Shot at Dawn

In order for a landscape photograph to have a purpose it is necessary to know about the subject's own narrative. It is not until we know what happened in a particular place, that we form a connection to it. A tree in a field can appear to be quite a predictable photograph, however if you know what has occurred there, then the context changes and the scene is interpreted differently by the viewer.

Chloe Dewe-Mathews 'Shot at Dawn' re-visits the settings where young soldiers were shot for desertion or cowardice during the First World War. Many of these sites have been forgotten with the passing of time. There are no plaques or memorials to mark what happened at these places, that include schools, fields, offices and an abattoir. Many of the photographs are meaningless until the viewer is aware of the reason behind them being taken.

Having meticulously planned each scene, Chloe Dewe Mathews has gone to the trouble of taking the photograph at the same time and date that the execution took place. She has even positioned the camera at a similar angle to the position of the soldiers' guns. Pointing towards elevated positions which would block any stray bullets. 

This landscape-documentary creates a melancholy feel to each image, each with a title relating to the soldier who was shot and the date. It is the soldier who links the photographer to the photograph, and yet he is missing. This sense of absence has a profound affect on the viewer, creating a stronger connection to the image. Therefore, it is the narrative behind the image that qualifies each photograph.

It is all very well that an image is displayed on a gallery wall, screen or page, but it is essential that the photographer is able to clearly communicate the intention of the image.