Review of “Shot at Dawn” Chloe Dewe-Matthews

Chloe_WW1_R4936F17-10x81/34 (Dewe-Matthews; 2014)

Thoughts upon viewing:- leading lines of wall, telephone wire, tree line. They all take the eye to the centre of the image. This makes no sense, there is no obvious meaning there, was this deliberate or an accident? It divides the photo in two.

Lots of space with the grass in the foreground and the sky.  Graveyard with flowers and a wheelie bin. Church is obviously regularly used. Gravestones, death, flowers, love and remembrance.

Scattering of houses with space and green areas around them. Small community. The scene suggests a small but active community. I’m intrigued as to why the eye is initially drawn to nothing and the significance of the divide between the houses and church, especially as the church is clearly part of the community.

I am beginning to enjoy analysing specific photos, especially when I don’t read about them first.

The purpose of the series “Shot at Dawn” (Dewe-Matthews;2014) is explained in the introduction at Due to the limitations of my mobile phone I can only read part of the introduction.

However it explains that Dewe-Matthews re-visited the sites where deserters from the Belgian, French and British armed forces were executed, during World War One. She took the photos at the time of day and seasons that the executions would have taken place.

As a series there are grasslands, fields, trees, forests, bunkers and the occasional building. Lots of space and emptiness.

Without the introduction, the photographs would not appeal to me. Most are not aesthetically appealing, the composition varies, and there is little narrative or continuity (I emphasise, without the introduction). I am starting to understand how a photography series works, and how different photographers make use of captions, or as in this case, an introduction.

Chloe_WW1_R02F18-10x815/34 (Dewe-Matthews; 2014)

Now I have read the introduction my observations  and thoughts become secondary to my questions.

  • What horrors did the executed soldiers witness on the front lines?
  • How did those experiences affect them mentally and emotionally?
  • Now we have an understanding of post traumatic stress disorder do we treat our service personnel differently? (I am a pacifist who believes that in the UK we treat our service men and women abysmally. Leaving it to charities to provide the mental health support without providing them with the resources to do so for all that need it)
  • Did this traumatised military staff receive a fair court-martial? (No! Without the understanding of how trauma affects people a court-martial could never be fair)
  • How would it feel to walk up to a wall to face a firing squad on top of the trauma from the front line?
  • Would it feel like an injustice?
  • Would there be shame and guilt?
  • Would there be an internal voice saying “I’ve let the side down – I deserve this”?
  • I don’t believe that anyone can knowingly walk in front of a firing squad without being terrified.
  • How would it feel to be in the firing squad knowing that you are about to/or have killed a person who is on “the same side”?


Dewe-Matthews, C; 2014; Shot at Dawn; Online at (Accessed on 26/07/2017)

Dewe-Matthews, C; 2014; Shot at Dawn; Oxford; Ruskin School of Art; Online at (accessed on 26/07/14)

4 Replies to “Review of “Shot at Dawn” Chloe Dewe-Matthews”

  1. I’ve heard her talk about her work twice now and she’s interesting to listen to. There’s a video of one of the talks here: if you haven’t accessed it already. So much research went into “Shot at Dawn”. It’s interesting because without knowing the story around it the images ‘just’ look like landscapes – albeit beautifully photographed.

    Liked by 1 person

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