# 41819

HURLEY, Frank (1885-1962)

[WWI] Idiot Corner, Westhoek Ridge, Belgium, 5 November 1917.

$2,000.00 AUD

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Gelatin silver print photograph, 14.5 x 20 cm; verso with the wet stamp of the A.I.F Publications Section, Australia House (London); superb condition.

A significant example of the controversial use of montage by Australia’s pre-eminent war photographer, Frank Hurley (1885-1962).

From mid 1917 to early September 1918 the Australian photographer and adventurer Frank Hurley, who had already achieved fame for his Antarctic photographs taken on Douglas Mawson’s expedition, served on the Western Front as an official war photographer in the A.I.F. with the honorary rank of captain. His dramatic images vividly capture the carnage and atmosphere in perhaps the most brutalizing theatre of war in the history of human conflict. Hurley’s photographs featured in the exhibition Australian War Pictures and Photographs, staged in London in 1918. His controversial use of montage (composite images) in order to heighten the impact of his photographs – led to a clash with the A.I.F. high command, who deemed this type of image not to be faithful documentary representation; this conflict led to his temporary resignation in October 1917.

Compare the image offered here with the Australian War Memorial’s “Men and pack mules rounding Idiot Corner, on Westhoek Ridge, Belgium, moving up to the front” (AWM E01480). The two images, with the destroyed gun carriages on the left and train of mules on the skyline, are identical – except for the fact that Hurley has skilfully manipulated the present image by completely replacing the line of men with a less congested scene that includes several soldiers standing passively by the side of the road and a more strung out line of men and mules moving away from the camera through the mud. The montage is entirely convincing – virtually undetectable, in fact, if not for the existence of the original image for comparison. It is important evidence of Hurley’s use of this technique, and its potential effectiveness if employed to conceal or embellish the truth for propaganda purposes.