Images of War: Fighting in Ukraine – A Photographer at War

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Books, World War II

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Images of War: Fighting in Ukraine – A Photographer at War – published by Pen and Sword – centers on the photographs of Walter Grimm, a professional photographer and conscript in the German army. The book is a chronicling of events in Ukraine between the years 1941 to 1943, but more specifically, an account of the ‘simple soldier’, through their training and eventual service in Ukraine.

To start with then, it is interesting to note the humanising effect the images herein promote. It is perhaps harrowing in a sense, to see the people in these photographs as people; as in some ways it goes against a heavily entrenched worldview that these people had to be inherently evil to be a Nazi. I’m actually very pleased that this is the effect it has had on me, and certainly the largest thing I will take away from the experience.

The book charts the difficulty presented in operating within Ukraine, where it is mentioned that the roads played havoc with the German equipment, and the railways all had to be converted in order for German supply routes to be established. We get the overwhelming sense that such a costly endeavour taxed the men featured in the photographs, and they struggled with the uncertainty of their vehicles, equipment and orders.

There are some absolutely stunning vistas featured in the book, and that is a testament to Walter’s skill with the camera, as he wonderfully juxtaposes machine against nature, which of course, seems to be these Landser’s main foe. As natural as it seems in a chronicle, the collection does feature images of the occupation and aftermath stages of battle. Succinct as it is, for a book to have such a definite start, middle and end, it is in this, that this collection of photographs becomes a poignant example of men at work.

Coupled with this, text elements helpfully indulge the history enthusiast as they contain a large amount of detail, from rifle make, to tractor. Anyone relishing in the minutiae of these details won’t be disappointed.

On a more technical side of things, I do have a few issues in terms of presentation, and these are wholly of my own preference. I do feel that, given the nature of the subject, the photographs could have benefitted from having their contrast bumped up a bit, so as to marry the aesthetics with the topic; but I understand that the want might have been there to feature these photos completely undoctored, so as to remain an authentic account of Walter Grimm.  I do personally think that to transcend this material into a true artefact of wartime, more attention could have been spent on making the text elements work in a far simpler way, as I found it difficult to determine if two text elements became a paragraph, or were separate entities, at times.

Having said that, I can heartily recommend  Images of War: Fighting in Ukraine – A Photographer at War to anybody with even the most cursory interest in WWII, as this book makes the absolute best of its parts, mixing hard information, with the emotion captured in a picture.


Words by Joe Crouch.  You can follow Joe on Twitter.

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