Monday, April 25, 2011

Autumn, Easter, War and ANZAC

As a landscape photography subject I find autumn very challenging, so this year instead of the obvious photos I've made in the past, I've been learning to "see" things a little differently.

Easter has given me some time to reflect on this, and also as ANZAC day falls in this time I've decided to visit the past for this post. To do so means examining just what Easter is all about too: the seemingly indisputable death of Jesus and his rising from the dead.

So as I compose here I've realised it is a three theme post. A trinity if you like!

Generally this shot typifies how I've framed the subject of autumn in the past...
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My dad grew up in this sort of landscape above, and I knew that he loved it dearly. But here he is in another setting though - he's the one on the left holding the glass [beer I assume as it was always his favourite]...
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This is a bit of a grim story so I want to intersperse it with some of the colours we all love [my "new" way of seeing autumn]...
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Dad was a trained butcher, and I think this looks like him doing some work on dressing a cattle beast - on the back of the photo it says: "Before Florance"...
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Africa may have been a lot of fun with his mates as above, but at Cassino in Italy he was the only survivor among them, and was wounded while in a railway station, during an engagement with a Tiger tank. I'm not sure if it was before or after this photo 'tho, probably afterwards. "26 & 27 Batt"...
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He never wanted to talk much about the war, but as a kid I found these photos in the garden shed, and over the years he did drop the odd comment. "Cassino from the Front"...
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There was one story that has stuck in my mind: it was how he described taking a day off of killing with the Germans to bury the dead. I was amazed on scanning this photo an hour ago to see, on enlarging, at least one person in this one, and possibly 3-4, and towards the right there seems to be someone carrying a body. "Cassino from the side"...
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Somewhere in Italy. It says on the back of the photo: "tank knocked out by our Corp"
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It seems as I upload these photos that the world back then had no colour, but it must have had, yet there is no evidence in the aged photos above
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Roma...
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"The way to Venice" - these people seem happy and I wonder why - did they feel "liberated"...
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Many never came back, and then as now we use the cross as a symbol [that has such a link to our definition of Easter!], to remember them. "NZ Graves Sora"...
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Sometimes the veil between different times or worlds seems very thin, and for myself it often shimmers...
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So today we honour what our father's did. But in that knocked out tank as above, and in all the rubble there were other people too! The son's of other mums and dads.

It's complex even now, as we have the benefit of hindsight, to know the right or wrong of it all. The American Civil War seemed a clear cut "wrong" in that had it been avoided, the same outcome, sans the horrific loss of life, may have been achieved with the passage of a few years.

As I ponder this I'm reminded of the stunning example the Dalai Lama sets, as we continue to marvel at his love and patience, whereas he could have easily taken his people to war too!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Shirley Goodwin said...

Great photos, both old and new. My Dad was too young to go to war and Mum's father was in the Home Guard so it didn't touch us much.

April 25, 2011 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Bob McKerrow said...

What a piercing and poignant posting Donald. The similarities between you and I. My Dad fought in North Africa and on Monte Cassino. He told me similar stories to what your dad told me. They shaped our young lives in many ways.

Your photos illustrate the struggle between the landscapes of war and peace. Autumn heals scars as the colours pour mellow light over the wounds, the hurt and scars.

But this is only a temporary balm, as the infants of conflict grow up with hurt, anger and resentment.

Do we glorify war and the soldiers who went to fight? Every time I go back to Otipua and look at the first world war memorial outside my daughters farmlet, I think of those 15 young farm lads cut down in Gallipoli, France or Belguim, for what? How their Mothers, Fathers, sister and brothers must have grieved. And like the mellow Autumn colours, the balm for them must have been words like the 'glorious sacrifice' and dying for God, King and country.

And now we are fighting in Afghanistan....when will they ever learn, when will they everr lear?

April 26, 2011 at 2:26 AM  
Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
As usual many thoughts to ponder through your photos and words. My dad fought in the Pacific theatre, and obviously as an American, and he too rarely mentioned the war. I recall his diminutive mother, my grandma, once virtually lifting my off the ground and telling me to stop pestering my dad about the war, that "good soldiers don't talk". I can never forget that. And the damage often done because they don't talk is often huge. Even more stunning to me is the fact there are people out there like Donald Trump spouting off how war was in the old days! As Bob writes,sadly I agree, not sure what we have learned. I almost think that is as important as not forgetting.
Cheers,
Robb

April 26, 2011 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger The Field of Gold said...

Donald. I have stood on the platform of the Cassino Rail Station. And seen where the NZers came towards it along the rail embankment.
I was totally gobsmacked to stand with the old guys and hear about and see it.
That was in 2004 and there was a good effort to get as many of the old soldiers as possible there. Maybe your Dad was there that day - both in 1944 and in 2004.
regards
Kerry

April 26, 2011 at 7:17 PM  

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