The ghosts of World War II: Haunting, manipulated photos merge the past with the present
posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:03 AM EDT
World War II ravaged Europe with a devastation few of us can comprehend. Whole cities were flattened and millions of soldiers and civilians were killed. It is hard to imagine what it looked some 70 years ago in the aftermath of war. On a visit to Normandy, France, I stayed in the picturesque town of Les Andelys, a small locale sitting on a lazy Seine river meander that had been bombed heavily during the D-Day invasion. The destruction had been so complete that, when the town began to rebuild, the planners had to use photographs from family albums to guide the reconstruction.
Several years ago, Dutch historian Jo Teuwisse began a project called "The Ghosts of History - Then & Now, Combined Photos" to bring the past back to life in a truly haunting way. Teuwisse works at Historich Adviesbureau in the Netherlands, where she researches the lives of people during the timespan of 1930 to 1945. This gives her access to thousands of photographic negatives taken during that period. "I started doing this years ago as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject," she said.
Selecting photos from the archives, Teuwisse digitized the original negatives and then traveled to the locations around Europe where they were originally taken. She re-photographed these places, matching the framing and angles as closely as possible to the original images of WWII. Then she meticulously combined each original black-and-white photograph with its modern-day match. The results are ethereal, eerie images of the phantoms of the war haunting our modern world.
This Sunday, November 11, is Veteran's Day and all across the globe, millions will pause a moment at 11:11 a.m. to remember the young men and women who died and fought in the two World Wars. That memory is at the core of Teuwisse’s artfully manipulated photos. For not only does she resurrect these ghosts of war but also she shows us the fragility of the modern world. These overlays of the past and the present are a reminder that modern warfare has moved from the traditional "battlefield" and into the cities. In these combined images, Teuwisse's art issues a subtle warning of how our calm, urban centers of civilization can far too easily turn into chaotic zones of conflict at abrupt turns in politics, economics or religion.