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Caught My Eye: John McGill’s WWI Photograph

The following is a guest post by Christopher Pohlhaus, IT (Multi-media) Specialist for the Digital Scan Center, Library of Congress. Of the more than 100,000 collections that are part of the Veterans History Project, approximately 20% are digitized and available online.

McGill

Photograph of a ruined church, France. John McGill Collection, Veterans History Project, AFC2001/001/84785.

For those collections that are presented on the Veterans History Project (VHP) website, the process of digitization entails careful scanning of original letters, photographs, postcards and other manuscript materials. Many of these items pass through my hands as I create digital images of them, but few have captured my attention like this photograph, taken by John McGill during WWI.

This undated picture shows a demolished church, probably in France, with a statue of a crucified Christ propped up against a wall, missing an arm and without a cross. Along the other wall is a damaged statue of the Pieta–the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus.

John McGill’s collection has only five letters in it, and he wrote home to his mother that “I haven’t anything to write” and “…that is about all I can tell you.” But this picture, one of the 226 photographs in his collection, evokes the suffering and sorrow that war causes, as well as the destruction of a country’s religious, cultural and artistic treasures…something that is indeed difficult to write home about, especially to your mother.

2 Comments

  1. Frank Ryan
    May 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Reminds me of the series of paintings of Marc Chagall on the crucifixion of Jesus…an eerie predictor of WWII and the Holocaust

  2. Christopher Pohlhaus
    August 10, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for your comment. There is actually a painting by Chagall that I just discovered that is similar to this photograph:

    Cristo, Bue rosso e Madonna (Crocifissione Mistica) http://www.pisacanearte.it/index.php/artisti/c/marc-chagall/marc-chagall-cristo-bue-rosso-e-madonna-crocifissione-mistica-litografia-colorata-38×55-cm.html

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