Asians in World War One

A Visual History of the Indians,
Siamese and Vietnamese at War

Chamchuri 10 Bldg., 7th Floor - Chulalongkorn University
November 9th - 23rd 2018

The First World War was the first conflict to be photographed and the first in which pictures were actively exploited and controlled in support of the war effort. From WW1, photography became a powerful and established medium of mass communication. Most of these pictures are coming from the French archives and the private archives of the Prince Chakrabongse. The pictures come from three majors archival holdings in France : The Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), The Service Historique de la Défense and La Contemporaine. An important part of these visual sources were mainly produced by the Section photographique des Armées, created in 1915 by the French Ministry of War to counter the strong German propaganda. Beside the official visual archives, these institutions have also collected private albums of amateur military photographers.

What do we know about the daily life of these hundreds of thousands of Asians coming massively on the European and Middle East battlefields between 1914 and 1919? What do we know about their experience of discovery in European societies and of cohabitation with Western common people in radically difference cultural and climatic contexts, plunged in the hell of trench warfare or of weapon factories? Among the great diversity of sources (the army’s postal censorship commission, intimate letters, the press, memoires, and diaries), which can tell us more about their life experience of total war from below, visual materials constitute a key perspective. These photographs constitute a more intimate perspective of these men at work or at the frontlines even if most of them were staged.