Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Soldiers First - Army Photographers Second

From War On Terror News:
A People In Defence news article

4 Jan 12

Army photographers have an important job in communicating and recording military activity. But they are very much soldiers first. Report by Leigh Hamilton.

A Fire Support Team from 7 Para Regt RHA radio back to headquarters following an air insertion operation; Winner of the Army Multimedia, Best Overall Image and Army Professional Photographer of the Year (Portfolio) [Picture: Sergeant Rupert Frere, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

The appetite of the media in reporting world events is stronger than it has ever been, with online newspapers, 24-hour TV and social media available at our fingertips. But without images these stories have much less impact and are arguably less credible.

Take the death of former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. It was the photos of his body, sent across the globe within minutes of his death, which confirmed his demise.

This is why photography within the Armed Forces is of such paramount importance, it is to help communicate UK's Defence messages to the masses.

MOD employs civilian and military photographers from all three Services who capture stills and video of the full range of activities undertaken by Defence personnel; from operations overseas and training exercises to homecoming parades and ceremonial events.

One of the 39 professionally-trained Army photographers is Sergeant Steve Hughes, who is currently posted to Headquarters London District.

Having taken stills in Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, he is now responsible for capturing images in London of visiting dignitaries and ceremonial events involving the Royal Family, which, as he explained, is a completely different take on the job than he had experienced previously:

"Within a month of being here, I've photographed most of the Royal Family, a lot of MPs and celebrities, and I hadn't done any of that in the previous six years of being a photographer."

But with the glamour of being based in London also comes a lot of hard graft:

"A lot of people say 'oh, you're a photographer, that's a cushy job isn't it?' but you really do work hard," he said.

"For instance during the Remembrance weekend, I worked long hours and would be in the office until midnight sometimes in order to sort through all the images. Having said that, I really enjoy being a photographer. It has got to be the best job in the Army, without a doubt."

The trade of combat photographer has a rich history, beginning with Surgeon John McCosh, who was the official photographer to the Army of the East India Company in 1848.


Fusilier John Bryant, A Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers, in the muddy compound where he has lived, since arriving in Helmand province in October on his 18th birthday [Picture: Sergeant Rupert Frere, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

To this day, the role of photography in reporting operations in Afghanistan remains paramount in keeping not just the public, but key personnel, government ministers and advisers up to date.

For those of us not on the front line, seeing images of our UK Service personnel in Afghanistan can help to bring us closer to the action from the safety of our homes.

We hear about operations, Afghan villages, shuras, Camp Bastion and many other terms which, without photographs of them, would be much harder to visualise.

But it takes a certain type of person to be a combat photographer and put themselves on the front line to capture the images that will bring the truth of an operational theatre back home....

Much more of this must read look at this important role, here.

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