I could look — I have looked — at this photograph for hours.
There are 178 faces in this panorama. About fifty of them wear moustaches. Most of them look straight forward; most of them are not smiling. A few are slightly blurred. Of those standing, most have their arms at their sides; some have their hands behind their backs.
In the front row we see individuality more clearly. They are crowded together on a bench, and so some have turned slightly, one looks a little hunched, one is leaning forward a little. Most have their hands loosely clasped between their knees. Some hands lie lightly, and some in fists, on knees. A few have their arms folded across their chests. Only two have their knees and feet close together: most knees and feet wide apart, touching their neighbours — a constrained form of “man-spreading.” One has his legs crossed at his ankles; two have one leg crossed over the other. They are sitting side by side, with the legs crossed toward each other.
Sixty pairs of hands are visible, or visible enough to tell what is on them. Twenty-seven pairs are bare; twenty-seven pairs wear leather gloves. There are two pairs of gauntlets — gloves with long cuffs — two pairs of gloves that look knitted, one pair of mittens, and one pair of what are sometimes called “glits” — a combination of gloves and mittens, with individual pockets for the thumb and index finger, and one pocket for the remaining three fingers.
I am rather fond of the fellow in the knitted glits: he looks tense, as if he might leap up at any minute. His jaw is clenched, and his eyebrows low over his eyes. He also has the worst wrapped puttees of all the more than five dozen pairs of legs in the front row.
There is one other distinctive soldier in the front row: he wears his sergeant’s stripes; his gaze looks down, and his feet are not flat on the ground, but tucked back under the bench. His is the only black face in the crowd.
The panorama photograph of the 48th Battery, Canadian Expeditionary Force, was taken March 20, 1916 at the Exhibition Camp, Toronto, by the Panoramic Company, 239 Victoria Street, Toronto.
Copyright 2016. See “More about this Project.”