Slovenia, May 1914
These healthy and gay-spirited young men from Vienna, Austria, are enjoying a lighthearted day on the beach by the Adriatic Sea in Slovenia. Back then, nobody could think of a better way to have fun than to jump in your fanciest swimming attire, pull out the rifle, and head for the beach to show off your precious equipment (and the gun).
You might even get lucky and shoot a critically endangered bird like this Eurasian black vulture, a feat that would actually impress the ladies! In those days, society encouraged extinction of the vultures of the region as they regarded these birds to be a menace to agriculture. “Critically endangered” was mostly considered good news a century ago.
There is some sad irony in this happy picture. The young Austrian riflemen in swimsuits were happily unaware that a Serbian nationalist would murder the Austro-Hungarian crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife in Sarajevo about a month later.
The event triggered the First World War, a conflict that ended nine million soldiers’ lives on the muddy battlefields of Europe. If this picture had been taken four years later, chances are there would be fewer, less able-bodied, and not-so-merry hunters in the frame.