The glass case encloses the antique accoutrements of war: uniform epaulettes, spiked helmet, field cap, bayonet scabbard, and field glasses. And then there’s the camera—the bulky Kodak Josef Faller used to create a photographic record of his years at the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.
Faller, who was still in his teens when he was conscripted into the German Imperial Army, photographed the war from the perspective of an ordinary foot soldier. His grandson, Greg Faller, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, says the old Kodak offered an interesting feature. “There was a panel on the back that opened, providing enough space to write a few words,” he explains. “When the prints were developed, the note appeared on each print as a kind of caption.”
After Germany’s defeat, Josef Faller decided to leave his homeland for the United States. “In those days you needed an American sponsor,” his grandson says. “An uncle who lived in Philadelphia agreed to sponsor him, and he arrived here in 1921.”
Trained as a master tailor in Germany, Faller initially set up shop in Philadelphia, then moved to southern New Jersey. He died in 1967 at age 72, leaving his war memorabilia to his young grandson.
“I had all this stuff and kept it in a nice box,” Greg Faller recalls. “But I didn’t think much about it until I met Trevor Lowing.” Lowing, a veteran who earned a degree in history at TU, is COFAC’s budget analyst. He has long been interested in World War I.
Lowing, Faller, and Faller’s son Henrik sorted through the collection, curating a three-stage exhibit that will run through 2017. Henrik Faller contributed the slideshow that accompanies the current display, as well as an eight-minute video, Trevor and Josef, on YouTube.
Lowing got in touch with Patrick Young, coordinator of the TU Veterans Center, to secure the loan of the center’s large display case. “Trevor was one of the first veterans to benefit from the Veterans Center,” Young says. “We were glad to work with him on this project.
Young says feedback has been positive. “Folks stop in their tracks and take a look. The 100th anniversary of World War I is the theme of this year’s Veterans Film Series, so the collection is of special interest to veterans.”
Greg and Henrik Faller are glad to see their grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s collection out of storage and on display nearly a century after the November 11, 1918 Armistice ended the fighting. “The display is the result of meeting Trevor, who is so knowledgeable about the subject,” Greg Faller says. “When we opened those boxes, he was a like a kid in a candy shop. The display truly came about because of Trevor’s excitement.”
The Veterans Film Series continues with Behind the Lines on November 13 and Joyeux Noel on November 20. All screenings will take place at 7 p.m. in Van Bokkelen 204. Admission is free and open to the public.