This image in Echoes from France by Amy Robbins Ware, an American nurse in France during WWI, demonstrates the kind of tensions generated by the coexistence of photographs and text. Although the book contains no photographs of abject gore, it does feature this photo of a woman with a gas mask as a haunting reminder of such horror and an effacement of the familiar, such that the woman now wears the large dark eyes and proboscis reminiscent of insect life. The text at the bottom works against the tone of estrangement by way of the domesticating rhetoric of “little tin derby” in the place of “helmet.” The diminutive qualifier is not supported by the photo and so suggests a note of endearment and thereby emotional mastery. Similarly the poem to the left of the photograph turns its focus from the destructive power of the “Gothas,” the heavy bombers of the German Luftstreitkräfte, to “Life’s great adventure” and nostalgic invocations, however fleeting their comforts. Whereas the reassurance of a human face, no less real than the uniform before us, lies beneath the mask in the photograph, the terror of war lies beneath the rhetorical surface of the poem, whose imagistic force is for the most part diffused by familiarity of diction and detail. Both the visual and the verbal representations take on layers of resonance—the correlative to a psyche under pressure—by virtue of conflicts sharpened by the book’s physical proximities.
Find Echoes From France in the UNT Library Catalog.