Remembrance Sunday 2022: New Jordan/Ference Collection Sets

Been awhile since I’ve had a chance to blog; pursuing two Master’s degrees simultaneously, curating the Jordan/Ference Collection of Great War Stereography, and working full time make it difficult to find the time. This year I had to push my usual Remembrance Day post back to Remembrance Sunday, as a result of… homework. However, I hope you will enjoy what I’ve chosen to share this year. I’ve been madly scanning bits and bobs from various collections in the processing queue for the archive. Not necessarily the best bits and bobs – in general, I’ve been picking a box at random and pulling the best 5 or so images from it.

A new acquisition of the Jordan/Ference Collection, the world's largest publicly available archive of Great War stereography
A monument to 20 British soldiers from the 4th Infantry (Guards) killed in action at the Marne. From what is temporarily – perhaps permanently – being called Anonymous Collection I.

Curating an archive as large as the Jordan/Ference collection is quite time-intensive, and our backlog is massive. Some of these slides won’t hit the site this year – and from one of the collections, probably won’t fully be processed until 2024! More on the “Massive Anonymous Collection” later, but suffice it to say that we have thousands of new images to scan, correct, and upload, and we will keep them coming. Lest we forget. For the only reason this archive exists is to keep these artifacts of the War to End All Wars current in the public memory.

This post will give an overview of some of the upcoming content that will be appearing in the Great War in 3D Image Gallery in the near future, as well as offering a couple of Twitter polls to find out what readers here and on GWi3D would like to see first.

Exciting News from the Jordan/Ference Collection

We’ve finally decided to begin investing – prudently and selectively – on First World War 3D Autochromes. These are extremely rare, and extremely expensive. This is because they are among the first proper color images in the world. Regular Autochromes are rare enough, but hunting stereoscopic Autochromes is like hunting unicorns. That said, we recently bagged quite a nice unicorn:

A new acquisition of the Jordan/Ference Collection, the world's largest publicly available archive of Great War stereography

That would be a manned French submarine in 1916 – quite a nice first step, no? Of course, if you have any information on what kind of French submarine it is, please contact me!

Addition of Single Images to the Jordan/Ference Collection

Our general mission is to collect cohesive collections of Great War stereography – collections of images produced by a single individual or manufacturer. However, we have expanded to start acquiring images in particular categories when we cannot afford to purchase entire collections that are being sold piecemeal. As representing underrepresented combatant forces is part of our original mission statement, we have decided to start out with images of colonial troops. For example, the two images below are clearly from a larger collection, but still help to tell the story of those fighting on behalf of their colonizing power:

And this is the first place we’d like to encourage community participation. If you’re not yet following the official Jordan/Ference Collection Twitter account, and you’ve read this far into a Remembrance post, you should probably follow us! And meanwhile, take a moment to participate in this poll to help us figure out what else we should be focusing on:

New Collections within the Jordan/Ference Collection

We’ve acquired quite a few things in the last year and half, with the assistance of The Western Front Association. Here’s a rundown on some things that are going to be showing up in the Image Gallery soon:

The Otto Forck Collection

Cohesive collections from the Central Powers are hard enough to come by. Cohesive collections by a known German photographer that are actually well framed are even more difficult to find. Fortunately, this summer we were able to acquire the Otto Forck Collection, which primarily consists of world travel in the years leading up to 1914 – but concludes with 18 slides from the German front, near Reims, from 1914. Unfortunately, it seems as if one of Forck’s shutters stuck for at least some of his time at the front, as some of these are not proper stereos – he simply copied whichever frame came out to both sides. However, nobody can argue the power of these scenes:

198 Medium Format Slides

Figuring this collection out is a bit of a challenge. Some of the images are obviously copies, and it’s unclear whether there is even a primary photographer. There was certainly a primary entity responsible for collecting and labeling these slides. The labels, of thin masking tape, or written in the bottom margins, have shared handwriting throughout. However, it is unclear who took these, why up to 4 copies exist of some images, or what the provenance is.

Regardless, these slides are generally of excellent quality, showing a diverse range of subjects. Of course, there are the usual suspects which exist in many Jordan/Ference Collection holdings: ruined Zeppelins. Tanks, artillery, railroad guns, and so on. But there are a lot of very personal images as well, including soldiers posing for photos as well as relaxing. Not a lot of front-line action, but the daily lives of soldiers is perhaps the more interesting story because it is less-told, yes? Then there’s French President Raymond Poincaré getting into a car. There’s Papa Joffre walking and talking with… well no nice words, just Pétain. There’s an obligatory corpse. There is also a fascination with artworks, trench graffiti, and so on. See for yourself:

The “Anonymous Collections”

Although it has been easy up until now to give arbitrary names to collections where the photographer’s name is unknown, we’ve got so many now that we’re starting a new convention. This may or may not be temporary. The opening image of this post, the gorgeous stereoview of the monument to the British war dead at the Marne, was from what we’re calling Anonymous Collection I. All told, the Jordan/Ference Collection probably holds over 100 anonymous collections like this; it’s only when we get to the stage of processing that we’re getting ready to digitize that we’re going to assign them these temporary names. Here are four more images from that collection:

Quite a nice little grouping, no? And here are five from the arbitrarily designated Anonymous Collection II, which arrived in the same parcel as those above. Note the captured German firebomb and grenade, the command posts, the distinctive captioning style. There were at least 107 of these, and the man who sold them to me is currently hunting for more – so keep your fingers crossed, because these are some killer images:

The Massive Anonymous Collection

One of our recent acquisitions is confounding, to say the least. Over 1,000 stereoviews arrived, some portraying scenes from the Great War, and some seemingly taken on holiday. The diapositives (viewable slides) are sorted roughly into about 20 Taxiphote trays. The negatives – as yet unexamined – sit in boxes. So far, I’ve only had time to look through the positives and scan one tray at random – but there’s a real wealth of subject matter here, mostly behind the lines. Football matches during off-time. Work in a military lumberyard. And, as seen below, all from one tray, several burials at Soissons Cemetery in August 1917, including that of Lt. Emmanuel Travers, decorated Observer with Escadrille C.27. Travers had asked for permission to fly on his day off, leading to being KIA alongside his pilot on 17 August. They were buried the next day:

Obviously, sorting these out and putting them in order is going to be a huge task. My plan is to scan about 25 images a month – one topical tray – and then get to work on the random packs of slides, and then the negatives. This will take over a year, maybe several years, but will be a fun project to watch as it evolves (I hope). As soon as we figure out a way to input these into the database so they can be easily navigated, I plan to start uploading them.

Hôpital Janson de Sailly

This hospital was hastily constructing inside a lyceum in Paris, and was occupied by this particular group of wounded soldiers in 1915. They are clearly having a blast; the poilu with the eyepatch and pipe appears in as many photos as he is able to squeeze into, and compared with most wartime hospital photos, these have a rather jovial demeanor – rather unlike Alexander Otto Fasser’s hospital studies! As evidenced by some of the photographer’s other slides, he was an active soldier, so it is likely that he was a casualty for a time and took these while recovering in hospital. The full set should be ready for upload by December, complete with anaglyphs, but for now, here’s a little sample:

The Water-Damaged Collection

I have already written a rather extensive piece about this collection on Great War in 3D, so no need to rehash most of that here. This is going to take a lot of time to sort out. However, I think the results will be worth the investment. There are two of the best carrier pigeon scenes I’ve seen from the Great War full-stop. All the better if I can patch them up to make them appear proper in 3D. Note that the top image in this mini-gallery depicts a Great War version of photobombing. Note that the bottom image contains a Great War experiment in spirit photography. Overall, note that these were well worth 1€ each:

And of course…

We continue to collect commercial stereography, including a surprise set of 100 images from what we believe to be a previously unknown / unstudied publisher! We’re keeping that under wraps for now, so we’ll end off with two things. One final commercial stereoview:

A new acquisition of the Jordan/Ference Collection, the world's largest publicly available archive of Great War stereography
Boches had written: Master Joffre’s shells will never hit us! and yet…

And one final Twitter poll, where you can help guide the future of what the Jordan/Ference Collection prioritizes and publishes next. Because after all, we are a participatory archive, and want to prioritize the subjects our readers most want to see:

The Jordan/Ference Collection remembers the brave lads who fought, the brave women who aided, and everybody who lost something as part of the Great War. Our archive is dedicated to preserving the memories of the war through examining the stereoscopic (3D) photography of the conflict, its participants, and those affected by it.

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