This post originated as a guest post for Lust in Time in December, 2008.
I rarely use photographs to give me character ideas, though occasionally after the story is in progress, or finished, I realize the character looks like a particular person. I do use photographs a lot, though, to both see details of clothing and weapons and to just get a feel for the period, and sometimes for inspiration. I like portraits best. I wonder what the people were thinking, and what their lives were like.
Here are some photographs of real participants in World War One, which I referred to while writing Moonlight Mistress for Harlequin Spice.
Albert Ball, a British flying ace who did not survive the war:
An unnamed Gurkha (Nepalese) soldier, who served in the British Army and has a very nice blade:
Reginald Arthur Brett, an American soldier:
Because of the colonial empires of England, France, and Germany, there were many soldiers from Africa serving on the Western Front, i.e., in the trenches, as well as in Africa itself, and Indian troops were deployed by the British very early on; they, too, served on all fronts.
Here are some Sikh soldiers in France; bicycles were used quite commonly by soldiers:
Sar Tinder from Senegal, serving with the French, in one of the color photographs from the period:
Related Post: Synergy in Writing and Research.