This past week has been one I certainly won’t forget in a hurry; Wednesday photographing and hanging out with a couple of folks that I’ve wanted to meet for quite some time (I’ll post about that next) and then on Thursday being Guest Speaker at RAF Cosford for the British Army Photographers (formerly the British Army Film and Photographic Unit – AFPU) Seminar followed by Regimental Dinner.
Here’s a short summary to give some background to the unit…
The Army Photographic Trade was formed during WW2 and today sits within the Royal Logistic Corps. Their content is curated at the Imperial War Museum and they have been involved in every aspect of military life for over 70 years during which time have won two Oscars. British Army Photographers are one of the smallest trades in the Army, numbering around 40, with ranks-ranged from Corporal to Warrant Officer Class 1. This RLC trade-group provides media capability to the Army and also provides specialist photographic training to the Army and other government departments. An average day might range from photographing operations worldwide, to covering a Royal visit. Using the latest video and stills cameras, the digital content is sent to civilian media agencies, often resulting in coverage on television and in newspapers as their our own channels and publications.
Pictured above (camera left) is Staff Sergeant Jamie Peters and (camera right) Warrant Officer (WO2) Tom Robinson
It was WO2 Tom Robinson who originally contacted me asking if I’d be the Guest Speaker at the Annual Seminar having seen me presenting at this years Photography Show at the NEC. Being asked completely bowled me over with it being such a privilege and even more so as it connects with my World War 2 Veterans Project; this forming a big part of my presentation.
My presentation / talk was focused (no pun intended) on the importance of photography / photographs and the stories to illustrate this, plus talking through my World War 2 Project and stories of the men and women I’ve photographed so far. Speaking with both serving and retired soldiers afterwards, it was so incredibly moving to see how it had made them think and had resonated with them, which for me is all I could have ever hoped for.
To say I was looked after on the day would be an understatement and I can’t thank everyone involved enough for making it such a special day and for making me feel so incredibly welcome (Tom, Jamie, Dek and all)
Being a Guest at the Regimental Dinner was such an honour and again, something I’ll never forget; the history, the tradition, the formality, the food, the company and the conversation was everything and more I imagined it would be.
As if this wasn’t enough, I was part of the official Regimental Photograph and at the end of the meal I was presented with this shield / plaque by Command Master Photographer (Senior Army Photographer and the Head of Trade) Dan Harmer WO1 (Warrant Officer 1st Class); needless to say this now hangs in pride of place in my office…
During my talk I also gave a demonstration to show how I photograph the Veteran Portraits using minimal kit, with me photographing Sergeant Dek Traylor (British Army Photographers)…
Even now as I write this I’m still on a high. I never thought or imagined I’d be experiencing such occasions as this when I first started out on my personal project photographing World War 2 Veterans.
The project is all about giving Veterans and their families a portrait to treasure but as time goes on it reminds me again and again that if you do something with the very best of intentions and take the focus off yourself, good things do happen…
Thanks for the kind comments it was a pleasure to host you.
It’s us who are thankful to you, I don’t think in my 10 years of attending the seminars we’ve had a guest speaker who created such an emotional response to what they are doing.
The care and compassion for the veterans you showed and expressed during the talk resonated with everyone.
I know you don’t like the word passion but it is evident that you really care about these celebrities and are passionate about telling their story and giving them a small token of thanks for what we all owe them.
It’s not easy for a ‘civvy’ to come into a room full of military and create such a connection, we have a thing called Values and Standards in the Army which we are encouraged to apply to everything we do in work and life.
I think you too hold very similar values and standards that, coupled with the sensitive way you have stepped into the Normandy Vets lives really hit home with all of us.
I was a bit lost for words afterwards and could only manage “that was spot on mate” it really was and is an exceptional thing you are doing.
I’ll send you through a bit more detail about Army Photographers and what we do along with the group shots next week.
I hope America goes well for you, we will try to catch up in Normandy or in the future when we definitely do something as a group.
~ Staff Sergeant Jamie Peters