DALLAS (July 23, 2014). The August 2014 issue of National Geographic features the work of Jeffrey Gusky, M.D., FACEP, a Dallas-based medical doctor, artist and explorer. Gusky’s Hidden World of World War I series uncovers underground cities beneath the trenches of World War I’s Western Front. His photographs provide an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of soldiers in the Great War and offer both historians and lay people a new lens through which to view the conflict.
National Geographic, a publication synonymous with quality photography, quickly recognized the extraordinary nature of Gusky’s work. Less than twelve hours after seeing Gusky’s photographs of the war’s forgotten underground cities, National Geographic’s editor-in-chief agreed to feature Gusky’s discoveries and photographs in the magazine.
Beneath the French countryside lie huge, centuries-old rock quarries that were transformed into a network of underground cities where soldiers took refuge from the terror of modern mass destruction. These subterranean cities had rail, telephones, electric lights , hospitals, chapels, theaters, offices, street signs, housing and a large number of beautiful works of art on the walls. The soft rock of the quarries allowed men to leave their marks with amazing sculptures, etchings, graffiti and thousands of handwritten names of soldiers from both sides of the conflict.
As these spaces lie underneath privately owned land, few people know of their existence. Even those who are aware of the Hidden World may only know about some of it; until Jeff Gusky’s explorations, it is believed that no one had ever made a systematic exploration of the many different sites. The result is a stunning collection of black-and-white photographs which reveal the inner lives of soldiers confronting the world’s first modern mass destruction.
Gusky’s striking images capture the soldiers’ responses to the dehumanization of war. Some turned to faith and carved out chapels and synagogues. Others were more sentimental, covering the walls with renderings of women, family and home. Many left their names, and home addresses as if to say “I once existed, I was here.” Gusky’s haunting photos allow modern viewers to glimpse the individual humanity of soldiers, none of whom still survive a hundred years later.
Historians will value the photographs as a resource for studying the emotional lives of WWI soldiers. The works of art they left behind give scholars a brilliant snap shot of life in this underground world. More broadly, Gusky hopes his photographs will inspire people to push back against the dark side of modern progress and restore a human scale to modern life, as did the soldiers of WWI, whose legacy he is committed to preserve for the future.
Media: Downloadable images available at jeffgusky.com/press-room
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