DARKROOM SOLDIER: PHOTOGRAPHS AND LETTERS FROM THE SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER WORLD WAR II
“DARKROOM SOLDIER is a tribute to the millions of service men and women who toiled throughout the war supporting the front line troops. For two years Sgt Hill processed reconnaissance photos in support of the Allied advance across the Pacific. In his free time he created an invaluable photographic record of his Pacific surroundings and day-to-day life in camp."
— Dr. Steve Waddell,
United States Military Academy, West Point
“DARKROOM SOLDIER is a unique record of the war in the Southwest Pacific. At once, it is both touching and informative. His photographs are mesmerizing, and his letters offer an intimate glimpse of what it was to live and love through a world war. Together, they tell the personal stories that all too often go untold."
— Maj Matt Rodman,
United States Air Force Academy
DARKROOM SOLDIER features a young photo reconnaissance officer’s intimate one-of-a-kind record of the invisible lives of support troops and civilians behind the lines in the Pacific Theater. Between October, 1943, and October, 1945, Sergeant Fred Hill, a young Oregon photographer, sent his wife Martha hundreds of photos and wrote her more than 300 letters. She saved them all. The selected letters and photographs create a unique record of the Pacific Theater—at once verbal and visual, civilian and military, documentary and emotional, historical and personal. The letters which had to pass Army censors are brief, vivid, candid, erotic, and they frequently refer to the image(s) on the facing page. Hill’s work is original intrahistory—a record of daily life as lived by thousands of people—both American and indigenous civilians.
Fred Hill of Elgin, Oregon, was born into a family of photographers. As a student, he attended Eastern Oregon University and studied with Minor White at the La Grande WPA Art Center. During World War II, Sergeant Hill served as Photo Lab Chief for a Fifth Air Force Tactical Reconnaissance squadron in the Pacific Theater where he took innumerable pictures, saved prints of many others, and wrote regularly to Martha, his wife working as a riveter for Boeing.
After the war, he attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco where he studied with Ansel Adams. Between 1948 and 1986, while employed as a commercial photographer in California, he created and exhibited award-winning photographs. Over 100 of his war photographs—both color and black/white—have been published in fourteen different books. (Darkroom Soldier includes 250 of Hill’s unpublished images.)
In 1989, Hill returned to Union County, Oregon, and now takes on freelance work of all kinds—historical prints, military history prints, original images. His work has regularly received awards, and is permanently displayed at the Tillamook Air Museum.
INSIDE DARKROOM SOLIDER
I. October 6-28, 1943: On SS General John Pope Sailing
II. November 4-16: Milne Bay, Territory of Papua,
III. November 18, 1943-March 26, 1944: Dobodura, Papua,
IV. March 26-June 30, 1944: Finschhafen, Papua,
V. July 3-27, 1944: On SS Russell Sage, Humboldt Bay,
Dutch New Guinea
VI. July 28-October 21, 1944: Biak, West Papua,
Netherlands East Indies; on SS Juan Cabrillo
VII. October 28, 1944-January 6, 1945: Tacloban/Dulag,
Leyte, The Philippines
VIII. January 7-April 4, 1945: San Jose, Mindoro, and
Manila, The Philippines
IX. April 4-July 29, 1945: Binmaley, Luzon, The
X. July 29-August 22, 1945: Ie Shima, Ryukyu Islands,
East China Sea
XI. September 5-October 1, 1945: On USS Cape Victory
Sailing for Seattle
Limited Edition; 300 pages (8.5”x11”/Landscape); includes 250 photos, 115 letters and 11 maps.
DARKROOM SOLDIER (Hard cover):
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