Voices through images

This hook presents two images that suggest very different voices from those of soldiers at the war. These pictures provide opportunity for discussing how beliefs can be propagated through image selection and type.

“This testament saved the life of PTE. W. Hacket 1st WOR Reg’t at Armentieres.(external link)

“This testament saved the life of PTE. W. Hacket 1st WOR Reg’t at Armentieres Aug 20 1915, now in 2nd Gen Eastern Hospital Dyke Rd Brighton. Bullet passing through outer cover and all the leaves and stopped at the last page”.

“A bakshee” by William Bell, 1916. Alexander Turnbull Library. A-222-011.(external link)

“A bakshee” by William Bell, 1916. Alexander Turnbull Library. A-222-011.

Context

The postcard on the left above was published by photographer G. A. Wiles during the First World War. It shows a Bible that saved a soldier’s life by blocking a bullet. Images such as this were important to people who believed that God supported them in their fight.

The cartoon on the right shows an English soldier in the trenches in France, with a battle raging beyond him. Frontline conditions experienced by First World War soldiers were often traumatic. Many hoped they would become injured seriously enough to be sent away from the front either permanently or until their injury had healed. This type of ‘lucky’ injury was known as a bakshee or Blighty wound. Blighty is a slang term for Britain that was popularised during the First World War.

Images can be used to tell a story or communicate an idea or message. Because they often create a strong emotional response, they are memorable and can influence people’s behaviour and beliefs. Images were used during the war as tools for propaganda or critical analysis. Cartoons provided a way to explore unpopular or upsetting issues in a less-threatening, humorous way. They also enabled voices (which might otherwise not be heard) to express their views in a public setting.

Possible discussion questions

  • Why do you think G. A. Wiles chose to use this photograph as a postcard? What message is he wanting to suggest with this image? What voice do you hear through it?
  • Why do you think the cartoonist drew this image? What message is he wanting to convey? What voice do you hear through it? Why is the soldier smiling when he is shot?
  • How do these pictures suggest the values and perspectives of different people or groups? Which image do you think represents the more popular or widely heard voice? Which do you think represents the less popular or less heard voice?
  • How are the messages of these images similar to or different from the values and perspectives you may have had if you were alive during the First World War?
  • Do you know of any images that might contradict the message implied in this postcard or cartoon?
  • How are cartoons used as tools for social commentary or critique? Can you find any current cartoons that are used in this way? How do they contribute to the discussion around important issues?
  • How are images used today to communicate messages from different groups in society? How has the internet changed the way voices are heard through images?
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