What is this photograph showing?

It takes a while to figure out what is going on in this photograph.  I thought of Jackson Pollock, of course, and then started to see something festive and celebratory in the streaks of light; finally, I saw a kind of violence, as if someone had taken a knife to the negative.  I was right about the violence, if nothing else: this extraordinary picture is a long-exposure shot from the skies above Brest, France on 31 January 1941 as the Royal Air Force conducted a nighttime bombing raid and tried to evade flak and anti-aircraft fire.  The thin lines are from tracer shells, the thicker ones come from heavier guns.  The indistinct pattern in the background are the factories and other buildings of Brest.

This photo — and the ones below showing the sort of steadfastness in war to make a British heart flutter — comes from the Atlantic’s ongoing series about WWII.  Having already written about this series once I had no intention of doing so again, but somehow they keep finding fresh visual material on one of the most well-documented periods of history.  For another perspective on WWII, there is the French diary I found in the marché aux puces outside Paris and the letter my grandfather wrote from Japan on the day the war ended.

 

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