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I spent some time during my day off at Somerset House, which always has plenty of exhibitions to see, and visited the Terrace Galleries to view the exhibition Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited. This is a collection of photographic portraits taken by Sam Faulkner to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Faulkner has taken pictures of participants in the annual re-enactment of the battle that takes place in Belgium. Those who take part dress in historically-accurate uniforms, paying close attention to detail. The portraits could have been taken at the time of the battle itself – if photography had been invented then. From teenage drummer-boys to old and grey-haired generals, the exhibition really emphasises the humanity of those who took part.

The pictures explore how we remember those who died in war before the invention of photography, and I thought they were very effective in bringing home the individuality and personality of each soldier. Sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend the humanity of the 54,000 soldiers who died at the Battle of Waterloo, the last major European battle which was not recorded in photography (the Crimean War of the 1850s marked the entrance of the war photographer, bringing home the human cost of battle. Seeing so many pictures alongside each other, each representing a dead soldier, was sobering.

 

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