Fields Of Battle – Lands Of Peace, 1914 – 1918 shows in poetic photographs how nature turns the scars of war magically into flowering landscapes. The book was published for the commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. During the celebration on 29 May, 2016, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a memorial for the victims. The photos of the book were exhibited on 30 May in Verdun and can now be seen at an exhibition in London.
On a ten year photographic odyssey through the lands of the First World War, traveling from the dust of the Namib deserts to the frozen heights of the Vosges, Michael St Maur Sheil has created a unique collection of images which document how time and nature have transformed these places of horror and killing into landscapes of great beauty and tranquility.
Michael St. Maur Sheil impressively explains why the photographs were taken by referring to the thoughts of veteran PJ Campbell, as he left the ruined war scene on the Somme: “No, they were not lonely, I saw the barren land before me... the many square kilometers of churned soil... the remains, the dead trees. But the landscape will recover, the grass will grow back, the flowers will come again, and the trees will grow back where only splintered skeletal tree stumps can be seen now. They stand there quietly and peacefully alongside quiet rivers,with singing larks above them. They should not feel lonely, they are close together. Even if we went home and left them behind, we still belong to them, and they will be a part of us forever.”
The book also celebrates the life of Professor Richard Holmes CBE, TD, JP, 1946 – 2011, historian, storyteller and guide through the battlefields. It is dedicated to the countless men, whom he revered so much: Men of all nations who doing their duty – the common soldier. The preface was written by Sir Hew Strachan FRSE, FRHistS. Professor of International Relations, University of St Andrews and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
About - MICHAEL ST MAUR SHEIL After reading Geography at Oxford University, Michael St Maur Sheil began his career in photo-journalism and a career-long association with the New York Picture agency Black Star working in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’. He has worked in over 60 countries around the world and in 2001 he received a World Press Photo Award for his work on child trafficking in West Africa. Since 2005 he has been documenting the battlefields of the First World War as they are today: in 2014 his exhibition Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18 was seen by over 4 million people during its display in Les Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris and St James’s Park in London. He is a Fellow of the Royal geographical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History. He lives in Oxfordshire with his long suffering wife Janet and a very chilled greyhound called Gonzo .
Fields of Battle – Lands of Peace, 1914 – 1918 . 29.5 x 30.5 cm, 264 pages, 153 photos, English, French, Spanish, hardcover, bound in linen, French fold jacket, ISBN 978-3-903101-07-4, € 65.00
Exhibitions - photos of the book were already shown at several exhibitions: Berlin, Istanbul, London, Ottawa, Paris and Verdun. Further exhibitions are planned in Belfast, Dublin, and the US.