Recently my good friend, builder of this website and ‘silent partner’ of Creative Photo Workshops, David Oakley was approached by the Normandy Veterans Society to see whether he would be interested in capturing some portraits of the British Army and Navy survivors of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
David, like myself, loves to capture portraits of interesting people and he is also blessed with an incredible talent to then digitally paint these portraits and elevate the images to works of art.
Not many people know however that David has an acquired brain injury and because of this he is, among other things, unable to drive. David reached out to me to see if I was interested in being part of this journey with him and of course I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.
So, last week, we began our journey.
We received a list of people to shoot, along with a VERY brief description of where they served and we were off.
At first we were not sure what our objectives were to be, the brief was itself very brief “capture some good portraits”. The rest was left to us.
Our first day had us meeting two fantastic men, one a navy man whose job it was to deliver tanks to the beaches of Normandy and the other a man whose task it was to lay tracks on the beach for those very tanks to drive on. An amazing coincidence.
The first two sessions showed us what we were going to be up again artistically.
We would be shooting in very confined spaces, often with poor light and with people with limited mobility.
We decided to try and create two images of each person. One with a black background so that we had one image of each man that was the same , in style, as all the others.
The second image we wanted to capture was a more relaxed image of them in their surrounds.
So that is what we set out to do.
So far we have et and photographed 5 amazingly ordinary men who were placed in extraordinary situations and forced to deal with it. Their stories are in no books, they have not received medals of honour but simply medals that said they fought.
Their stories are incredibly varied yet al linked by this major milestone in that awful conflict.
Camaraderie is a common thread that seems to have got these men through some horrendous experiences.
Another interesting observation is how each of these men have incorporate their experiences into their lives.
In some of the houses there is little or no obvious signs that they were involved in one of the biggest days in history, in others the house is dominated by images, maps and models from the conflict.
David and I like to sit and talk with each gentlemen and get to know a little about them before we attempt to capture an image of them. We feel that this is the only way we can bring out some semblance of who they are.
The tricky part of this is to approach the subject of their experiences without being insensitive and causing pain. Not an easy task.
David and I are not sure where this journey will lead us, we have many more men to photograph, many more stories to hear and hopefully some wonderful images to carry us along.
One thing is for sure, we are honoured to be part of this experience.
Thank you for your service. Without your sacrifices the world would be a very different place.