This group photo is from an unsent postcard, "probably from training," Putney speculates. His great-grandfather, Lt. Walter Koessler, served with the 10th Reserve Division stationed near Verdun throughout much of World War I.
"We view war as a foreign thing," Putney said, adding that his great-grandfather's photographs allow us to view history from a rarely seen perspective. To see more of the photographs, check out Putney's Tumblr and Kickstarter pages.
When he wasn't photographing his fellow soldiers, Koessler often turned his lens toward the destruction left in the wake of battle. Here, two side by side images taken from the soldier's album show beautiful churches reduced to little more than piles of rubble.
"This is the very beginning of the war for Walter," Putney said of this image, which shows the lieutenant's fellow soldiers at rest. "Walter was in the reserve artillery battalion, so this is also our first look at some of the cannons he was working with."
Putney has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money as he attempts to scan and archive each of the photos so that he can share them with a much larger audience. He hopes to compile the images into a case-bound coffee table book. "They're a priceless, rare look into forgotten age," he writes of the images on his project's page. Some of the photos, like these, offer an intimate glimpse at what life was like from the frontlines.
Putney, who has started posting the photos he's found onto his Tumblr blog, hopes to share his great-grandfather's images with the world. Along with the images preserved in Koessler's photo album, Putney and his family also found a box with countless more negatives and 3D stereograms taken during his time in France. Putney has spent the last two years trying to piece together where and when each photo was taken, even traveling to France to investigate his great-grandfather's story. Here, soldiers are seen washing in a trough in between times of action.
Putney describes his grandfather as a "staunch pacifist" who was a trained architect when he was first conscripted into the German Army. After surviving one of the bloodiest wars in history, Koessler left Germany to move to Los Angeles in 1925 where he became a well-respected art director at Universal Studios. Throughout his time serving in WWI, Koessler always made sure to have his camera close by. Here, he's seen standing in uniform (l.)., while in another photo his comrades pose in the trenches.
Some of Koessler's photographs depict the more mundane side of war, showing soldiers in personal moments of downtime (l.). Others speak of unthinkable tragedy. Juxtaposed together, they tell a complex and deeply personal account of what life was like on the battlefield.
It's a side of history rarely seen before now. Hundreds of newly surfaced photos snapped by a young German soldier stationed in Northern France during World War I give a first-hand account of the realities of war and the rigors of life in the German trenches. Shot by Lt. Walter Koessler of the 10th Reserve Artillery Battalion between 1914 and 1918, the images were tucked away in a photo album unseen for decades until they were finally discovered by Koessler's family. Now, Koessler's great-grandson, Dean Putney of San Francisco, is out to share his relative's incredible story and has started fundraising efforts to help turn Koessler's memories into a book. Take an astonishing look back in time ...
Putney was visiting his parents during Thanksgiving 2011 when his mother first told him to check out a hundred-page photo album she had found containing the countless images. After taking a peek inside, Putney knew he had stumbled across something special. Not only were the photos in almost perfect condition, they told a haunting narrative. "He was taking photos for his family, trying to show them at first the good time he’s having on this spectacular journey," Putney told the Daily News. "Then, toward the end, it stopped being a friendly thing." Here, soldiers are pictured smiling as they horse around in the snow. That merriment, however, was short-lived ...
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