Even though my art is in part photography based, the art pieces are more like finely crafted watercolors. They appear to be paintings, not photographs. The basic image begins as a photographic ‘sketch’ and after many hours of drawing and painting, ends as a watercolor. They are creations assisted by the camera, but none is exactly a photograph. Some details are still present, but others have been erased. A former magazine client will no longer print my work as the images, while stunning, are not the photography they demand. Visitors to my home walk around and exclaim about the ‘paintings’, not the photographs.
World War 2 Memories offers the artist’s vision of the battlefields and staging areas of Britain and France as they appear 70 years after D-Day. What now appear to be beautiful landscapes, were not ideal places to be in the summer of 1944.
Like tens of thousands of other Americans I was born immediately after the War. Allegedly I was conceived on New Year’s Eve, 1944, and popped out of the oven 278 days later at a time when the war was technically over for the combatants. At the same time, millions of refugees were walking around Europe looking for relatives, loved ones, and family members. People who went through it told me they had walked from camp to camp for a decade and occasionally found a name they knew or a face they recognized.
We in America dodged a big bullet, for only because the War was not fought on our shores, we had no lasting physical scars on our landscape other than a highly radioactive spot in New Mexico out in the middle of a desert few people set foot on prior to July 16, 1945. No cities were flattened by waves of bombers dropping thousands of tons of bombs, incendiaries, 12000 pound Tallboy bombs, etc.
As a child I occasionally overheard scraps of information from my parents, grandparents, and others about the mysterious ‘war’ which had taken place but about which nobody spoke. I knew my father and his family had fled Europe to come to America in 1939, but there were few if any details. I didn’t really know anything until we moved to Strasbourg, France in 1954, and found the detritus of war everywhere. I played in remnants of the Maginot Line along the Rhine River, but no adult would speak of their personal experiences. I could read about the War in comic books, National Geographic, LIFE, and as we lived near Washington DC, I could if an adult was driving, go through Arlington National Cemetery and see the thousands of new graves. But I lacked any understanding of what war meant, and so found ANC to be the hallowed ground and final resting place of several hundred thousand of our war heroes. As a child it frightened me, so I returned as an adult, and for the first time realized what the Tomb of the Unknowns was about.
These images are the result of my respect for the men and women who overcame those who had murdered and robbed so many of so much. Some of those who suffered were my family.
When I lived in Denmark during the 1980’s, I met a retired Berlin cop who told me he was posted to Normandy to recover from wounds suffered in ‘The East’. On the morning of June 6, 1944, the coast was fogged in, but a gust of wind cleared a hole in the fog and he looked out and saw the sea was black with the hulls of ships coming directly at him. As he noted in 1982, “It wasn’t my fight, so I made an excuse to leave the bunker, took a left turn and walked home to Denmark to live rather than die in Normandy.”
Jan W Faul
July 3, 2016