German officer Walter Koessler's photo album from World War I has been carefully preserved by his family for nearly a century. Now, his great-grandson is preserving and sharing it worldwide as one of Kickstarter's most successful book projects.
In 1914 my great-grandfather Walter Koessler was conscripted into the German army from his university classroom. Used to family photos and expecting a great journey, he brought his camera with him.
In 2011 I saw Walter's photo album from the war for the first time. His collection was huge, and begged to be seen by more than just our family.
Walter's photos are unusually candid– he often stepped outside of what his group was doing to capture the moment.
Walter's unit held this position for nearly a year. They had plenty of time to create complicated camouflage and build sturdy structures.
Intimate moments like these– with an officer getting his hair trimmed in the woods –make it easy to imagine yourself in these soldiers' position.
These photos are part of a 100 page, 700 photo album Walter made. This scene of the end of the trench appears again as a sketch towards the end of the album.
The photos of the trench interior give new light into the sophistication of the German trenches. They're well-built and complex.
German trenches gave them a substantial advantage over their enemies. They were sturdy and well-built, which made it hard for troops to advance against them.
The composition of these photos is incredible considering the conditions they're taken in. Even in relative darkness Walter makes something beautiful.
The camaraderie between the soldiers is strong, it must have brought them close together being in the trenches for so long.