About Jeff
The Hidden World of WWI
portrait of Jeff Gusky
Photo credit: Marty Perlman

Jeff Gusky lives two lives, one as a rural emergency physician and the other as a fine-art photographer and explorer.

Dr. Gusky’s first year of medical school at the University of Washington was spent in Alaska as part of the WAMI Program, created to inspire students to become country doctors. Gusky graduated high in his class and was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the National Honor Medical Society. He combined his love of flying and rural medicine and used his plane to reach remote hospital emergency rooms on short notice throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Since 1991, he has taught trauma skills to other physicians as an instructor in the Advanced Trauma Life Support program and is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Two books of black-and-white photography, multiple national exhibitions including the pairing of his work with the Spanish master Francisco de Goya and the legendary early 20th Century photographer Roman Vishniac, inclusion in a Broadway play and the honor of a Gusky traveling exhibition being ranked by Artnet Magazine on its 2009 list of the top twenty museum shows in America mark Jeff Gusky’s fine-art career. Jeff explores the world photographing pieces of the past that can help us discover who we are and which inspire us to ask questions about the vulnerabilities of modern life that we have forgotten how to ask.

Jeff resides in rural East Texas and in Dallas.

Exhibitions

Gusky‘s photographs of Eastern Europe were featured in this Studio 54 Theatre production in 2011.
Ranked by Artnet Magazine (Spring, 2009) as one of the top 20 museum shows in America alongside shows at the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian and the Met, the exhibition opened at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in October, 2008 to record crowds and continued as a traveling exhibition. The presence of life in Vishniac’s photographs from the 1930’s side-by-side with the absence of life in Gusky’s contemporary photographs convey the incomprehensible loss of modern mass destruction. Genocide takes on new meaning as a risk that is with us still.
A 2003-2004 exhibition at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, paired 45 original Disasters of War etchings by Francisco de Goya with 45 of Gusky’s contemporary photographs.
2002 solo exhibition at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington, Vermont. Approximately 100 Gusky black-and-white photographs of the architectural ruins of the once thriving Jewish civilization and culture in Eastern Europe destroyed in World War II.
2001 solo exhibition at the University of Texas-Dallas of 145 Gusky black-and-white wintertime photographs of the architectural ruins of Eastern European Jewry. Holocaust Emotions: Photographs from the Present, Feelings of the Past 2000 solo exhibition of 105 Gusky Eastern European photographs at the University of Texas-Tyler.
A three year installation (2003 to 2006), of 14 Gusky photographs in the boardroom of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University’s Bridwell Library.
Reimagining Dallas: An Intimate Walk on Turtle Creek, December 4, 2009 through Jan 3, 2010.
2003 solo exhibition of 18 Gusky photographs from a series on the Texas-Mexico border. The Desert Willow Cafe & Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Books

Silent Places book cover

Silent Places: Landscapes of Jewish Life & Loss in Eastern Europe

by Jeff Gusky (Author, Photographer), Judith Miller (Introduction), Hardcover, 180 pages, Overlook-Duckworth (New York, London), October 2003, ISBN: 1585673161. A December 17th, 2003 Roger Rosenblatt essay on the book aired on PBS' The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

Silent Places book cover

Bordertown: The Odyssey of an American Place

Published in September, 2008 by Yale University Press (New Haven). Bordertown is the story of a once powerful yet now impoverished locale on the Texas-Mexico border which has been a full participant in American life since it became American soil in 1848. It’s a story of power, patriotism and self-determination by early Mexican-Americans. The book was the recipient of the Popular Culture/American Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for the Best Reference/Primary Source Work in Popular and American Culture in 2008. Co-authored with SMU Professor Ben Johnson. ISBN: 0300139284.

Medical Student Ward Survival Manual

Published in 1983, this orientation manual for third-year medical students sold 16,000 copies in two printings and was widely distributed throughout the US and Canada. ISBN: 0910015007.

The Hidden World of WWI

Hidden under the former battlefields of WWI lie hundreds of forgotten rock quarries that were transformed into underground cities beneath the trenches, sheltering armies on both sides of the Great War from mass destruction. Cloaked in darkness under private land in the beautiful French countryside, these underground cities are bristling with artifacts, sculptures and emotionally charged “graffiti” created by WWI soldiers a century ago. Frozen-in-time, these cities beneath the trenches form a direct human connection to men who lived a century ago. They make a hundred years ago seem like yesterday. They are a Hidden World of WWI that is all but unknown, even to the French.

American medical doctor, fine art photographer and explorer Jeffery Gusky was introduced to these underground cities by landowners and dedicated volunteers and their families who fiercely guard the secrets of these spaces with loving care to prevent them from being vandalized and to preserve them for the future. Dr. Gusky found it hard to believe that he was the first outsider privileged to systematically explore this Hidden World and that almost nothing about them can be found on the internet. Caretakers shared their precious secrets with Gusky and honored him with exclusive access to create a photographic legacy of this Hidden World, but with the proviso that he would work closely with them to protect these cultural treasures from harm.

Dr. Gusky has created thousands of images that document the lives, loves, and longings of these modern young men who were the soldiers of WWI. The stone walls of the quarries are soft enough to be carved with simple tools. The men spent long hours recording indelible expressions of their humanity that are as fresh and powerful today as they were a century ago. The images are sometimes poignant and sometimes sad but always deeply moving reminders that these men were not strange doughboys from old movies but modern people who were coping with the dehumanizing horrors of war in the same way that we would cope if faced with these horrors today.

These cities now exist in total darkness. All equipment must be carried underground by hand, often snaking over, under and around shifting debris, frozen mud and fallen rock. Despite this inaccessibility, the underground spaces gave up their wonders under the artist’s visionary approach. Raking light over the carvings to make them stand out clearly, Dr. Gusky has succeeded in creating strikingly beautiful images that cause the viewer to stop and look... really look. The first impression of many viewers is stunned surprise and the second is a desire to linger, discuss and ask questions.

Dr. Gusky’s published work focuses on pieces of the past, hidden in plain sight, that can help us discover who we are and inspire us to ask questions about the vulnerabilities of modern life that we have forgotten how to ask. The Hidden World of WWI is his third major project.

Press Coverage

What Experts Are Saying

It was as if the soldiers had just left the caves days or weeks before. I was struck by the indelible legacy of their carvings. I feel a kinship to the soldiers of the 26th "Yankee" division who preceded me. It is as if I can reach out to them thru Jeff's photos.
Brigadier General Leonid Kondratiuk, Former Chief Historian, National Guard Bureau
I've been in the room as Jeff showed his work to historians of World War I, so I can tell you exactly how they react: with curiosity about the world he uncovered, with amazement at the images themselves, and with a slow realization that the histories we write with words haven't yet captured the world the way that Jeff has with his camera.
Dr. Christopher Capozzola, Associate Professor of History, MIT
These fascinating photographs reveal a hidden, subterranean world that puts a new face on the "troglodyte" world of the trenches that Paul Fussell and others so eloquently described.
Dr. Michael S. Neiberg, Author of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I
The photos are significant because I know of nothing comparable. We have letters and journals and interviews and trench art but nothing exactly like this. Whether they engraved their initials or created a complete sculpture, they were expressing their identities and emotions. It is impossible not to connect with them.
Dr. Paul H. Herbert, Executive Director, First Division Museum at Cantigny, Wheaton, IL

Selected Interviews

Video From Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Exhibition of Jeff’s Work. 14 March 2017
Power Players - Beneath the trenches: The secret world of the Great War revealed 11 November 2014
Jeff Gusky's interview on WFAA8 ABC Dallas. 12 November 2014
Jeff Gusky Hidden Worlds of WWI 14 March 2016

Radio

25 July 2014
18 July 2014
18 July 2014