This book is Henry Leutwyler’s meticulous photographic record of the treasures of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. In his trademark style, Leutwyler does not merely document objects but creates portraits of them, conjuring up their past lives and imbuing the inanimate with character. Here he sifted through the nearly 30,000 objects in the museum, shaping a selection that most movingly conveys the vital functions of the Red Cross: to provide humanitarian protection and emergency aid, to deliver medical and community support, particularly for the poor and underprivileged. Among a variety of others, Leutwyler shows us objects famously symbolic of the Red Cross (first-aid kits, uniforms, armbands), confronting finds (amputation saws, a cannonball), as well as the unexpectedly beautiful: delicate beaded flowers made by a prisoner of war. His focus is on the details of objects, their imperfections, decay and often the damage they have endured: evocative of the people who put them to real humanitarian use.
These are not just objects, but rather a universal language that speaks to us of others: the suffering of the wounded, the status of prisoners of war, people’s need for assistance, their humanity and their hopes, but also their limits. – Yves Daccord