For the younger set who have thousands of photos on their cell phones and who take photos with the cell phone to remember something rather than write it down, I should explain the state of photography during the Second World War.

Digital cameras had not been invented yet. Every camera used film. It came rolled up in little canisters to protect the film from exposure to sunlight. You had to go into a dark room to put the film in the camera and make sure that the little holes running along the top and the bottom of the film were hooked into the camera properly, or the film would not advance correctly. You advanced the film by turning a little wheel like knob on the camera. You had to do this after each photo or you would get a double exposure of more than one picture on the same photograph. When the roll of film was done, usually 24 exposures, you took it out of the camera and took it to a camera shop. They developed the film in a dark room that involved a series of smelly chemicals and particular timing. When you came back to pay for your photographs, the shop gave you both the photographs and the negatives, ie the film. You kept the negatives in case you ever wanted to make another copy of any of the photographs.

Color film had been invented already, but it was expensive and in short supply. It also required a more expensive developing process. Ordinary people had black and white film and therefore black and white photos. Adding light to a scene with flash was a lot more complicated and awkward at the time as well, so you’ll notice that most casual photos from the war years were taken outside or at least during the day. News photographers had those giant hand-held flashes, of course, so you get night time photos in newspapers and other official sources.

There was nothing uncommon about photographs by the 1940s. Eastman Kodak had invented the brownie box camera that just about anyone could carry around and snap casual photos with in 1900. In fact, photographs were so common that they were required on those identity documents that everyone other than children had to carry around during the war. Of course, just like the passport office does not accept selfies today, you could not take your own identity photo during the war. Instead you went to a camera shop that took passport photos or even, in Paris at least, to an instant photo booth that made passport photos. Instant didn’t mean the same thing in 1944 as it does today, but you could have your photo within an hour. Dutch-Paris guides in Brussels took aviators to a big department store to get passport photos for their false documents.

However, film was hard to come by and expensive during the war. People tended to save it for important occasions. And no one wanted a photograph to help the Gestapo out in their investigations of illegal activities, whether they were resistance or black marketeering. So you tend to see a whole lot more photographs of the liberation (ie retreat of the German occupation authorities) than of members of the resistance in action. Unless, of course, you are looking at resisters’ false documents, which have the required passport photo attached.

And so, for reasons of both practical economy and self-preservation, there are not a whole lot of photographs of the men and women involved in Dutch-Paris during the war. But there are a few, and I thank everyone who has shared them with me.