“Use Photography as a Weapon!”
Soldier Artist John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld) is drafted into the Kaiser-Franz-Josef Regiment in September 1914. He is scheduled to be sent to the front.
Heartfield fakes mental illness in the form of a nervous breakdown in order to avoid participation in what he considers a greater insanity – war. His “performance” is so realistic that he attacks an officer who mocks his cowardice. The soldier artist Heartfield is sent to a rehabilitation facility.
There can be no questions that Heartfield’s action was a philosophical protest, not a question of courage. He proved his bravery over and over again during World War II when he risked his life to oppose the insanity of Hitler and his Third Reich.
When he’s released from rehabilitation, Heartfield is assigned to a propaganda unit. He walks to the front to see the reality of the German trenches. He returns to tell a friend that the conditions at the front are unimaginable. Heartfield’s later work employed sensory excess – noise pain and even screams. Many of his photomontages were an answer to the photography of World War One that were intended as visual sedative.