Making and Remaking the Civilian Soldier: The First World War Photographs of Horace Nicholls

Jane Tynan, Suzannah Biernoff

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Horace Nicholls' photographs of wartime army recruitment, and post-war facial reconstruction, seem to lie uneasily between photojournalism, propaganda and record keeping. It is argued here that the photographer's artistic aspirations, and his love of a good story, coloured his response to the brief from Wellington House to record the war effort on the home front. This is photography as pictorial history, but it is also photography as theatre. What we see are stages in a process of bodily and psychological transformation: the preparations of the new recruit and the meticulous 'repair' of 'war's ravages'. Nicholls relies upon the serial quality of his photographs to develop a narrative of the body, first the making of the civilian soldier, then his remaking. During World War I, facial wounds were widely perceived as the most dehumanizing of injuries. Repair, in such cases, was not, or not only, a matter of relieving pain and restoring function; at stake was the patient's identity. By foregrounding the psychological impact of facial mutilation, Nicholls produced images that ultimately cast doubt on the possibility of restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of War and Culture Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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