Top of page

Caught My Eye: John McGill’s WWI Photograph

Share this post:

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.

Black and white photo of demonished building and statues.
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.

Comments (2)

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

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.