Monday, January 23, 2017

Albert K. Dawson, the "Kaiser's Cameraman"

While researching the online files of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. the authors recently struck gold. In Record Group 165 "American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs" we found a fascinating picture file on Albert K. Dawson - the "Kaiser's Cameraman" - who accompanied the German and Austrian army during World War I.

Albert Dawson, directing war films in Galicia, Eastern Front, 1915. Copied from a World War I file now at the National Archives

This record group is part of the files of the Historical Branch, War Plans Division, War Department General Staff, and was assembled by the Committee on Public Information (CPI), America's propaganda agency during the First World War. As we dug into this photo collection we found a sub file entitled "Enemy Activities - German Propaganda".  As it turns out, the U.S. government collected German propaganda pictures and they made a complete file on Dawson who was considered an interesting subject.

Most of these pictures were collected in December 1918. The description is very accurate and shows a lot more information than what must have been in the original photo captions from 1915. Presumably the editor received more information on Dawson's photographic work in wartime Europe, either from Dawson himself or from the FBI who investigated his work and produced a file on him in 1918.

Amazing Quality

We copied all of these pictures and the quality is simply amazing. There are many new photographs that we had never seen before, notably a picture showing Dawson in the trenches at the western front and another great shot showing him directing a war film in Galicia in the summer of 1915, together with his camera operator John Allen Everets.

Dawson in the trenches at the Western Front, 1915

During World War I when the United States was still neutral Dawson worked for a movie company that was funded by the Germans, producing a series of war films in America. You can read more about his film adventures in our book Shooting the Great War: Albert Dawson and the American Correspondent Film Company (2013).

We uploaded this magnificent collection to our photo channel on Flickr, and you are free to download these pictures here.

1 comment:

  1. Are those people actors or refugees? Fascinating nevertheless!