Bart Michiel, "Verdun, Le Mort Homme", 2001, C-print.

Bart Michiel, “Verdun, Le Mort Homme”, 2001, C-print.

Bart Michiels

The Course of History / Battles of the past seem to define the future of Europe, through long campaigns or ferocious single day battles. In the past few years I have deepened myself in the existence and meaning of war(fare). Since its recurring nature, war must be part of our civilization, of ourselves. I grew up in a country (Belgium) where the trenches of the Great War and the concrete bunkers of the once occupying Nazis are still part of the landscape. This might explain the origins of my interest in the subject. I have chosen to photograph important defining battle sites where enormous loss of life was experienced. The images consist of ordinary landscapes of fields, woods, and trees, revealing now a certain banal yet serene quality.

Verdun, Le Mort Homme / The battle of Verdun, fought over ten months in 1916 caused over an estimated 700,000 dead, wounded, and missing. The hill of Le Mort Homme was the site of one of the fieriest battles of that episode of the Great War.

Verdun, La Tranchee des Baionettes / Some 67 bodies of French soldiers of the 137th R.I. were buried in their trench as they walked.  They were found in 1919 when it was noticed that a line of rusting rifles and bayonets were protruding from the ground in a region where the men of the regiment were known to have disappeared. Seventeen unknown soldiers remain buried beneath the bayonets.

Waterloo/ Here, on June 18, 1815, toward the end of the battle, the elite of the French army, the Emperial Guard, refused several calls to surrender and were shot down.  By the end of the day the Allies had lost 22,000 men and the French as many as 30,000.

Crecy / At Crecy-en- Ponthiieu, on August 26, 1346, Edward III decided to stand and fight the French army along this ridge. The battle did not begin until shortly after 6pm, the hour of vespers, when bright sunshine shone directly into the faces of the disorderly French army. The French knights and horses were exposed to enfilade fire from English longbows, leaving an estimated 10,000 dead on the field.

Bart Michiels chosen by George Holz, earned his Masters in Photography at St. Luke’s College of Art in Brussels, Belgium in 1986. He has shown his work at the Santa Fe Picture Gallery in Santa Fe, the Cultural Centre Gallery in Brussels, and the AGNES Gallery in Birmingham. He currently lives and works in NYC.