André Ruiter Historic Landscapes

Vosges 1915

Traces of the battlefields in the Vosges Mountains

About the project

During the First World war, the Vosges mountains in the French Alsace became the scene of bitter fighting in 1914 and 1915. My photo project about the Battle of Verdun had increased my interest in the First World War and I decided to visit some of the other battlefields. I planned two trips to the Alsace in the autumn of 2016. Alsace has been German and French territory throughout history. Today, it feels sometimes more being in Germany than in France because of German sounding place names and the architectural style of its buildings.

During my first trip I visited the well known mountain battlefields of Le Vieil Armand (Hartmannswillerkopf) and Le Linge (Lingekopf). During my next trip I hiked to the forgotten battlefield of La Tête des Faux (Buchenkopf). The summit is accessible via a narrow and steep trail. A modest monument has been built on the summit. Not many tourists come here, only the seasoned hiker will bother to hike to the top. The traces of the battlefield are clearly present and are more or less untouched. When I started my hike, the summit of the mountain was shrouded in mist. It was a chilly day with wind and drizzle.

It took me almost two hours to reach the summit by the narrow and slippery trails. My photo bag and tripod felt heavier after every step. Arriving on the top, the remains of the untouched battlefield made a deep impression on me. The extensive German stone fortifications strongly contrast with the modest and overgrown French trenches that mainly consisted of barbed wire. It felt like traveling back in time.

I photographed for five hours without seeing anyone. When I started my descent I felt cold and exhausted but very satisfied. This day on Tête des Faux is still my most cherished photography experience.