A collection of photos from WWII depicts German soldiers in a peculiar situation

Erik Kessels (1966) is a Dutch artist, designer, curator, and co-founder of the advertising agency KesselsKramer in Amsterdam, with a particular interest in photography. In 1996, Kessels and Johan Kramer founded the “legendary and unorthodox” KesselsKramer, together with their publishing house, KesselsKramer Publishing, based in Amsterdam.

He frequently publishes his own and other people’s discoveries and commonplace photography and is “best known as a book publisher specializing in absurdist found photography”. Noteworthy works include his own In Almost Every Picture and the ongoing series Useful Photography, which he edits alongside others. As Sean O’Hagan noted in The Guardian, “His magazine, Useful Photography, forgoes art and documentary for purely functional images. Humor is the unifying undercurrent here, as it is in KesselsKramer’s series of photo books, In Almost Every Picture“.

As reported here, his new book Shit is a literal collection of images of Nazi soldiers taking a shit during World War II. In several of them, they are crouching on a wooden bar known as the “Donnerbalken” (bar of thunder) while conducting their business side by side.

“About a year ago, I stumbled upon some of the photos on eBay”, recalls the artist. “I’m not sure why, but there’s a pretty big second-hand market for these sorts of images from WWII”.

A brief introduction to the photographs’ historical backgrounds opens the book. Kessels claims that, while wishing to give the endeavor some academic credence, he was unable to locate a historian who has expertise in both feces and Nazis.

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Photos: © Erik Kessels / RVB Books