Saturday, 13 June 2015

UNSEEN WATERLOO / Photographer Sam Faulkner aims to capture what the 1815 Battle of Waterloo really looked like

Unseen Waterloo is a series of photographs by Sam Faulkner which explores how we remember the human face of conflict from a time before photography.

The Battle of Waterloo is one of the greatest in history. Napoleon and Wellington, two of the finest military leaders of all time, faced each other. on 18 June 1815. For nine hours 2oo,ooo men fought one of the most intense and bitter battles the world has seen. By sunset the world had changed.

Since 2oo9, Faulkner has travelled to the annual Waterloo re-enactment in Belgium to photograph the ‘soldiers’ who take part, dressed in the historically accurate uniforms, created with painstaking attention to detail. From his pop-up studio on the battlefield, Faulkner has made dramatic and painterly portraits which evoke the forgotten faces of Waterloo and re-imagine their moments of hope, glory and defeat.

The images hang against a backdrop of Hainsworth fabric, the rich scarlet woollen cloth worn by the British ‘redcoat’ soldiers at Waterloo and still made today at the original West Yorkshire mill.

‘Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited is my attempt to re-imagine the non-existent portraits from 1815. Waterloo is often cast as a battle between Great Men and certainly we’ve all seen the grand paintings of Napoleon and Wellington. However, we don’t have personal images of the men who actually fought and died that day. A hundred years later, after the First World War, the fallen soldiers’ names were chiselled in granite in every town in Europe. This work attempts to reclaim the Battle of Waterloo for those who fought and have been lost to history’, Sam Faulkner 2o15.

Unseen Waterloo The Conflict Revisited, the book, is published to coincide with the exhibition at Somerset House.

The book has a first print run of 1815 copies plus 200 numbered Artist's editions. It will be officially launched at Somerset House on 18th June 2015, the 200th anniversary of the battle.

It is a a large photo book measuring approximately 370 x 290mm with around 240 pages.

The book will include three texts; A preface by Sam Faulkner, the artist; A historical essay by writer Nicholas Foulkes; and an essay about the art inspired by Waterloo by art historian Satish Padiyar.

The Editions

The Unseen Waterloo Book will be available in 3 exclusive and limited editions.

Limited to a print run of just 1815 copies, the 1815 Edition is beautifully finished in blue cloth with a silver map of the order of battle debased on the cover. The 1815 edition is £50.
Artists Edition.png
Presented in a bespoke slip case and individually numbered and signed by the photographer, the Artist's Edition will be limited to 200 copies. It will be a true collector's book. The launch price for the Artist's Edition is £200 and will increase as the edition sells out.
The Thin Red Line Edition is hand bound in the same fabric worn by the British Redcoats at the Battle of Waterloo. Still manufactured by Hainsworth in Yorkshire this fabric is the origin of the "thin red line" and is part of their Waterloo Collection. The cover design of the battlefield of Waterloo is embroidered in silver thread.

The book comes presented in a bespoke solander box also made of Hainsworth.

The Thin Red Line Edition will be hand bound and will be limited to just 25 copies. Ten copies have already been allocated. The launch price for the Thin Red Line Edition is £1000.

If you would like to order or find out more about either the Artist's Edition or the Thin Red Line edition please email

The books will also be available at the Rizzoli Book Shop at Somerset House.

Sam Faulkner grew up in Norwich. After graduating in philosophy from King’s College London in 1994, he immediately went to Afghanistan looking for adventure and with a dream of becoming a reportage photographer. He has worked around the world for The Telegraph Magazine, The Independent, The Sunday Times Magazine, GQ , Esquire, Vogue, Stern and Paris Match among many others.

In 2001 Faulkner started shooting Cocaine Wars, a long term project about the collateral damage of the war on drugs in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the USA.

He lives in London with his wife and two young children.

Unseen Waterloo is Faulkner’s first project to be represented by Hamiltons Gallery in London.

To find out more about Sam's work visit

Waterloo 200-year anniversary: The myths of the battle that changed history. Or maybe not...
Ahead of the 200th anniversary next week, John Lichfield dissects the myths that continue to surround the significance of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon in a field outside Brussels

Two centuries ago next week, a rag-tag European army led by an Irish general defeated the French near a village south of Brussels. Next Thursday, Friday and Saturday 5,000 people will dress up in old uniforms to stage the most ambitious ever re-enactment of “The Battle That Changed History”.

There has been great excitement about the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo in Britain; much less so in France. The old enemies agree, nonetheless, in perpetuating myths about Waterloo (starting with the dubious proposition that the battle “changed history”).

Both countries persist in believing that Waterloo was a British – or even an “English” – victory. Both say that the battle brought to an end 150 years of French supremacy. Both believe that Waterloo made Britain, briefly, the western world’s “Top Nation”.

Waterloo conveniently marks the end of many things. It was the direct cause – properly speaking – of very few.

Myth 1. The British victory

The Duke of Wellington is alleged to have said that the battle was won on “the playing fields of Eton”. No, it was not – unless that school took a lot of foreign students. Many of the “British” soldiers at next week’s three-day “Waterloo 2” – as re-made for TV – will be Dutch or Belgians or Americans. Many of the “French” soldiers will be Scandinavian, Swiss, Russian or British.
In the case of the “British” army, this multi-national force of enthusiasts will be historically correct. On 18 June 1815, Wellington, born in Dublin of Irish ancestry, led a European army, long before such ideas enraged the readers of the Daily Express or Daily Mail.

More than half of Wellington’s own force consisted of Hannoverians, Saxons, Dutch and Belgians. About a quarter of the 120,000 soldiers who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo were “British” – and maybe one in eight were English

Of the 32 infantry regiments in Wellington’s army of about 70,000, only 18 were British, of which seven were from Scotland. Modern historians estimate that one in three of the soldiers in the “English” regiments were from Ireland. Of the 12 cavalry brigades, seven were British and many of their regiments were German. Half the 29 batteries of guns were Hannoverian, Dutch or Belgian.

None of these numbers include the 53,000 Prussians who turned up eventually and swung the battle Wellington’s way, just when the French were pushing for a late victory.

Colin Brown, author of The Scum of the Earth, one of the most interesting of the crop of bicentenary books about Waterloo, writes: “Victorian jingoism fuelled one of the most persistent myths about Waterloo: that it was a British – or even more inaccurately, an English victory.” This re-imagined battle has helped to create, he suggests, the self-image of “plucky little Albion” which shapes British attitudes towards the EU to this day.

Myth 2. Waterloo changed history

Waterloo genuinely was significant. It marked the end of 750 years of intermittent Anglo-French conflict. The two nations have not fought each other since (give or take a few skirmishes in Africa and the Middle East). The 1,000-year war continues but only in French-bashing tabloid headlines, or in French-teasing books by Stephen Clarke.

Waterloo roughly marks the point when French domination of the western world ended and a century or so of British supremacy began. Hence, in part, France’s unwillingness to send a senior representative to next week’s festivities.

It should be remembered, however, that in 2005 France refused to mark the bicentenary of the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon’s greatest victory. The French are still unable to decide whether Napoleon, though he might have been a Great Man, was, fundamentally, a Good Thing.

Did the Emperor’s defeat at Waterloo destroy the French supremacy which began in the mid-1600’s? Not really. Until the early 19th century, France was the wealthiest and most populous country in the western world (28 million people compared to 18 million in Britain in 1800). In the 18th century, it had provided the international language, the international dress standards, the international culture and most of the new, abstract ideas.

France was the United States of the day: the global reference point, arrogant, aggressive, oblivious. During that time, France lost battles, and even wars, to the British and others, but its supremacy continued. Arguably, Trafalgar, fought at the zenith of Napoleon’s powers in 1805, was more significant than Waterloo. If the British fleet had lost that battle, there would have been little to prevent a French invasion of England and a prolonged domination of Europe.

By 1815, this French ascendency was crumbling. The loss at Waterloo was a symptom of France’s fragility after a destructive revolution and 23 years of bloody wars. If Napoleon had won, he would probably have lost the next battle. Russian and Austrian armies were queuing to fight him. Equally, by 1815, British economic strength was becoming irresistible. Between 1780 and 1820, industrial output doubled. Britain did not send many of its own soldiers to fight Napoleon (they were fighting the Americans) but its wealth subsidised, or bought, the other “allied” armies.

The French economy meanwhile was losing ground. The historian Simon Schama in his book on the French revolution, Citizens, points out that the Ancien Régime was not so “ancient”. Before 1789, the French monarchy had started to follow Britain down the route to factory-driven economic power. That progress was frozen for nearly 30 years by the Revolution which, according to stubborn French historians, invented Modern Times.

Just as importantly, by 1815 the number of people in Britain and the future Germany was catching up with France. The French started practising contraception, mostly through coitus interruptus, 20 years or so before the British and Germans did. At the same time, the survival rate of infants in all European countries improved dramatically.

There was a critical period of two decades at the end of the 18th century when the French population grew slowly but Britain’s surged. This relative baby bust was enough to put the trajectory of French demography onto a lower course than Britain or Germany (or later the US). If France had grown from 1780 onwards at the same rate as Germany and Britain, it would have a population of more than 100 million today.

After 1815, France would never again be top nation, because it was no longer the biggest and wealthiest country and could no longer muster the most money and the biggest armies. That was nothing to do with Waterloo.

Britain did briefly become Top Nation – but it was never a military power. Its strengths were those of a new industrial and global trading world and a booming population. That was nothing to do with Waterloo.

If Wellington had lost, Britain would have been shaken but the population would have continued to grow. The Lancashire cotton mills and Birmingham metal foundries would have continued to build the world’s first industrial (for good or ill) society.

If Wellington had lost, the British fleet would have still stood between Napoleon and an invasion of England.

The “real Waterloo”, the battle which established British economic and political dominance in the 19th century, was won in Lancashire’s cotton mills.

For France, the “real Waterloo”, the population and economic battle, was lost on the barricades and – irony of ironies – in the marital bed.

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