations where I feel that if I half shut my eyes, I might just be able to glimpse the past. These pictures capture that sensation perfectly for me.

  • Ryan

    Ummm, I don’t get it. I understand the concept, but think the execution is poor. I’m sure someone can come up with a more creative way to help the viewer visualize the battle, but this could be her backyard as far as we know.

  • Eveline

    Yes, these images are blurry on purpose. And yes, Mr. Yaffle, if you see my other work you will see that I do know how to focus a camera ;)

    In preparing to take the photographs, I did a lot of research into the battles, precisely where they took place, and precisely what took place. It was with this information in my mind that I visited the actual battlefields.

    Today, every trace of the battles have been eradicated by the passage of time. They are now parking lots (Nieuwpoort), a depository (Heiligerlee), a burned down forest in a nature area (Mookerhei), a meadow with cows (Seneffe), an orchard (Neerwinden), and a soccerfield at the edge of some dunes (Castricum). Sharply focusing the images would show you this reality and no more.

    If you look very closely at the images, you may be able to detect more than the abstract. You may see a rider at the battle of Heiligerlee, for example, carrying the Dutch flag. It is one of the generals, Adolf van Nassau, brother of the first ancestor of the Dutch royal family, who died in the battle. This event is still remembered in our National Anthem.

    At Nieuwpoort, the Dutch army had a major advantage because the sun was shining directly in the faces of the Spanish troops. You may see something of the sunlight reflecting on the Spanish armour in the image.

    Another reason I chose to blur the images is that, in my opinion, the accounts of the battles are also blurred. Documentary information is filtered through the eyes of those who have written it down, and history is often written by the winning party.

    For me, this is my interpretation of these battles, made with my eyes and my conviction. And Chris, yes, I do think you sometimes see more with your eyes half shut. But hey, I am just a contemporary artist, and you are quite free not to like them! They work for me, and I am very grateful that they have recieved this exposure on How to be a Retronaut

    Very best wishes
    Eveline Kooijman

  • sterileeye

    I agree with most commenters here. The idea is great, but to me photo #3 (the least blurry) is the only good one here, because it gives me an idea of how the battlefield must have looked like and I can imagine troopers charging up that hill. The other ones could be from any random location.

  • Denny, Alaska

    Sorry, a “thumbs down” is about all I can summon. All that research to capture a blurred image?

  • Eveline

    @ Denny, Alaska: All that research to capture a shiny, focused image of a parking lot? An apple orchard? a depository?
    Or would an hired army of slaughtered models be better? With fake blood. Just like in the movies.
    To me that would be ‘thumbs down’.

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