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Boer War
(1899-1902) - Fabrications

This exhibition examines questions of veracity in war photography and includes three distinct types of fabricated realities that were used to portray the events of the Boer War (1899-1902). The three types are:
  • Recreations of contemporary news events: The cards marketed by the Universal View Co. (Philadelphia Pa, Lawrence Kan) and E.W. Kelley (Chicago : Dallas, Tex : Augusta, Ga) come from different stereoview series but all appear to have been taken on the same day with the same cast of extras even though they purport to be real events. Some of the cards have titles that relate to real events "Boer Artillery, Battle of Spion Kop. South Africa" but the landscapes, trees, uniforms have no relationship to the contemporary photographs of the real battle. Some of the cards bear the mark of William H. Rau Publishers (Philadelphia, U.S.A.) and his life dates (1855-1920) mean that he could have taken them but this is not certain.
  • Recreations for industrial exhibitions: The industrial exhibitions included a wide range of entertainment including staged events. Some of the stereoviews shown here come from the "Louisiana Purchase Exposition" held in St. Louis (U.S.A.) in 1904. The photographs by H.C. White (The Perfec Stereograph) show recreations of scenes from the Boer War that have far more activity in them than the actual war photographs.
  • Patriotic scenes: Other images created scenes that showed the heroic troops in a romantic vein. These resemble theatrical stock shots and were to entertain rather than deceive.
During the Boer War film footage was taken by a variety of companies but there were also frauds including the Norden Films who shot scenes from the war in the countryside outside Blackburn in Great Britain. With profits to be made it is not surprising that fabricated events show up in both photographs and films. 



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