100-Year-Old Underground Cities Never Seen Beforetags: Jeff Gusky
Hidden beneath the French countryside are miles of mysterious and all but forgotten underground cities, lying in complete darkness and frozen in time. For the last 100 years, only the landowners and a few history enthusiasts have known these spaces. The subterranean cities are filled with beautiful art, inspiring inscriptions and thousands of names left behind by WWI soldiers from both sides of the conflict who occupied the spaces at various times. In many cases, records show that men wrote or inscribed their names only to die in battle hours or days later. It may have been the last time these soldiers signed their own names. Former underground city beneath the trenches. Photographed 11 March 2013. Picardy, France.
Jeff Gusky, M.D., FACEP, a Dallas-based emergency physician, fine art photographer and explorer, is believed to be the first person ever to bring to light the large number of underground cities through his photographs, revealing the abundance of artifacts, sculptures and graffiti hidden there. With thousands of striking images, the public now has the opportunity to see what Gusky saw — his haunting black-and-white photographs reflect what the soldiers were thinking and feeling as they dealt with the first examples of modern warfare and mass destruction. They expressed longings for home or religious beliefs or simply provided much-needed creative outlets — a degree of what passed for normalcy when what they were living through was anything but normal. At times the men were stopped in the middle of whatever they were doing when called to action.
The photographer spent a total of six months exploring miles of these underground spaces. The often treacherous work was performed in complete darkness and sometimes required him to crawl on hands and knees through tight spaces, over jagged rocks, and to lean down over ledges, balancing his camera in one hand. He had to exercise caution around the numerous unexploded hand grenades and live artillery shells he encountered.
Gusky states, “The first carving I saw was a museum quality image of a woman’s head, which was absolutely stunning. It took time for me to realize that the soldiers of WWI came from all walks of life — artists and poets, cooks and mechanics, doctors and lawyers. Literally every profession was represented in the troops. So, of course, their carvings and inscriptions ran the gamut from simple expressions of “I was here” to beautiful works of art.
“My mission is to two-fold: to bring these images to light through my photography and to help the landowners protect them for posterity.”
Gusky has released the images in a series called The Hidden World of WWI, which can be found at www.JeffGusky.com. Follow The Hidden World of WWI on Twitter https://twitter.com/hiddenwwi on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HiddenWWI, Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/jeffgusky, or on Instagram at http://instagram.com/hiddenwwi .
His discoveries and photographs are featured in the August 2014 issue of National Geographic, The Hidden World of the Great War.
About the Artist
Jeffrey Gusky, M.D., FACEP, lives two lives – one as a rural emergency physician and the other as a fine-art photographer and explorer.
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 20 museum shows in America mark Gusky’s fine-art career. He 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.
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