Monday, August 15, 2016

The Cameramen of the k.u.k. Kriegspressequartier

As far as pictorial publicity is concerned, compared to other belligerents the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy during World War I was remarkably well advanced. As early as July 28, 1914, a military press office was set up - the k.u.k. Kriegspressequartier - which even admitted women to the front as official war artists.

As described in our latest book, American cinematographers Albert Dawson, Frank Kleinschmidt and Edwin Weigle wouldn't have been able to make their war films without the assistance of this press office. As embedded camera reporters they accompanied the Austro-Hungarian army on the eastern front, in the Balkans and at the Isonzo front where from 1915 the Italian army tried to break through the Alpine mountain passes.

Franz Pachleitner and his photographic outfit, 1914. From the World War I collection of the Austrian National Archives

To commemorate the Great War the Austrian TV network ORF2 in September 2014 broadcasted a documentary on the k.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, featuring the work by two Austrian cameramen, Alexander Exax and Franz Pachleitner. Exax's pictures were discovered by photo historian Anton Holzer in the archives of the Austrian National Archives. Exax was just 18 when he joined the army and the youngest war photographer at the press office at that time. In his diary he described his experiences in Galicia, Serbia and on the Isonzo front. The Austrian TV documentary shows how his pictures were identified at the Austrian National Archives which still has over 33.000 photographs produced by the military press office.

Kaiser, Krieg und Kamera

Franz Pachleitner from 1914 pioneered in aerial photography. At the outbreak of war he was assigned to Fliegerkompanie Nr. 10 at Graz-Thalerhof Airport. Most of his pictures were taken at the eastern front in Galicia and the Carpathian mountains. In 1916 Pachleitner taught aerial photography at the military academy in Vienna and from 1917 he covered the war against the Italian army. Despite strict censorship he smuggled most of his war pictures back to Austria, which were kept in the family archives. Shortly before his death he had his war memoirs Kaiser, Krieg und Kamera written down by his granddaughter, Carina Klemmer. Pachleitner's war pictures have been uploaded on the Internet by the Austrian National Archives and can be viewed here. His book can be ordered here.

Here is a video showing the work by these official cameramen from the Austro-Hungarian military press office of World War I, edited from the ORF2 documentary.


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