Nearly two years ago my mother showed me a hundred page photo album with nearly a thousand photos my great-grandfather Walter Koessler took in World War I. It's in pristine condition, beautifully preserved by my family over the last hundred years in Southern California. They've even saved the negatives— untouched, crisp and unfaded.
In August 2013 I raised $113,000 from supporters on Kickstarter, selling nearly a thousand copies in just thirty days. The books are printed and backers have received their copies. If you missed out, you can still get one of the extras from the first print run for your collection.
Walter spent four years in the reserve artillery battalion of the German army. In that time he took photos at nearly every opportunity, showing cannons, weapons, life in the trenches, and day-to-day life with his comrades. Walter often stepped outside of his duties to capture the task at hand. These are his photos, unedited and unmodified, precisely as he laid them out in his personal photo journal.
I've researched these images and included captions detailing where Walter was and what was happening around him where I could. I've also included insets of some of the best photos, and spreads printed straight from the original negatives.
The collection is comprehensive— Walter spent months in the trenches and in the woods taking candid photos, but he was also noticed by his superiors for his talent with a camera. Although most of his photos are from his personal collection, Walter also took aerial photographs from biplanes and recorded investigations of destroyed cathedrals and other structures on official business.
Thanks to overwhelming support from Kickstarter and the excellent cooperation of my printer, I've been able to make the book at a very high quality. It's 136 pages with a gatefold of Walter's aerial photography in the back, a full 11x17 inches in size, and printed on archival-quality heavy matte paper. The book shows each page from the album at a nearly full size reproduction. It's something you just have to hold.
It's a beautiful book, but it's challenging too. Where the world has been taught to view these people as the enemy, these photos show us another side to history. These are proud men, happy friends, and courageous soldiers. Seeing into their lives so directly will change your whole perspective on war.
Join me in experiencing this important piece of our shared history.
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