War invalids and rehabilitation centers

War invalids and rehabilitation centers

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Title: Workshop of the vocational rehabilitation school of the Grand Palais in Paris.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1918

Date shown: 1918

Dimensions: Height 17.3 - Width 12.3

Technique and other indications: Gelatin-silver print on paper.Inscription: GM. 1918

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-506056 / 14982.28

Workshop of the vocational rehabilitation school of the Grand Palais in Paris.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Publication date: November 2008

Historical context

Thousands of injured

The First World War is particularly violent. War invalids are the subject of special care: special centers are created for them. Converted into a military hospital like many public buildings, the Grand Palais is hosting an initiative of this kind, as can be seen in this photograph taken in the workshop of the rehabilitation school.

Image Analysis

An apologetic image

Everything in this image is designed to enhance and restore dignity to the war cripple: he is presented as an active individual, a worker always able to take care of himself and participate in social life, as evidenced by the choice to show it. hard at work, focused on his work. In order to highlight it, the photographer opted for a slight low angle shot and a tight framing; the man is thus magnified, individualized like a portrait, although he is not looking at the lens. His pose is also significant: a little three quarters, only his mutilated arm is visible. The blurred background and the foreground workbench help focus the viewer's attention on the worker and the room in which he is working. His prosthesis and the object he holds thus share the center of the photograph, and their metallic reflections, of a dazzling white, stand out from the rest of the photograph due to the accentuated contrast of the print. The lamp above his head seems to recall the halo of the saints in religious painting. This sacred character of the representation, common at the time, evokes the sacrificial nature of the soldiers' commitment to defend the homeland, a sacrifice which here borders on martyrdom since the old hairy bears the scars of combat, war is inscribed in his flesh.


Medical progress

If the author of this photograph is unknown, it is possible, thanks to the words delivered by the image, to guess its purpose: this photograph was undoubtedly intended for an information campaign on the action of rehabilitation centers. , places of medical research aimed at reducing the physical consequences of war on soldiers. It emphasizes in particular the professional aspect of these establishments where the infirm, to find a job, received a craft education. It also indirectly evokes the craze for trench crafts: most workshops in these centers made artifacts imitating the creations of the hairy, which were then displayed and sold for charity work for war invalids. This image offers an optimistic view of the effectiveness of rehabilitation centers: it shows a disabled person who has managed to regain activity despite his amputation. The central place occupied by the prosthesis of man and the piece on which he works is in this respect particularly explicit; it designates at the same time the infirmity from which the former soldier suffers, the means of overcoming it and the success of this combat thanks to medical and technical progress. This shot thus testifies to the major preoccupation of the time for the future of disabled soldiers. Society was indebted to them and owed it to them to help them reintegrate, not only by providing them with pensions, but also by giving them the means to overcome their handicap. If the reality is much less attractive than this photograph suggests, the war, with its innumerable wounded, was nevertheless a veritable medical laboratory at the origin of major progress in fields as diverse as vaccination, anesthesia and surgery, including plastic surgery.

  • War of 14-18
  • hairy


Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU, Annette BECKER, 14-18, return to war, Paris, Gallimard, 2000.Annette BECKER, “Graffiti and sculptures of soldiers, traces of war culture”, 14/18 Today-Today-Heute, n ° 2, 1998, p.116-127 [file: "Archeology and the Great War"]. Sophie DELAPORTE, Doctors in the Great War 1914-1918. Paris, Bayard, 2003 Patrice WARIN, War 14-18 Poilus trench crafts and lighters, Louviers, YSEC Editions, 2001, 208p. Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Claire LE THOMAS, "War invalids and rehabilitation centers"

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