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Issue 1. Cognitive Narratology

Albert Fuglister: the photographer as anti-propagandist

Author: Jan Baetens
Published: June 2000

Abstract (E): In his book "Louvain, ville martyre" (1916), Albert Fuglister, eye-witness of the destruction of Louvain in 1916, combines two types de narratives, a verbal one and a visual one, with the aim of accusing the German authorities responsible for the events. However, the combination of words and images engender certain semiotic mechanisms which reduce strongly the impact of his work.

Abstract (F): Dans "Louvain, ville martyre" (1916), Albert Fuglister, témoin oculaire du sac de Louvain de 1916, combine deux types de reportages, verbal et visuel, dans le but d'instruire le procès des autorités allemandes responsables des événements. La combinaison de l'iconique et du textuel, qui devait servir des buts d'antipropagande, se heurte toutefois à des mécanismes sémiotiques qui en limitent fortement l'efficace.

Keywords: Fuglister, Louvain, First World War, propaganda


Pictures of 'the day after' have always constituted an important subfield within the larger corpus of war photography. Ever since the very beginnings of the genre, photographers have been documenting the various aspects of warfare's consequences. Numerous authors, some of them well known such as Roger Fenton, Alexander Gardner or George N. Barnard (both on the Civil War; for an example of an in-depth reading of this aspect of war photography, see Trachtenberg 1989: chap. 2), others nowadays hardly identifiable of simply anonymous, have pictured material destructions, physical handicaps, psychological sufferings, geographical transformations, etc., sometimes very systematically, albeit it not always for the same reasons.

World War I -the first strictly military conflict on Belgian soil since the invention of the camera- is of course no exception to this rule. A good example of it is the photographic war diary made by Queen Elisabeth (Schepens & Vandewoude 1984), who shared life with her husband in the war area behind the trenches, King Albert I. Direct representations of battlefield scenes are rare, of course not only in the Queen's album, and the reasons for this lacuna are easy to grasp: the unwillingness of the military command to use photography for other reasons than spying the enemy and disciplining the own troops, the fear of the possibly demoralising impacts of too cruel images, the rarity of instant photographs made by the private soldiers and, most of all, the marked preference of the press for another type of visual material, the often parodic etchings and drawings, simultaneously easy to produce, easy to print and easy to match with propagandistic devices.

More interesting hence than Queen Elisabeth's records, is the work of Albert Fuglister, a Swiss business man and amateur photographer who lived and worked in Belgium and Germany from 1909 until 1915 and whose intervention is an exceptional testimony of the particular problems and possibilities of the 'day after photography'. Published in Paris and London in 1916 and never reissued since that date, Louvain, ville martyre is an essential contribution to the war iconography in Belgium (some of its pictures have been reproduced rather intensively ever since), because it gives, or pretends to do so, an eye-witness survey of the devastation of the city of Louvain put on fire by the German troops in August 1914 (The book of Fuglister is not the only one of this kind, but surely the one which most directly relays on visual evidence. Among other examples: see Narsy 1915 and Mokveld 1916).

Non-German postcard (1914?) on the Sack of Louvain

Non-German postcard (1914?) on the Sack of Louvain

Fuglister's book is but the top of an iconographic iceberg, whose volume is still to be fully measured. The 'Sack of Louvain' became soon a 'popular' theme in the war propaganda against Germany. The brutal and ruthless destruction of what the international press then called the 'Oxford of Belgium' was used intensively in numerous posters and postcards in order to put forward the Kaiser's armies' barbarism (ill. 1). Almost immediately, photographic images of the destructions appeared in the international press (I owe this information to Cresens 1989: 63. Unfortunately, Cresens does not specify in what organs the pictures appeared, and as far as I know no scholar has ever localized these sources with full precision). Romain Rolland and Arnold Toynbee, among others, were horrified by the burning of the university's library, which was interpreted by later generations as a foreshadowing of the Nazi autodafes (the library will be destroyed once again in 1940, see Schivelgusch (1993) and Derez (1996)). As far as photography is concerned, the production of images can be roughly divided in three groups. Although in many cases the identity of the photographer has until now remained unknown, the photographic corpus follows indeed neatly separated lines, which then allows a general but satisfactory classification of the material.

ill. 2

ill. 2

ill. 2b
ill. 2b

A first subclass of photographs clearly foregrounds what we are tempted to call today human interest pictures (but more cynically we could call them also touristic views). The first days and weeks after the destruction of the city gave spontaneously birth to a huge amount of snapshot photographs made by civilians willing to preserve a trace of the traumatizing events. However it is not easy to have a good idea of the extension of this private production, the files of the city archives of Louvain (which contain among others a lot of never fully researched glass plates by unknown photographers) demonstrate a very startling image of the city and most of all of the life in city during the first moments of occupation by the ennemy. Rather than to insist upon images of human sufferance, thes pictures often display a view of the local citizens -manifestly upper middle class in many cases- taking a 'sunday afternoon walk': the elegantly dressed ladies with parasol and dog smile and take a pose for the picture taking, the gentlemens with straw hat and umbrella parade as on the scene of a theatre, all strollers are perfectly aware of the presence of the photographer and give the impression of being on excursion to some exotic site (ill. 2a & 2b). A very small minority of these images were undoubtedly taken on behalf of the German occupying forces, since they show the soldiers in 'solemnous' and sometimes even 'funny' settings (I shall come back upon these images later on).

A second subset, not very extensive but whose role was paramount in the subsequent diffusion and marketing of the iconography under question, rather highlightens cultural, historical and archeological issues. Apparently some weeks or months after the events, some professional photographers (whether commissionned by local erudites or amateurs, or working for their individual interest, the case is not clear), have made series of pictures documenting the material state of the principal historical monuments of the city, as in an effort to produce a coetaneous version of the then popular photo books and collections on the city's 'jewels' (for a sruvey of this tradition, see Cresens 1989). The best example of this is the so called 'Arnoux album', a never published but richly made private album owned by two brothers, two copies of which have been conserved (a complete version of 36 images, now in the city archives, an incomplete and photographically less better executed version, now kept in the university library: it is not known whether other copies exist). This album is paradigmatic for the type of images that will be commercially exploited immediately after the armistice, when professionnal photographers succesfully recycled photographs of the 'ruins of Louvain' as postcard sets (the collection issued by J. Meulemans under the company name 'Nels' is the best known). In the same way as different double spreads of the Arnoux album displayed a diptich confronting 'before' and 'after', these postcards also combined ancient views of the city with recent material featuring the present state of the main public buildings.

ill. 3

ill. 3

A third and last subset, which constitutes the biggest bulk of pictures, expresses a more legal and administrative view. This production, which has remained almost completely hidden and has only been conserved in the public archives of Louvain, covers a set of nearly 400 pictures taken on behalf of the city's council. The main and maybe sole objective of these photographs was to constitute an exhaustive photographic record of the material damages and served as adminstrative pieces of evidence for insurance and repayment matters (ill. 3). In this regard, it is hugely significative that these pictures commissionned by the city council exclusively focusses on private dwellings in the wealthiest areas (public buildings of great cultural value have no place in this collection, nor is great attention paid to the less opulent streets which also suffered from the fire). Not less significant is the fact that a great majority of the images particularly insist on everything related to private property (the pictures seem to foreground a) the bricking up of doors and windows of the unhabited houses, b) the sharp demarcation of the limits of the abandoned properties by small walls or simple layers of bricks, c) the costs of reparation, for instance in their emphasis on the presence of labor force executing small repairs and the landlord on inspection tour in the ruins of his house).

In comparison with these three types of 'sources', the interest of Fuglister's book lies of course first of all in its combination of the various models. Louvain, ville martyre includes examples of 'human', 'cultural' and 'evidentiary' photography, although the first and the last type -the preference for exoticism and the concern with private property- undergo a dramatic shift and receive a rather different function, given the fact that the author is more willing to explicit moral indignation than he is concerned by any pittoresque or accountancy: the human sufferings of the dwellers will completly obnubilate the problem of their financial losses and their own fascination by the 'poetics of the ruins'. But besides this rather general characteristic, there are two further and more important features which render the book so intriguing.

First, the various archives bring forward proof that Fuglister does not only refer to some general models of war photography in Louvain, but that he directly re-uses images made by other photographers without never ever crediting them for their pictures (the practice was far from unusual, and we should not forget the peculiar circumstances in which the book was published: in Paris and London, i.e. outside the zone occupied by the Germans). Louvain, ville martyre contains both some examples of anonymous snap shot amateur photography, a great lot of pictures also included in the Arnoux album, and at least one example of a picture used by German propaganda. It is of course impossible to make an exact reconstitution of the origin of all images, but the extent to which the Arnoux album was used gives a good idea of the Fuglister's way of acting. Of the 36 images in the album, 14 are present in Louvain ville martyre. Here is detailed survey of it (the roman symbol indicates the place occupied by the image in the album, the page between brackets refers to the corresponding image in Fuglister's book): I (77), II (70), III (71), IV (80), V (81), VI (66), VII (65), VIII (50), XIII (150), XVI (101), XVII (85), XIX (19), XXII (97), XXV (60). The peaceful image of one of the city's old places (p. 131 in Fuglister's book) also appears in the book of Ludwig Volkmann, Das Generalgouvernement Belgien. Zwei Jahre Deutsche Arbeit (Volkmann 1917: 13). Volkmann's book gives a large survey of the brilliant 'accomplishments' of the German authorities during the first two years of the occupation of the Belgian territory. According to this book, the country has become a paradise on earth...

Besides that, the book also contains certain 'historical' images of Louvain manifestly taken before the arrival of the author in Belgium, which makes it very unlikely to suppose that Fuglister could have been the author of the pictures of the Arnoux album with its characteristic double spreads featuring 'before' and 'after'. Of course this is not to say that Fuglister did not take any picture himself, on the contrary. Louvain, ville martyre contains a section 'How I photographed their crimes' ('Comment j'ai photographié leurs crimes', pp. 185-187), which allows to identify some photographs as made by the author himself, and in one of them he even appears himself as being photographed (p. 127). Given the fact that he did not always work alone but was often accompanied by a friend who helped him carrying his material, such an image can thus be considered as the evidence of a photograph made by the author himself (Fuglister's practice gives us a late but nevertheless very illuminating example of the problematic notion of authorship in early photography as discussed by Rosalind Krauss in her essay, 'Les espaces discursifs de la photographie', in Du photographique, Paris, Macula, 1990).

Second, and this feature is most salient, the images re-used by Fuglister are not simple illustrations or complements of his own pictures. In the book, they serve a new logic because the 'human interest', the 'cultural' and the 'administrative' photographs are new put in a different context, which is no longer that of a set of images, but that of a complex word and image construction, and whose function is totally different, since what matters is no longer to show what happened, but to give an interpretation of the events. In other words, the importance of photography as displayed in Louvain ville martyre has do to with something that the different subsets of regular photographic production lacked: the problematic relationships of images and words on the one hand and seeing and believing on the other hand. For this reason, a more detailed study of the book is more than justified, on the condition that it precisely tackles the rhetorical and semiotical dimension of the photographical material.

If it is true that the main interest in this richly illustrated description of a city in ruins resides in its effort to tackle the rhetorical problem of the relationship of words and images and more particularly the problem of their contested analogy of things and pictures, how are we to circumscribe the point it wants to make? The best way to do this is to read the images made by Fuglister as inverse propaganda -i.e. as an argument meant not only to tell, but to restore the truth and to fight a previous, propagandistic version of the events presented by the Germans as an act of self-defence against a chaotic but general rebellion of the civilians all suspected to help snipers (or even to be snipers themselves, see Derez (1996)). At least Fuglister attempts to do so by confronting the lies of the (German) words with the truth of the (non-German) image coupled with the testimonies of (non-German) witnesses. Attempts, but not automatically achieves, because Louvain, ville martyre (a book with approximatively 75 pictures distributed over more than 200 pages) clearly exemplifies the difficulties and maybe the apories of such a strategy based on the belief in the indexical qualities of photography long before our fundamental distrust about any representation nourished by the digital, postphotographic age which moved tricks and manipulation from the margins to the centre of our very conception of the image.

As far as the relationship between words and images is concerned, Louvain, ville martyre is characterised by a double feature: on the one hand we see a strong hierarchy, which is not in favour of the photographic part of the book (the textual part is obviously hegemonic); on the other hand there is also a strong gap between what is told by the author and what is shown by the pictures, which of course reinforces the already mentioned inequality of images and words. But what is the meaning here of hierarchy and gap? Before analysing the role of these key features, it is necessary to further describe what is really at stake in these two notions.

By hierarchy, I understand that the text comes first, in all possible senses of the term. The text introduces the visual material, whereas the inverse solution is never the case. Moreover, both the first and -even more significantly- the last quarter of the book are almost completely reserved to text only, and when the images appear their format and lay-out look rather chaotic (not to speak of the low printing quality -at least for current standards). The text further speaks about the events in an authoritative way, whereas the meaning of the images is always anchored or relieved by the captions. The text also develops many elements that are not illustrated by the pictures, whereas the latter never exhibit any element unmentioned by the former. And finally, some parts of the text go completely unaccompanied by images, while no image is ever displayed for its own sake. Pre-eminence of the text in all senses, except in one: the words cannot do without pictures, however weak the position of the visual elements may be. Indeed, the images seem to be mere illustrations, but in fact the author intends them to be the ultimate evidence for what he argues. In a stance which his readership is likely to find very 'natural', Fuglister uses the indexical nature of the photographic image as an undeniable and unfalsifiable argument to claim the truth of what he displays and describes -or rather what he thinks to show and to describe, since there is no complete or satisfying matching of words and images, as is manifest in the often lengthy captions. The function of these captions in the book is not only to link the images to the text, but also, as we will see, to compensate for the its silences. Yet the mere fact that the text cannot 'exist' without the images put by the text on an inferior level, structurally undermines its superiority even before one starts observing more closely the curious relations between the verbal and the visual. In this perspective, the gap between words and images ceases to be just anecdotal. Indeed, it is not only the content of the pictures which differs from that of the text, but this separation obliges the author to compensate for something that seems to be missing, for instance, as I argued before, by inserting ever longer captions. Acting that way, he increases however the fundamental problem of the gap between the textual and the iconic.

But why is it that the images do not match the verbal explanations of Louvain, ville martyre? How to specify the so-called gap? The difficulty met by the author is in fact twofold. At first sight, the main problem of the pictures seems to be that Fuglister does not show the destruction of Louvain in action, i.e. -metaphorically speaking- as an active sentence with a subject ('the German army'), a present tense verb ('to destroy'), a complement ('the city of Louvain') and even an attributive adjunct ('on purpose'), but that he only manages to show us the events as in a passive sentence, i.e. as a sentence with a subject ('Louvain') and a past tense verb ('to be destroyed'), but without any agent and thus also without any manifest motivation. Seeing and believing, a couple which is so often at odds, are here once again intertwined in a paradoxical relationship where the ideology is foregrounded more than the truth. The issue is the more crucial since Fuglister's text is an eye-witness account of the events themselves, the author being present in Louvain during the week of the destruction of the city (25 August-29 August, mainly). He clearly was was not able, for safety reasons, to document the catastrophe in real time: on the 27th of August, he had left the city, seeking shelter like many other civilians in the countryside. He returned on the 29th already and had started immediately his investigations, questioning victims and taking photographs during six months, until he went to Switzerland. He went even on taking pictures after the Germans had officially interdicted on the 9th of September all unofficial photographic activity in town.

At second sight, however, the gap between textual report and photographic record is more than just temporal. It proves also technical and semiotic. In Fuglister's book, two versions of the same events are opposed. The official German version, which the author tirelessly denounces as a lie (in 1915 he started a lecturing tour in Swiss and made a charge against Germany at the International War Court of The Hague in order to ask the international condemnation of the German version of the facts; the failure of this request is the direct occasion of the writing and publication of Louvain, ville martyre, which addresses both the general public and the legal authorities (The official German version will only be withdrawn in 1958 by a mixed German-Belgian committee, a decision of course not unlinked with the integration of the German state in the European Economic Comunity and the Nato, see (cf. the study of Schivelbusch (1993), but even then, some publications went on contesting the 'anti-German' version of the facts, see Hahn & Kühl (1963).

The unofficial Belgian and Swiss version of the facts (both countries shared in 1914 a political neutrality in the conflict between France and Germany ), labelled by Fuglister as the whole truth and nothing but the truth and composed by a large series of eye-witnesses' accounts and a series of pictures mostly juxtaposing views of the city before and after the destruction. Nevertheless, the specific nature of both types of documents is not comparable at all: if the eye-witness accounts help to contradict the German version of the facts, the same cannot be said of the images, which could be images of almost any incidental fire or natural disaster. One of the captions reads for instance: "Earthquake? A new Pompeii? No, worse than that: the result of the grenades and fire bombs used to destroy the city of Louvain" (p. 137). The exceedingly important function conceded to the pictures in the book weakens structurally the whole point they are intended to make by themselves. In Fuglister's viewpoint they are the coping stone of his indictment, but for the reader they are unfortunately far from having the same veracity value as the verbal testimonies.

ill. 4

ill. 4

There are some exceptions to this paradoxical weakness of the iconography in Louvain, ville martyre, but their position does not alter the general nature of the other pictures. On the one hand, Fuglister photographs from time to time texts produced by the Germans themselves (such as letters, newspapers, orders written by the officers that are related to the destruction of Louvain and so on). These examples, however, are but a superlative version of the textual quotations given throughout the book and do not fundamentally increase the veridicity and semantic transparency of the rest of the images. On the other hand, Fuglister exceptionally includes also one German engraving made for domestic propagandistic use (ill. 4), captioned in German as: "The atrocities against defenceless German soldiers in Louvain", and 'countercaptioned' by Fuglister in the following terms: "Reproduction of a postcard of wide circulation in Germany by which the public was made to believe that the German soldiers were attacked by the citizens of Louvain. This street does not exist anywhere in Louvain, unless in the imagination of the maker of this drawing" (p. 84). This example is crucial, since it stresses the importance of the semiotic dimension in the gap between images and words. Given the fact that Fuglister manages here to show and to contradict a German made image (and not only a German made text), the meaning of his own images changes dramatically: in confrontation with the German drawing (and it is of course essential that the image is a drawing, not a photograph, i.e. an icon and not an index), the images are now able to function as material evidence. Unfortunately for Fuglister, the case is too isolated and instead of strengthening the evidentiary role of the pictures of Louvain,ville martyre in general, the very exceptional confrontation with a specifically German iconography turns out to be even more embarrassing for the veridicity claims of the visual arguments of the author himself. His images lack indeed the differential structure which give such a strong meaning to his refutation of the German drawing: the comparison of the views before and after the fire does not at all tell the same story as does the confrontation of visual propaganda and the visual exhibition of the truth.

The internal economy of Louvain, ville martyre and the concrete relations between words and images have then all to be examined against this general background of the uneven and problematic combination of images and words. It is indeed as if Fuglister has made such an intensive use of very different possibilities in order to mask the initial problem or at least to find a kind of modus vivendy between his anti-propagandistic aims and the fundamental resistance of his material.

In order to find a better balance between the verbal and visual contributions to the global argument of the book and to make his work as convincing as possible, Fuglister mobilises a real armada of rhetorical procedures, most of which concern the rules of insertion of the images in the book. Since these rules are not all applied at once, one could leave Louvain, ville martyre with an undefined impression of vagueness and lack of construction. Yet the overall system used by Fuglister is dramatically methodical (the fact that at first sight it passes partly unnoticed is even part of his game, to the extent that it draws the reader's attention upon every single 'natural' image, instead of displaying the 'artificial' -and thus virtually propagandistic?- logic of composition of the book itself).

Globally, the techniques of visual insertion all obey the principle of sequential dramatisation, i.e. that the different devices are introduced one after another, and then gradually combined but never mechanically repeated nor systematically put together in every new occurrence (this guarantees of course the lasting surprise offered by each turn of the page, an important element in the construction of the reader's emotive response). In order of appearance the main parameters affected by the rhetorical intervention are:

ill. 5

ill. 5

a) the transition from single images to coupled images: the first strike because one perceives them as shocking or because they inspire feelings of anger, melancholy, indignation or hate; the latter however touch twice, since they produce a clash in the book itself (ill. 5);

ill. 6

ill. 6

b) the transition from coupled images without particular lay-out (the first couples that appear are not even necessarily juxtaposed) to coupled images highlighted by their respective places on the page: first they appear recto/verso, than they mirror one another on double pages, at last they sometimes achieve to fill on their own a double page, with no other text than the captions (ill. 6);

c) the gradual lengthening of the captions, tending to isolate the pictures from their textual environment, a situation enabling the reader to leap from one autonomous image to another, i.e. to increase considerably the speed of reading and hence the emotional shock of the successive information;

ill. 7

ill. 7

d) the reduction along gradual lines of the differences between the juxtaposed images: little by little, changes in perspective, distance, framing, etc. between two images being compared are evacuated so that the perception of the destruction becomes of an almost surgical precision (at the end, the difference of two compared images is not unlike the difference between the positive and the negative print of one single image!) (ill. 7);

e) the phased conversion from coupled images to larger sequences, first with sets of several coupled images, finally with authentic narrative series;

f) last but not least, the careful distribution of the information on the content level, where various images thematically coalesce and line up in an order all the more significant because tolerating no exception. Indeed, if as in any real tragedy the end of story is known and shown in advance (the opening picture of the book gives already a survey of the ruined city's hall area), there is tight, even a rigid succession of referents of increasing value (on the supposed value scale of the intended reader of course). Thus the first movement is geographic: we discover the countryside near Louvain, then the suburbs, then the gates of the city, finally the city itself. The second movement is both military and sociological: the damages we are invited to remark and judge upon first concern civil buildings, then cultural settings (university dependencies such as the central library), and finally religious edifices (we are shown destructions both outside and inside the main church). The third movement, less military than ideological, aims to underline the barbarity of the invaders by switching from material damages to unspeakable human sufferings: we now enter the houses of the civilians, especially the one where no details of the traces of the slaughtering and dismembering of a woman before the eyes of her child, remains hidden for the reader. In the fourth and last movement, after this moment of almost unbearable horror (Fuglister captions explain for instance that a white and grey spot which seems to be some rags is in fact part of the cervical matter of the dead woman!), the tension decreases and what follows can be considered as the slow rolling up of the material displayed until then: the images become scarcer; sequences and even couples of images fade away; the camera privileges panoramic views and the text takes over almost completely until the end of the book.

The composing techniques of sequential dramatisation is however just one face of Fuglister's rhetorical devices. The comparison with the unpublished material in the city hall or the university library on the one hand and with the material known through sporadic appearances of pictures quoted in historiographic studies, general or academic, reveals a second structuring force, i.e. the reduction of the visible presence of human characters. This attenuation was already the case in the pictures pertaining to the cultural-historical subset n° 2, but it is evident that the way Fuglister includes 'human interest' or 'administrative' pictures -be it re-used photographs or photographs made by himself- has a strong tendency to wipe out the presence of human beings. This is surprising for several reasons. First, because of the great bulk of the existing photographic material, which precisely paid a great lot of attention to this element. Second, because of the fact Fuglister's text does not refrain from influencing the reader by means of highly dramatised personal stories.

ill. 8

So, how do we have to interpret this reticence to display what is told in a book where the showing is in general so strongly advocated as an auxiliary of the telling? The first motif which obviously comes to mind is the fear for sanction and revenge (a classic issue in war photography, ever since the photographic identification of the French revolutionairies of the Commune de Paris by the police who transformed photography into a means of repression): citizens too recognisably present in the book, might reasonably be afraid of measures of retorsion (for the same reason, the name of the principal witnesses is reduced to single letters; but curiously Fuglister sometimes photographs and locates their houses with full precision). Yet there are other reasons for the 'censorship' of the human factor, which I assume deal with the rhetoric of the book itself. If Fuglister had used pictures of the types 1 and 3, with their intense human presence and activity, the vision of Louvain he confronted the reader with, would have been totally different. Instead of the ghost city he manages to visualise, Fuglister would have produced a much more theatrical and unwillingly picturesque image of the city, in any case less tragic and thus less convincing for what he wanted the pictures to do. Moreover, the simultaneous presence in the images of Germans and Belgians, occupiers and occupied, would have weakened his point concerning the inhumanity of Germans soldiers (ill. 8). This is, I believe, the fundamental reason why the pictures of Louvain, ville martyre are so different from the pictures shot by the people of Louvain themselves, even if in many cases Fuglister does nothing more than re-use this material. The photographs in Louvain, ville martyre have to take into account the particular rhetoric they have to serve, and this change in scope is far from easy, given the fundamental features of any photograph -a semiotic system both very strong and very weak, uncredibly overwhelming and astonishingly fragile, as Fuglister has understood so very well!

To conclude one should however go back to the initial problem and ask to what extent Louvain, ville martyre helps to understand better what is at stake in the use of photography as 'inverse propaganda'. Two important lessons can be drawn from this viewpoint. The first goes this way: the necessity of a combined use of text and image disrupts both the truth claims made by the photographic medium as index (no photography can honour its realistic program without the help of a rhetoric and a textual underpinning) and the ancillarity of the image supposed by the text in any bimedial production (the image used as evidence by the text secretly deconstructs the leading position of the latter's verbal argument). But there is also a second lesson. One might indeed object that the problems observed in the mismatching of word and image, are simply the consequence of an avoidable error, the absence of any direct photographic account of the events under discussion (in other words: if Fuglister had pictured at the spot the fire set by the Germans instead of having photographed only the consequences of their action, there would not have been any problem). This objection is very naive, since it does not provide any solution to the necessary presence of the text. From the very moment a propagandistic device is pushed in the forefront, the photographic medium -and maybe any visual system- becomes problematic. Maybe this is the reason why so much successful propaganda makes such a spare and cautious use visual elements, whatever be the well known psychological impact of things seen?

(I would like to thank Marc Derez and Jan Van Impe (University Library Louvain) and the staff of the City archives of Louvain for their valuable help during the research. Thanks also to the same Marc Derez for his critical comments on a first draft of this text. And last but not least, thanks to Joris Vlasselaers for his help with the editing in English.)


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