Shot at Dawn

Chloe Dewe Mathews

One hundred years after the beginning of the First World War, Chloe Dewe Mathews visits locations across France and Belgium where soldiers were shot for desertion and cowardice.~~The First World War was one of most brutal wars in history and not even the most seasoned serviceman was prepared for the scale of carnage that unfolded before him. For many the horror proved too much. Thousands were unable to cope, many were driven insane and hundreds simply ran away. But armies were no more tolerant towards those identified as cowards than they were towards traitors and many of those who disobeyed orders faced instant retribution with a court-martial and death by firing squad.

Commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford, Shot at Dawn is a new body of work by Chloe Dewe Mathews that focuses on the exact sites at which British, French and Belgian troops were executed for cowardice and desertion during World War One. The photographs portray locations at which individuals were shot or held in the period leading up to their execution, and all were taken as close to the exact time of execution as possible and at approximately the same time of year. This is the first visual exploration of the subject. With extensive research and repeat visits to the region, the project questions what it is to go in search of an event that took place 100 years ago.~~Produced over the past year, the series will premiere at Tate Modern in London and Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography in Edinburgh in November 2014 before going on to further showings at the Centre Regional de la Photographie Nord – Pas-de-Calais in Douchy-les-Mines, Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Ivorypress in Madrid and other venues through 2016.~~The series comprises twenty-three landscape-format images and is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, which is launched in London in July 2014. The book provides a complete visual record of the project alongside a critical analysis of the work by Geoff Dyer (author of The Ongoing Moment and The Missing of the Somme) and expert contextual essays by Sir Hew Strachan (Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford) and Dr Helen McCartney (Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies, Kings College London).

 

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