War Sand – Donald Weber

In my research about the global sand crisis (and other sand-related stories) I came across a news article in the BJP online about a book by photographer, Donald Weber.

His book, War Sand, is a “forensic” investigation into D-Day and carries the tagline “The epic of war, told by a grain of sand…” on Weber’s website

In BJP’s Erik Vroons piece, he says that Weber describes sand as mnemonic ( a tool/technique that aids with remembering), which ties to how many others feel about sand i.e. geologist Michael Welland or design duo Atelier NL.

And this sits so well with my new passion for sand as I too believe we can tell stories through this much under-appreciated resource.

For Weber, his work reflects his memory of a war tale about a commando mission to collect sand samples the year before the D-Day invasion to ensure the beaches could carry the weight of the forces. Weber says it is his grandfather that recounts the event, and dramatically unfolds a glass tube filled with sand from the beach he landed on back in 1943.

He worked with a writer, designer and physicist on this project and creates a book that is mix of images, texts, and scientific data. He goes from microscopic grains of sand to the sweeping and strangely haunting shoreline.

When I have visited France and walked these beaches, I too have felt the echoes of what has gone before. I even have an image hanging on my bathroom wall (as below) that shows a Portuguese Man o’ War with a crumbling concrete reminder of that time in the background. I personally do not have any family war stories of this kind to recount but I find it interesting that the book is also looking at social memory. Even without an intimate connection to this war, my social and cultural influences mean that I too can still respond to events long before my time.


For me, this raises questions again about how I need to share and display my Harena Now images.

What story will they tell on first viewing? Without other images to give context, place, human-influence etc. will they be able to carry the environmental tale of the sand crisis? Will they evoke a personal response even without direct personal connection?

What collective memories will my work induce? When I asked people on social media what sand meant to them, most replied that it conjured up a bond to nature, feelings of happiness and thoughts of inner calm.

I plan to start showing my Harena Now images to more audiences to garner how they view them, firstly before they are aware of the environmental story they carry, and then, secondly, how they feel about them after I have told them about the sand crisis they represent.

It may help me to determine, once and for all, whether the story in my ‘grains of sand’ can tell their tale through their aesthetic alone.


Vroons, Erik. 2017. ‘Fights on the beaches live on in Donald Weber’s War Sand’. bjp-online.com/. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2017/12/fights-on-the-beaches-live-on-in-donald-webers-war-sand/#OpenContactFormCust00 [accessed January 15, 2018]

Weber, Donald. War Sand. Available at: https://www.warsand.com/ [accessed January 15, 2018]