Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Iron Harvest, Flanders Fields

Iron Harvest, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

One of the saddest things about wandering across the old Passchendaele battlefield on Saturday, was seeing scenes like this on a farmers property. It created a kind of double vision or experience - there was this awareness of the Palestinian experience unfolding at the same moment and I found myself wondering if, in 100 years, war tours will travel there to try and explain the situation to grandchildren and great grandchildren.

War is never a solution and world war one was meant to be the war to end all wars.

Last year, I photographed actor Paul Gross and his wife as they wandered the same countryside. I was working as a photographer for Canwest and Paul was over for the Canadian commemorations. He returned to Canada and has since released the movie he was working on.

It's called Passchendaele and my Flanders Fields friends who are also WW1 experts, were enthusiastic about it simply because it captures the reality of the horrors of Passchendaele so well ... a battle where 1,190 New Zealand soldiers were killed on a field in a 4 hour period.

And that was only the New Zealand tally in that time-frame on that day. The Canadians were also massively slaughtered during another of those Passchendaele days.

The photograph is a minuscule capture of the massive Iron Harvest that rises to the surface every year on Flanders Fields.

Sometimes the ammunition is still live and unstable, farmers and road workers dig, plant and plough carefully. The annual haul is in excess of 200,000 kilograms.

What a legacy ...


Lydia said...

What a legacy indeed.
Your posts about the war in Gaza and war in general have been brave, thought-provoking, beautiful, heart-wrenching, beseeching, informational, and tender. Thank you for taking the time to post such important work, Di.

Di Mackey said...

Thank you, Lydia. You must have sensed my despair today.

I would love to stop blogging this but then I find something else and feel compelled just to get it out there. Maybe one person who can make a difference might read it and something will shift.

It's just all so sad, like every war but this one is one I've been following for years.

Carolien van der Gaag said...

I also want to thank you, Di.
So many people now are saying that they can't watch the news as it is too heartbreaking. In fact, the news about the war in Gaza is getting less coverage every day.
I thank you for not giving up on the people of Gaza.

Mlle said...

Thank you for posting this, and the links.. I didn't realize that there were still so many bombs existing in Flanders from so long ago.


Di Mackey said...

Hi Carolien, I had to explain to my daughter last night, that that's how it is in the world ... that people get a kind of information fatigue and that Palestine will now slip out of the news because people have kind of lost interest. Hmmm, I blogged on it because it is an interesting phenomena and maybe if more people know about it, they can avoid it.

It's a bit of a nightmare down there at plowing time, Mlle. It can be disastrous if a live bomb hits a plough.

Barbara said...

Once, in the midst of a speech I was giving, my throat clogged with tears and I could not finish. Your posts are giving voice to a multitude of heartbroken people, myself included. I've been thinking about the legacy of this horror for days now. The iron forests are haunting. I think, too, of the dreams that haunted Macbeth and Richard III after all their killing. How ironic you mention Paul Gross, the star of "Slings and Arrows".

Di Mackey said...

Barbara, thank you. It's so difficult to do this because I really like my readers and I don't want to upset people but this is one of those subjects for me and it breaks my heart to see what is happening now.

You know, we haven't had Slings and Arrows here yet. I did a quick read and it sounds interesting?

Manictastic said...

The entire world should see Flanders' Fields and know, feel, touch, smell the devestation of war. That picture is a beautiful reminder of how long war lingers just beneath the surface, not only of the land, but of the people as well.

Di Mackey said...

Wise words, Manic.

It's sad when you go there and read the tombstones, 1000s of them, in small cemeteries all over Belgium and France and you see the ages of the young men, and you imagine them, riding off to a war that the government talked them into as a grand adventure, and then their horror and the sadness of the deaths.

Barbara said...

Thank you, Di for your reply. I read all your posts and I wanted you to know they do connect even though I cannot always formulate a comment. So, thanks again. As for "Slings and Arrows", it is a funny and provocative series and offers a wonderful insight into some portions of Shakespeare's most compelling plays. I think a deal like Netflix has them to send out for viewing - you could try one and see what happens.

Kay said...

Yes. Thanks Di for posting this, you have written it well and the photos add emphasis. It's evocative of the pathos, tragedy, and sheer waste of life that unfortuantely becomes part of life when war is involved; will it ever stop? Where have all the flowers gone, indeed.

Di Mackey said...

Thank you Barbara. I must try and search out "Slings and Arrows", although Mark will be cross if I don't sit down with the "Dead Like Me" series first ;)

Meanwhile, thanks for Netflix, I hadn't known about it.

War is insanity, Kay. I can't believe the world, or some people in it haven't learnt yet. The death toll in Gaza went over 1000 today ... and 1/3 are children. That's beyond tragic.

frida said...

a generation lost...the enormity of it. And yet how many people remember or care?

Di Mackey said...

Hi Frida. You know, the thing about Flanders Fields, Gallipoli and all those other ww1 commemorative areas or graveyards is that interest is actually growing. The grandchildren and the great-grand children are coming and I guess a type of war tourism is developing at a rapid pace.

Part of the heartbreak of watching Palestine unfold, is that I had this double vision of the stories that will be told in the future, to the children and grandchildren.

There is this village in France, left as it was after the nazis took revenge by murdering and burning everything in it in retaliation for an action supposedly taken by the French resistance.

They have left it standing as it was so that kind of thing could never happen again ...