This summer marks the centennial of the start of World War I, and, as such, newspapers and magazines around the world have featured in their pages archival images of trenches, and bloody battle scenes from the war years. Rarely, however, do we see color photographs from the first World War, though they do, in fact, exist. Next month, TASCHEN will publish a collection of more than 300 of these color photographs in a collected volume, The First World War in Colour.
The sampling of color photographs below is far from action-packed; the autochrome technology that a handful of pioneering photographers used to capture scenes of soldiers, weapons, vehicles, and rubble required long exposure times and could not effectively record movement on the front lines. Still, these images, most of them carefully composed, render the realities of wartime just as vividly as any action shot could—here, we see in full color the patriotism of a painted warplane, the uniforms of soldiers, and the utter devastation of invaded towns, reminding us once again that the circumstances of that Great War, which seems so long ago, are, too, eerily familiar in our own day.