Through his documentary studies research, Geoffrey Bass, a history major, made his grandfather’s World War II photos come alive.
The impetus for Geoff’s documentary studies research project was the discovery of a body of nearly 1,500 black and white 35mm film negatives documenting a World War II experience which had lain dormant for over 60 years. A review of the photographs showed them to be not only noteworthy for their artistic merit, unique content, and volume, but also provided a fascinating perspective of a soldier's experience at war.
The photographer, a staff sergeant in 481st Medical Collecting Company Separate and grandfather whom Geoff never met, maneuvered through England, France, Belgium, and Germany with his company and camera, capturing not only POWs and abandoned Axis land, but also deep and compelling images of the life of young men at war.
Most recently, through an active process of discovery, Geoff revitalized these old images through oral history interviews with two surviving members of the company and other WWII veterans. “Powerfully,” said Geoff, “the images and veteran soldiers, decades removed from the ‘Good War,’ detail a remarkable degree of humanity against a bleak background of war.”
Geoff displayed the photographs at Visible Thinking, Duke’s undergraduate research day. Geoff’s faculty research advisor was Thomas Rankin, Director of the Documentary Studies Program.