Ravages of war in pictures
August 8, 2014
Pictures by American photojournalist John Vachon depicting Poland coping with the aftermath of World War II are on show, until Aug 31, at the History Meeting House in Warsaw.
Vachon visited Poland three times, in 1946, 1956 and 1963. The new exhibition comprises more than 120 quality photographs that have never been shown in Poland before. They include images of central Warsaw reduced to rubble and of the hardships of rural life after the war. Visitors to the History Meeting House can also see how the country started to rebuild and came back to life after the war. The photographs come from the archives of the U.S. Congress Library, the United Nations and the private archive of Ann Vachon, the photographer’s wife.
Most of the displayed pictures were taken while Vachon was on a U.S. government-sponsored trip to Poland in 1946. He came to document the aid that Poland was receiving from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an international program designed to help countries devastated by World War II. During his six-month stay in Poland, Vachon took several hundred pictures of the devastated country and its people. Apart from Warsaw, he went to Gdańsk, Katowice, Wrocław, Cracow and many other towns and villages. Everywhere he went, he saw destruction, ruins and extreme poverty.
When he returned to Poland in 1956 and 1963, Vachon was working for the New York-based illustrated magazine Look, which ran a string of articles to introduce readers to life in Poland. In 1963, Vachon took a series of color slides for Look. The images are some of only a handful of surviving photographs of Warsaw from the early 1960s to have been shot in full color.