Belgian sniper. Original photograph, 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 inches.
Good condition. $350
This is an excellent example of appreciating images in context. The photograph seemed line an ordinary image of a soldier peering through a periscope on action ahead of his trench, in some miserable battlefield, somewhere in Europe, 1918. The image is the product of a photographic pool, the photographers working in semi-unison to produce acceptable images to be used in publications illustrating the war. The images could not be too terribly graphic, and must not relate any useful military intelligence--they would pass through the hands of very active censors whose job it was to slightly inform the reading public and to also keep morale high, a difficult balancing act.
And so I thought my thoughts. Until I turned the image over--it was stamped "Photo by Central News Photo Service". It was also accompanied by a typed caption, the bit of text that was to be the standardized caption for this photograph when and if it was used by a magazine or newspaper.
The title is "The Belgian Collector".
The Belgian collector was a sharpshooter. He would scan the field looking for any unfortunate who might have left themselves exposed. Then he would shoot at them. Collect them.
In a sense, "collect" like "John Fowles The Collector, only killing them with a rifle.
But that was his job. And it was war. And if he was on your side, then you'd want him there.
I found "the collector" name to be poetical, and chilling.
So, combining the context with the image in this case was a truly sensational thing.