Skip to content

"The Best Exhibition I Have Ever Seen."

Welcome to Recovering The Past, a unique, contemporary photographic exhibition that warns of a future by depicting the past.

Recovering The Past is a project of true global relevance. Not a project of war itself, but one of people, and the lasting impact of human-conflict upon war’s survivors.

Constructed around the legacies of the First World War, this exhibition challenges its viewer to consider the long-term social and physical consequences of all wars.

Internationally exhibited, and with over 150,000 visitors to date, through its twenty-five striking images and poignant personal memoirs, this intricate, multi-layered project lays bare, the societal impact of war in the years after the Armistice.

Far from being a retrospective work, Recovering The Past conveys a significant and forward-looking narrative. With human-conflict an ever-present reality, this work is future-proofed; the legacies it reveals are not confined to the past, they are a sobering template of all wars to come.

A compelling, visual exploration of post-conflict achievement and reconciliation, Recovering The Past brings the past and present together through a series of striking montage images.

Today, through many thousands of dedicated cemeteries and memorials, society rightly remembers the men who died in battles of the Great War. For its embattled survivors, war-widows and orphans, and the mothers who grieved for lost sons, a very different story exists. With no such commemorative sites dedicated to the millions of these men, women and children who endured great personal suffering in the years after the Armistice, their plight has been all but forgotten. 

Recovering The Past raises the profile of these people. In giving them a long overdue and much deserved voice, they have become ambassadors to the future.

Numbering in the millions, and living the world-over, the voices of wars’ victims are rarely heard. Discover through this exhibition’s moving personal testimony, that for many of wars’ survivors, the impact of human-conflict will continue long after the signing of a peace treaty.

Interviewed in 1974 – more than fifty years after the Armistice – Australian First World War veteran Jim McPhee said:

“We thought we managed alright, kept the awful things out of minds, but now I’m an old man they come out from where I hid them. Every night.”

Jim McPhee was far from alone. The social aftermath created by the Great War was suffered not only by its returning soldiers, but by traumatised societies the world over. Countless men, women and children would pay a reluctant testament to this.

In November 1918, the signing of the Armistice brought the Great War to an end; however, the long-term legacies created by it, were already firmly established. The war had taken a terrible toll, not only on its returning veterans for who long-term mental health issues and suicide were to become common place, but also to the millions of women whose men were destined never to return.

An experience shared by societies of all nations who fought in the Great War, collectively, it illustrated that the war’s social and physical consequences had no national boundaries, nor were restricted to the battlefields themselves.

Amputee servicemen of the Great War. There is no dedicated memorial to wars’ survivors; it’s traumatised returning personnel, war-widows and orphans, and those grief-stricken through loss, are largely forgotten. Recovering The Past raises their profile, bringing their less-appreciated plight to the fore.

Recovering The Past is an exhibition like no other. Produced alongside the personnel of the Belgian army’s bomb-disposal team, the work takes its viewer on a journey through the complex and high-risk operation to recover and destroy century-old, unexploded ammunition from the fields of Flanders.

“I make several hundred collections of shells from the Flanders region each year…”

Itself a veteran of display at the United Nations in Geneva, Belgium’s centenary commemorations to the Great War, and an eighteen venue, nationwide tour of Australia, Recovering The Past has significant, international display credentials. 

A DOVO-SEDEE team recover a hoard of 148 unfired shells from a field in West Flanders.

Limited edition prints

Limited-edition, archival-quality prints from this exhibition are available for purchase in three distinct sizes. Each print will feature the image name, its unique edition number and the artist’s signature. 

Ian Alderman, Artist, and creator of Recovering The Past

“The most harrowing, touching explanation of what war does that I think I’ve ever viewed. It brought tears to my eyes & shivers down my spine. Just fantastic.”

Visitor to Recovering The Past’s exhibition at the Grassland Regional Gallery, QLD, October 2020

This ground-breaking exhibition brings together two separate groups of men with origins a century apart, but who are united through a tragic conflict. One being the famed ‘Diggers’ of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) who fought in Flanders in some of the worst battles of the Great War; the other, the personnel of the ongoing bomb disposal efforts on the same former battlefields today.

Annually, DOVO-SEDEE, the Belgian army’s bomb disposal team recover circa 200 tonnes of ammunition from land once the battlefields of Passchendaele. Starting in 1920, it was expected that the clear-up operation would be completed within three years, this was not to be the case. Today – and now in their second century of continuous operations in West Flanders – the work continues apace. For the modern-day population of this region, this lethal legacy and consequence of the Great War is a daily fact of life.

In a challenge to convention, Recovering The Past is a photographic exhibition which points its viewer towards the future. It is not a project of war itself, but a timely study of the long-term social and physical consequences of it.

Unexploded ammunition and conflict-induced human trauma are not problems unique to the First World War. More than one-hundred wars have been fought since the Armistice of 1918; each subsequent war created comparable legacies for successive generations to deal with, a situation likely to continue with wars yet to come.

For as long as war exists, the message conveyed in Recovering The Past will remain relevant. 



Exhibited at twenty-seven venues across four nations, viewed by more than 150,000 people, Recovering The Past’s narrative is one of timeless relevance.



With a narrative of global significance, the artist will strive to bring this human-focused exhibition to ever more international audiences.



That this exhibition will contribute to our greater understanding of human-conflict.