Category Archives: documentary

Dying Matters

Exploring how photography can help us make sense of loss, with pictures by: Anastasia Taylor Lind, Lydia Goldblatt, Briony Campbell and Guy Martin.

 

Having suffered loss and photographed loss I can understand the importance that photography can play in helping us come to terms with losing our loved ones. When I think of my parents (who died in 2010,  very close together) the memories are often linked to photographs I have. For me at least my memory is sparked by imagery, and photography, being a medium that is very well suited to exploring the passing of time, is the natural partner to this process of remembering.

In my project Before They Were Fallen, exploring Remembrance, the passing of time and loss is revealed very directly in the comparison between two pictures: a family snap and its recreation taken after a death in action.

Before They were Fallen , Afghanistan Remembrance

HELENA TYM AND ROBIN THATCHER from Berkshire, are the parents of Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher who was killed on June 2nd, 2009, in an explosion whilst on patrol in Helmand province. He was 19. Before: Helena, Robin and Cyrus at home in Reading, Prom Night, May 2006. After: At home in Reading, July 2015 “We haven’t taken many photographs since Cyrus was killed, because all we see, when we look at them, is the one face that isn’t there. That’s why, when we were approached about this project, we wanted to do it, because it conveyed exactly how we feel. There is this space all the time, and I feel it very physically, so to be able to show it in a photograph is really important.”

Elsewhere in the project I used photography  to explore the potential for objects to store traces of a loved one.   The pictures consider the  possibility that we can  lock memories within a solid form such as  an object of significance.  They then store emotional potential like a reservoir  for thoughts and emotions, to be released by touch or through a visual connection.

UK _ Remembrance Objects of Significance , TONI O’DONNELL

Stones and Stuff “Gary loved to collect fossils, stone and shells form the places he went. He would be able to tell you exactly where each piece came from.” Toni O’Donnell, lost her husband, Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary ‘Gaz’ O’Donnell GM, from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, when he was killed on Wednesday 10 September 2008, in Helmand province.

I know from the interest I have had in the story both from the participants and the audience  that photography as a tool to explore loss can be very effective and that there is a huge appetite for imagery dealing with this issue. When I was invited to be a Judge for the Dying Matters photography competition along with Rankin, Lisa Pritchard ( and several judges  from outside of the  photography industry) I really wanted to support it, believing apart being a from fund raising opportunity for the charity,  the competition was also a brilliant vehicle for people trying to make sense of their own loss and bereavements.

The  theme for the competition which can you enter here is broadly dying and  bereavement ,

“To enter, you need to submit a photograph and text to Celebrate Life in the Face of Death.  Your photograph could be a place, person, or object or abstract composition exploring dying, death or bereavement which:

Is a memory or moment of someone or something special in your life
Is a representation of a life changing experience or achievement
Depicts community spirit
Reminds you of mortality”

With that in mind I wanted to use this blog to show case some pictures that I feel deal with the subject particularly well in the hope that I can inspire some of the entrants. These pictures are selected  from  the work of friends and colleagues  and bearing in mind I’m a documentary photographer this genre is particularly well represented in this selection. They deal with public and private loss .

Brioney Campbell and Lydia Goldblat are two photographers who have dealt with the approaching  death of their fathers in  a very personal and hugely inspiring way. The Photography engages us immediately,  poetically and with intensity. The viewer shares the journey to the point of departure on an extraordinary  intimate level.

The work, undoubtedly, is part of the grieving process for Briony and Lydia; but through their attempt to make sense of their loss , and their generosity in sharing, we the viewer have  privileged access to this very private process.

Briony’s The Dad Project works with film and image; the sound is crucial in the film but always its the stills that hold our attention rather than the moving footage.

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“You seem like a very kind man David”. “Well thank you Alan I tried”. Alan the paramedic’s eyes were full when he replied; “Just keep on trying is all I can say to you my friend”.

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Me (Briony) as Dad, 1986

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Today we knew he would die soon. I went outside and looked at the sky while we waited for the ambulance. It was perfectly beautiful.

Lydia’s series, Still Here (Hatje Cantz 2013 ) seeks to make sense of the transition between  life and death, by searching for the poetic or ‘metaphysical’.

According to the publisher “her work offers a concentrated meditation on mortality, time, love and loss, in which corporeal scrutiny courts metaphysical wonder. The images are often limited to a single detail: a timepiece abandoned on a shelf, a closed eyelid, the sunlit form of a bee.”

Lydia herself says of her work “Photographing, for me, is a means of giving expression to both the internal and external processes that shape our experience of life”

she is “interested in the indefinable thresholds that mark out our individual existence, and in the subtle process of erasure that returns us to the state from which we emerge.”

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From the personal to the public sphere I wanted to show case the work of two other friends and colleagues , Anastasia Taylor-lind and Guy Martin , who like me have been interested in new ways of documenting  aftermath of conflict. They  both offered an interesting take on the Maiden protests, ( Kiev, Ukraine, February 2014)  that led to the shooting of 112 protestors.

Anastasia did not set out to document death or dying, I’m  guessing originally , but her project which began as exploration of the idiosyncratic nature of the protestors and their home made Armour soon became a study of  loss following the tragic shooting and deaths  of 112 protestors . An insight into the work is inferred from a recent quote, “Men fight wars, and women mourn them,”

Portraits from the Black Square Is published by Ghost books 2014 .

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Guys work, ‘Shrines of Maidan’,  is again impressive in its simplicity , in his words the pictures ‘serve as reminders of the lives that were lost during the early convulsions of the Ukrainian revolution. He explains “photographers, returning to locations months and years after bloody and often violent events have taken place are often fraught with the weight of responsibility. How can it be possible to represent those historical events when all but the slimmest trace of of that specific violent history remains? These shrines, dotted along a snow covered avenue were not only a physical monument to those events but also a reminder in the enduring power of the simple family album image.”

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I hope these pictures give you a flavor of what is possible in both public and private spheres when photographing  Death and dying; and most importantly the inspiration and courage  to enter the competition.

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End of Year Update #BeforeTheyWereFallen

Before They Were Fallen  is a project dealing  with remembrance. Myself and Katy Regan use the power of photography and testimony together, to link memory, the passing of time and loss to create a body of work which pays tribute to  the British soldiers who gave their lives in the Afghanistan conflict.

This blog is dedicated to giving news of  the exposure the work has been receiving, which with the help of our really excellent public relation guru  Helen Nesbitt has been impressive. Thankyou @helennesbitt.

Please forgive the numbers and technical nature of the post here, I just wanted a place to share all the wonderful exposure and  the progress of the work in detail, a summary is available on the news page.

Press and Publicity

16/09/2015 Phill Coombes BBC

This post leads to a sharp spike of visits ( 5000 a day ) to my site louisquail.com and 5100 shares, whilst on the main page.

Following this publicity I discovered 200 secondary shares on the National Arboretum blog with many overwhelmingly positive comments  and is hopefully representative of secondary sharing which is hard to track.

 

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British Forces Broadcasting Service  carry out a radio interview by Nicky Smith  (@producernicky)  which can be downloaded here.

 31/10/2015 Publication

Guardian Weekend ( publishes as scheduled, running the project over seven pages ; the project is shared 3100 times on Facebook and other platforms; Candis Magazine scheduleto run the story in the February 2016 issue.

Touring show – 18/09/2015, Four Corners Gallery – 05/11/2015 Oriel Colwyn.

The exhibition has been well received at both venues. In Wales we received  local coverage from the North Wales Pioneer and  impressively a visit from ITV Wales with a prime time news slot on the 05/11/2015 (395000 estimated viewers); in addition  they hosted the work on the main ITV web site.

There have also been  many supportive and warm comments.

To coincide with the  showing at  Fife FotoSpace Gallery in Glenrothes, Scotland (18/01/2015 until 25/02/2106)  a talk about the work  at Napier University was given and both Forces TV (27000 viewers daily 582 online sharers ) and Scottish ITV (6800000 estimated viewers ) broadcast short films.

There have been two more requests to show the work , news to follow, perhaps at the end of this year.

Helena Tym told us in her interview, “For me, Cyrus lives until the last person who says his name, dies. …I want people to know that our soldiers are not just machines who go out there for killing, that they’re human beings; who had family who loved them very much”.

So keeping the memories alive is hugely important and knowing the work has been so well received is  also very rewarding. I will leave you with this spontaneous tweet from respected photographer Abbi Trayler-Smith. Its  very welcome  and representative of the warmth of feeling the work has generated.

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As always its been  a privilege to share these stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest We Forget

One last post for Remembrance Sunday (and Remembrance day) to share the ‘Before They Were Fallen’ project in honour of all the families who took part. Thank you for sharing your stories of courage, strength and sadness and for everyone’s support during the making, publishing  and exhibiting.

In October 2014, British troops finally withdrew from Afghanistan.
453 soldiers lost their lives during the thirteen-year campaign and over that time we, as a nation, became used to the faces of the fallen flashing up on our screens and in our newspapers; images of their coffins being carried from planes and through towns lined with mourners. For the vast majority of us, those faces will now have faded in our consciousness, but for the families and friends of those Fallen, there is no fading and no forgetting.

The work shown here, funded by the Arts Council and published in the Guardian Weekend , with interviews by Katy Regan represents a body of work produced as an exhibition and Touring show, see below for dates .

TONI O’DONNELL is the widow of Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary 'Gaz' O'Donnell GM & Bar from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, who was killed on Wednesday 10 September 2008, in Helmand province. He was 40. Before: “Photograph of Gary and myself taken at the christening of our eldest child, Aidan. A very happy day full of friends, family and love, taken on 26th November 2000 at Kineton Army Barrracks in Warwickshire.” After: Recreated At home in Warwickshire, 15/04/2015. To make a donation please go to www.felixfund.org.uk

TONI O’DONNELL is the widow of Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary ‘Gaz’ O’Donnell GM & Bar from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, who was killed on Wednesday 10 September 2008, in Helmand province. He was 40.
Before: “Photograph of Gary and myself taken at the christening of our eldest child, Aidan. A very happy day full of friends, family and love, taken on 26th November 2000 at Kineton Army Barrracks in Warwickshire.”
After: Recreated At home in Warwickshire, 15/04/2015.
To make a donation please go to http://www.felixfund.org.uk

“A few weeks after Gary’s body came back, I got his things in a box. That was really tough, because it smelt of him, it was him. He used to send for these ‘Aussie bum pants’ from Australia which were bright colours – typical of Gary because he was such an extrovert and that was very emotional because it was so Gary, you know, it was so him.

HELENA TYM AND ROBIN THATCHER from Caversham, Berkshire, are the parents of Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher serving in 2nd Battalion The Rifles who was killed on June 2nd, 2009, in an explosion whilst on patrol in Helmand province. He was 19. PHOTO CAPTION Before: (Robin) “That smile of yours might work for your mum”: Prom Night, May 2006; Helena, Robin and Cyrus at home in Reading. After: At home in Reading, 16/07/2015 To make a donation to SSAFA Bereaved Family Support Group please go to www.ssafa.org.uk

HELENA TYM AND ROBIN THATCHER from Caversham, Berkshire, are the parents of Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher serving in 2nd Battalion The Rifles who was killed on June 2nd, 2009, in an explosion whilst on patrol in Helmand province. He was 19.
PHOTO CAPTION
Before: (Robin) “That smile of yours might work for your mum”: Prom Night, May 2006; Helena, Robin and Cyrus at home in Reading.
After: At home in Reading, 16/07/2015
To make a donation to SSAFA Bereaved Family Support Group please go to http://www.ssafa.org.uk

”We haven’t taken many photographs since Cyrus was killed, because all we see, when we look at them, is the one face that isn’t there. That’s why, when we were approached about this project, we wanted to do it, because it conveyed exactly how we feel. There is this space all the time, and I feel it very physically, so to be able to show it in a photograph is really important.”

ROSEMARY DAY from Comber, Northern Ireland, lost her daughter, Corporal Channing Day, serving in 3 Medical Regiment, when she was killed on patrol in Helmand, on October 24th 2012 Before: ”Our last mummy Channing cuddles before leaving for Afghan” Rosemary and Channing at home in Comber, Northern Ireland, 2012. After: Recreated in the same location 01/09/2015 To make a donation please go to www.combatstress.org.uk

ROSEMARY DAY from Comber, Northern Ireland, lost her daughter, Corporal Channing Day, serving in 3 Medical Regiment, when she was killed on patrol in Helmand, on October 24th 2012
Before: ”Our last mummy Channing cuddles before leaving for Afghan” Rosemary and Channing at home in Comber, Northern Ireland, 2012.
After: Recreated in the same location 01/09/2015
To make a donation please go to http://www.combatstress.org.uk

“I am sitting at home maybe eating my dinner and my daughter is under fire and you cant process that in your head that this wee girl that you brought up and protected all those years is out there fighting… in a compound under fire from the Taliban”

MARTIN HARRISON from Watford, Hertfordshire lost his son, Corporal Chris Harrison, 26, serving in 40 Commando, the Royal Marines when he was killed in an explosion in Sangin, on May 9th 2010. PHOTO CAPTION Before: “Chris and Dad, Christmas 1999 ‘The Matrix look’ present“ After: Recreated at home in Watford, 07/08/2015 To make a donation to The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund (RMCTF) please go to www.rmctf.org.uk

MARTIN HARRISON from Watford, Hertfordshire lost his son, Corporal Chris Harrison, 26, serving in 40 Commando, the Royal Marines when he was killed in an explosion in Sangin, on May 9th 2010.
PHOTO CAPTION
Before: “Chris and Dad, Christmas 1999 ‘The Matrix look’ present“
After: Recreated at home in Watford, 07/08/2015
To make a donation to The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund (RMCTF) please go to http://www.rmctf.org.uk

“He loved the film The Matrix and wanted a full-length leather coat but we couldn’t quite stretch to that- so we got him this! It used to make us laugh that he would walk around in it virtually all day long.”

CORBIN MACKIN from Plymouth lost his brother, Travis Mackin, 22, who was serving in 45 Commando, the Royal Marines, when he was killed in an explosion on January 11th 2009 in the Kajaki area of Afghanistan. At the time of Travis’ death, Corbin was also serving in 1st Battalion the rifles and deployed in the same operation in Helmand. 1. Before: Corbin and Travis photographed in Cyprus After: Recreated in Blackpool Sands, Devon, 30/07/15. To make a donation please go to www.helpforheroes.org.uk

CORBIN MACKIN from Plymouth lost his brother, Travis Mackin, 22, who was serving in 45 Commando, the Royal Marines, when he was killed in an explosion on January 11th 2009 in the Kajaki area of Afghanistan. At the time of Travis’ death, Corbin was also serving in 1st Battalion the rifles and deployed in the same operation in Helmand.
1. Before: Corbin and Travis photographed in Cyprus
After: Recreated in Blackpool Sands, Devon, 30/07/15.
To make a donation please go to http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk

“The battle doesn’t end when you get back from Afghanistan. People can never understand what you’ve been through.”

NIKKI SCOTT from Walpole St Andrews, Norfolk, lost her husband Corporal Lee Scott, from the 2nd Royal Tank regiment, when the vehicle he was on was blown up by an IED. He was 26. PHOTO CAPTION Before: 2nd February 2008. All Saints Church, North Wootton, King's Lynn, Norfolk. “Just Married! Amazing moment of the day that I shall cherish forever. Mr & Mrs Scott.” After: Same location, Nikki with their children, Kai and Brooke make a donation please go to www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

NIKKI SCOTT from Walpole St Andrews, Norfolk, lost her husband Corporal Lee Scott, from the 2nd Royal Tank regiment, when the vehicle he was on was blown up by an IED. He was 26.
PHOTO CAPTION
Before: 2nd February 2008. All Saints Church, North Wootton, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. “Just Married! Amazing moment of the day that I shall cherish forever. Mr & Mrs Scott.”
After: Same location, Nikki with their children, Kai and Brooke
make a donation please go to http://www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

“The strangest thing was being told this horrendous thing had happened, that he wouldn’t be coming home and yet, there was no evidence of Lee: no coffee cup from the morning, no toothbrush – it was like he was still on tour.”

ANNE LINLEY from Bournville, West Midlands, lost her son, Sergeant Brett Linley GM when he was killed whilst trying to deactivate a bomb in Afghanistan on July 17th 2010. Sergeant Linley from the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps. He was 29. PHOTO CAPTIONS Delete as appropriate: Picture 1 Before:, “Boxing day walk with George, (husband) Brett and myself.” Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, circa 1994. After: Same location 06/02/2015 To make a donation please go to www.felixfund.org.uk

ANNE LINLEY from Bournville, West Midlands, lost her son, Sergeant Brett Linley GM when he was killed whilst trying to deactivate a bomb in Afghanistan on July 17th 2010. Sergeant Linley from the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps. He was 29.
PHOTO CAPTIONS
Delete as appropriate:
Picture 1
Before:, “Boxing day walk with George, (husband) Brett and myself.” Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, circa 1994.
After: Same location 06/02/2015
To make a donation please go to http://www.felixfund.org.uk

“Brett was into anything if it was alive; he absolutely loved wildlife. I’ve never seen anybody pick up a bee and thank it for doing its work before.”

RACHEL MURPHY from Bristol, is the widow of Lance Corporal John Murphy who served in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and after 22 years in the military, took his own life in January 2007, leaving Rachel and their two children; Emily and Steven, who were aged 2 and 3 at the time. Before: “The last photo of all of us in happier times” Rachel, John and their children, Emily and Steven at home in Bristol, November 2006. After: At home in Bristol. 10/5/15 To make a donation please go to www.combatstress.org.uk and www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

RACHEL MURPHY from Bristol, is the widow of  Lance Corporal John Murphy who served in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and after 22 years in the military, took his own life in January 2007, leaving Rachel and their two children; Emily and Steven, who were aged 2 and 3 at the time.
Before: “The last photo of all of us in happier times” Rachel, John and their children, Emily and Steven at home in Bristol, November 2006.
After: At home in Bristol. 10/5/15
To make a donation please go to http://www.combatstress.org.uk and http://www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

“When John was clearly unwell, I was saying you really need to go and see someone and he was saying ‘I don’t need no head doctor, what will people think? …. From the moment you enter the army you are bred to be a fighting machine, to show huge personal courage in the face of adversity. Those are all wonderful attributes but at the same time they can also be detrimental to the human psyche because the brain isn’t wired to cope with that amount of stress. “

STEVE BARNSDALE from Tring, in Hertfordshire lost his son, Corporal David Barnsdale, serving in the 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) when he was killed by an IED on 19th October 2010. Before: “Christmas, 2004 at our home in Tring, just prior to David being transferred to be based in Germany.” After: Same location 11/02/2015 To make a donation please go to www.soldierscharity.org

STEVE BARNSDALE from Tring, in Hertfordshire lost his son, Corporal David Barnsdale, serving in the 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) when he was killed by an IED on 19th October 2010.
Before: “Christmas, 2004 at our home in Tring, just prior to David being transferred to be based in Germany.”
After: Same location 11/02/2015
To make a donation please go to http://www.soldierscharity.org

“One of the last things I said to him was, ‘a speeding fine’s come through in the post’. He was terrible for getting parking and speeding fines, never seemed to know how it worked.”

CAROLINE MUNDAY from Coleshill, Worcestershire, lost her son, Trooper James Munday, serving in the Household Cavalry Regiment when he was killed driving a jackal, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 15th October 2008. He was 21. Before: Caroline and her son James at Caroline’s parents’ house, April 2005, Coleshill, Warwickshire. After: Same location, April 2013. To make a donation to the Household Cavalry Foundation please go to www.hcavfoundation.org

CAROLINE MUNDAY from Coleshill, Worcestershire, lost her son, Trooper James Munday, serving in the Household Cavalry Regiment when he was killed driving a jackal, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 15th October 2008. He was 21.
Before: Caroline and her son James at Caroline’s parents’ house, April 2005, Coleshill, Warwickshire.
After: Same location, April 2013.
To make a donation to the Household Cavalry Foundation please go to http://www.hcavfoundation.org

“I was on my knees in the car park, screaming. Then this bubble just formed around me, I picked myself up and walked back inside and said to the security guard, ‘I’ve just found out that my son has been killed in Afghanistan’, I need to go back into the building.”

EMMA BETTS, from Nottingham lost her brother, Private James Prosser, a warrior infantry vehicle driver serving in 2nd battalion the Royal Welsh, when he was killed as a result of an explosion in Helmand, Afghanistan on September 27th, 2009. He was 21. Before: “Brotherly and sisterly fun playing Barbies” Caerphilly, Wales, July 1992. After: Same location 07/04/2013. To make a donation please go to www.soldierscharity.org

EMMA BETTS, from Nottingham lost her brother, Private James Prosser, a warrior infantry vehicle driver serving in 2nd battalion the Royal Welsh, when he was killed as a result of an explosion in Helmand, Afghanistan on September 27th, 2009. He was 21.
Before: “Brotherly and sisterly fun playing Barbies” Caerphilly, Wales, July 1992.
After: Same location 07/04/2013.
To make a donation please go to http://www.soldierscharity.org

“I miss my little brother: I just miss him being around. It was strange going back to that house in Caerphilly for the photo, because I hadn’t been in fifteen years and everything felt smaller and on the wall behind us are the two, white, football posts that were painted on, and that we used to play against when we were little. It made me nostalgic for that time, when life was simple… As I get older, I get sadder, I get angrier. I miss him more”

SARAH ADAMS from Cwmbran in Wales lost her son, Private James Prosser, a warrior infantry vehicle driver serving in the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh when he was killed as a result of an explosion in Helmand, Afghanistan on September 27th, 2009. He was 21. Before: Sarah and James at Ashbridge Inn, Cwmbran, April 2009 “A precious hug from James … How I wish I could have one now.” After: Same location, 4/4/15 To make a donation please go to www.soldierscharity.org

SARAH ADAMS from Cwmbran in Wales lost her son, Private James Prosser, a warrior infantry vehicle driver serving in the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh when he was killed as a result of an explosion in Helmand, Afghanistan on September 27th, 2009. He was 21.
Before: Sarah and James at Ashbridge Inn, Cwmbran, April 2009
“A precious hug from James … How I wish I could have one now.”
After: Same location, 4/4/15
To make a donation please go to http://www.soldierscharity.org

“When James was little, he liked to dress up as a super-hero. One of my most vivid memories is of James dressed as Batman, standing on a wall in the back garden. I was looking at him from the kitchen window and he was going ‘Mummy, I can fly!’ and I’m trying to say ‘no you can’t’ but then he did, and it was a trip to A&E again. There was nothing he wouldn’t attempt.”

BRENDA HALE, from Northern Ireland, is the widow of Captain Mark Hale, of 2nd Battalion the Rifles who was 42 when he was killed in an explosion whilst on patrol in Sangin on August 13th 2009. PHOTO CAPTION Before: “Me and my man, Paris, 2008” BH After: Same location 26/07/2015. To make a donation please go to www.soldierscharity.org

BRENDA HALE, from Northern Ireland, is the widow of Captain Mark Hale, of 2nd Battalion the Rifles who was 42 when he was killed in an explosion whilst on patrol in Sangin on August 13th 2009.
PHOTO CAPTION
Before: “Me and my man, Paris, 2008” BH
After: Same location 26/07/2015.
To make a donation please go to http://www.soldierscharity.org

“He told me he loved me in his third letter. I was reading it on a train to Belfast and I went ’yippee!’ and everyone on the train turned and looked and I was like ‘he loves me!’ it felt like I’d drunk a bottle of champagne – everything was just going pop.”

AMY LAWRENCE is the widow of Trooper Phillip Lawrence, originally from Birkenhead, the Wirral. Trooper Lawrence served in the Light Dragoons (based in Norfolk) and was killed on July 27th, 2009 in Helmand when the vehicle he was driving was in an explosion. He was 22. Before: “First family photo” (Amy, Phillip and Jess) January 2009, Jess three months old. AL After: Amy and Jess, recreated in Norwich, 9/04/2015. To make a donation please go to www.armywidows.org.uk and www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

AMY LAWRENCE is the widow of Trooper Phillip Lawrence, originally from Birkenhead, the Wirral. Trooper Lawrence served in the Light Dragoons (based in Norfolk) and was killed on July 27th, 2009 in Helmand when the vehicle he was driving was in an explosion. He was 22.
Before: “First family photo” (Amy, Phillip and Jess) January 2009, Jess three months old. AL
After: Amy and Jess, recreated in Norwich, 9/04/2015.
To make a donation please go to http://www.armywidows.org.uk and http://www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

“…the regiment Welfare Officer had stayed on the barracks the night before and had looked over at my house with no lights on and thought, I’ve got to break that poor girl’s heart tomorrow.”

The Exhibition

Having been exhibited at Four Corners Gallery in September The exhibition continues in Oriel Colwyn Gallery, North Wales, November 5th to December the 5th 2015 (with a special viewing arranged for Remembrance day) and FOTOPACE Gallery, fife Scotland, Monday 18th January – Saturday 27th February, 2016

Please check here for further news , and email Louis quail and Katy Regan  if you are interested in showing the work or becoming a contributor.

Synopsis Continued

Before They Were Fallen deals with remembrance. Through intimate photographs and powerful testimonies this project honours the sacrifice of the soldiers, but also that of those left behind to deal with their loss.

The central concept of the work is the recreation of a family snap. The pair of pictures; the original (before they were fallen) and the recreation, which shows a space where the soldier should be, together challenge the viewer to compare the past to the present and the reality of their absence.

This approach to the image alongside sensitive interviews of each participant by journalist and author Katy Regan, offers an alternative to traditional remembrance, remembering soldiers as individuals; somebody’s son, daughter, father, husband, brother or comrade.

A few participants were also invited to nominate several often ordinary objects that had particular resonance for them in connection to their ‘fallen’ loved ones. Using large format photography, the aim was to reveal the items afresh drawing attention to their now extraordinary significance as artefacts.

Traditional remembrance is inevitably narrow in its scope but broad in its brush; dealing as it does with the valour and courage of the fallen soldiers from several wars, and seeking to include the whole nation. Its success in creating this national platform is its weakness, in that the nature of the individual soldier and sacrifice of the families can sometimes be lost in the scale of the event.

In Before They Were Fallen, I wanted to confront the grief and sacrifice of the friends and families head on, and in doing so give them a voice and the opportunity to remember their fallen soldier in a public space, narrowing the distance between their intimate personal memories and our collective act of remembrance.

The final intention behind the work is to collate the material gathered for the project into an archive featuring the images and first person testimonies of each individual photographed. The hope was that it would be a fitting legacy to the fallen soldiers but also a manifestation of the emotional and physical impact felt by the families involved.

In creating this project I have considered the many First World War commemorations and exhibitions, each a reminder of the devastation of the Great War. I see the work as part of this tradition of documentation and reflection on war, which is essential in reducing the call to arms.

The project is dedicated to the 453 British soldiers and all those who lost their lives as a result of the war in Afghanistan; as well as the families and loved ones they left behind.

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China’s One Child Policy is a Two child policy!

Congratulations to China on this momentous day; or dare I say it  ‘great leap forward’. China has announced that the one child policy is now a two child policy; so says the BBC. I thought It would be a nice occasion to publish some of the pictures from a story done a few years ago made with writer Katy Regan where we explored the policy pretty much coming to the conclusion that things would need to change; read more here.

Big Cats, New Shoes and Police Corruption: Three Weeks in Kenya.

Today’s Guardian’s Global Development site  is publishing  a story I produced ( with Journalist Zoe Flood ) looking at the extraordinary conditions for the mothers and children  of Eldoret in Kenya forced to scrape a living from the municipal dumps.

Kenya , Eldoret Dump – Living and Working  in Poverty

FlorenceKhalumbia (46) With daughter Alice (7 ) lives just 50 metres from the “California” dumpsite in a one-bedroom hut with her five children. None of the children go to school – she feels that it’s better that they stay home and help their family to earn a living. Eldoret’s main Dump nick named by the locals, ironically, as ‘California’ is home toa community of Kenyans who make their living here recycling plastic, metal charcoal and even scavenging for food either for themselves or for their pigs. The average adult here earns about 150 -200 Kenyan shillings (£1-1.30) The consequences for those who work here on a regular basis including woman and children as young as 7 is tough; with disease, injury, substance abuse and even the threat of violence an everyday reality. 

 

For  Guardian readers interested to discover more, please click/scroll as appropriate:

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Phrases I’m unused to hearing include, ‘Louis get in the car there is a Hyena behind you!” Or “Close the windows or the monkeys will get in”( they did) . I am not used to this level of wildlife.  This is the first time I have been to Kenya. I am here on assignment but am squeezing in a family Safari. Highlight of the trip to the world famous Masai Mara game reserve includes having tea with a lion ( well almost). We got as close as the jackal and vulture waiting nearby, anyway, as you can see here…

A Lion With its kill, sleeping off its meal, in the Masai Mara

A Lion With its kill; Check  more on Instagram #louisquail

 

The Work With charity Mary’s Meals

Africa is an amazing country with some amazing places to visit and wonderful people but also complex problems. One of the reasons for my visit is to document the work of Mary’s Meals.

Their charity’s mission is simple: to feed children in schools. In places where there is extreme poverty like Eldoret, this means children who would otherwise be forced by their parents to work, instead of attending school, have the advantage of being fed and educated at the same time. Buying food accounts for the majority of the weekly wage for poor families so for them it’s a no-brainer. The children get fed and educated and very often, respite from some tough conditions at home.

A teacher working in one of the supported schools offered an explanation as to why Monday was the favorite day of the week for one child: “For this seven year old, Monday lunch was probably his first meal since the last day he attended school on the Friday.” In chaotic households, with parents often using drink and drugs, the children often have to fend for themselves.

Me and the journalist were won over pretty quickly by two of the girls who would go to school during the week and work the dumps over the weekend .

Lucy Wambui (13 ) photographed in one of the classrooms at Attnas Kandie School.

They are included in the feature. Bright, cheeky and ambitious, ( ‘ I am going to be a journalist like you when I grow up”) Lucy even had the nerve to ask for a pair of shoes. One has to be very careful to avoid such obvious requests for handouts because of unforeseen ramifications; and it can be frowned upon.  So of course we said yes.

Shoes for Lucy  and Sarah

Shoes for Lucy and Sarah

It was worth it and then some, to see the look of pleasure on Sarah and Lucy’s faces.

In our report we concentrated on the mothers forced to work the dumps of Eldoret to make a living. We worked largely on the main dump. It never occurred to me there would be a problem covering an important story with an established charity; until of course we were picked up by the police.

This ended the photography at the dump, something to do with the right papers, blah blah, permission, etc etc. Ultimately, someone somewhere was looking for a handout . I suspect money exchanged hands simply so the charity could continue its work, or face the possibility of  being kicked out of the country. NGOs and their reputation for fair play are not always welcome in a country famous for corruption.

Don’t take my word for it Here is a link to an article to a friend of mine about Police corruption. Apparently the police kill more people than even the armed robbers .

What I did discover was that Kenyans do not get the best deal from their government and the work of charities like Mary’s Meals is still vital. What I also learned, is that despite many risks there are many Kenyans campaigning against injustice in Kenya.I was fortunate enough to meet and photograph several brave and tenacious activists. Boniface Mwangi , well known for his anti corruption activism, is one of the most well known. He is pictured here at the offices of his company http://pawa254.org/ . Forced into some kind of retirement for his own safety, he is directing his energy into art as an instrument for social change.

Boniface Mwangi poses on the roof terrace of the office at PWA254.

Boniface Mwangi poses on the roof terrace of the office at PWA254.

Like I said Kenya is an amazing if complex country. My time here was mixed: uplifting, shocking and inspiring in equal measure. But perhaps the best memories are those of the Masai Mara. As this is ( predominantly) a British audience, maybe it is fitting to  end ( in practice with internet tradition) with a picture of a cat.

 

Thank you Arts Council

How many times have we heard someone say, ‘if I had known how hard it was going to be, I would never have started in the first place”?  It felt a bit like that filling in the Arts Council proposal. It is no slight undertaking. Especially when one is hugely form-phobic; but Phew we, ( myself and co-producer Alison Brisby) have got the go ahead and I believe it’s a testament to the value of the project. It’s a huge boost to have some one believe in something as much as you believe in it yourself, so thank you Arts Council.

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The Fallen, Then and Now ( #ThenandNow)   is the project we have now been officially funded for: it’s a work which I have discussed in previous blogs exploring the aftermath of the conflict in Afghanistan, recreating existing family photographs of service personnel killed in the conflict and running the pictures alongside the testimony of the family members left behind trying to make sense of the devastation.

The work explores memory, and remembrance from a very personal perspective.

Then and Now series Loss in Afghanistan

The proposal for the Arts Council was to expand the scale of the project to 20 case studies and to turn the work in to a touring exhibition. I am hoping the size of the project will make it valuable as an archive and a tribute to the loss and sacrifice not just of the soldiers, but their families too.

I will be reporting on the progress of the project here, but please feel free to share this with anybody who you feel may be interested in getting involved –  especially service personnel and charities working in this sector.

 

Thanks: 

Thankyou very much to Alison Brisby for helping me steer this proposal along without which I suspect I would not have managed to navigate the hoops and hurdles required to get funding. Thank you also to Four Corners Gallery and Oriel Colwyn the first galleries able to confirm space for the shows in September and November 2015.Thanks also to all of the guys who checked and rechecked the proposal to make sure it was strong and appropriate, have expressed interest in showing the exhibition  or simply for having the decency to share their worldly wisdom and own experiences for Arts Council funding: including Open Eye gallery,  Dave and Carla at Four Corners,  Emma Smith at Look 15 Liverpool International Photography Festival, Colin Cavers, Fotospace gallery , Fife ; Kate Peters; Ania Dabrowska; Ed Thomson; Adrian, Katy Regan and Sophie Gerrard  .

Ok now the hard bit: Do the project!

 

For more information on completed work click here for the previous blog.

 

 

Then and Now- a Story of Loss in Afghanistan

“After Afghanistan” published this month in Marie Claire , is a story I have been thinking about and working on for a while.  (My working title is Then and Now). I came up with the idea of recreating family snapshots after conflict bereavement during a trip to Libya, in July 2012. I was wrestling with the idea of how to tell stories of Loss in the aftermath of War (a theme I have explored in several countries). In the picture below we see the recreation off a snap after the child (later a rebel) on the right was killed in action in Tripoli, Libya . libya45 In Libya the culture of the the family snapshot is not so great; and this made it a difficult approach there but I knew it would be well suited to a similar story in the UK.  Its great Marie Claire have given the space to these stories. I really believe its important to consider the sacrifice the families of service personnel make alongside that of the  soldiers. The interviews by Katy Regan are really powerful, there is no online gallery but here’s a sample from Caroline Munday’s  interview ( pictured below) that really struck me:

“I was just leaving work, at Parcel Force, when I saw my sister had rung, leaving an odd message saying I had to call mum.  Mum was very insistent I immediately go home to her and Dad’s.  I just felt this blackness come over me. I said, “Oh God, tell me it isn’t James”.
I was on my knees, alone in the car park, screaming. I felt like my heart had been wrenched out.  Then, this bubble just emerged around me. I walked back to the building and said, calmly to the security guard, “I’ve just found out my son’s been killed in Afghanistan. I need to go back into the building

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A big thank you to all who took part, once more, for the emotional strength and commitment to the story.

You may be able to help?

I am planning to apply for Arts Council funding to make this a much bigger project, with many more stories told which would tour as an exhibition – hopefully as part of our remembrance celebrations. In order to have a chance of getting this, however, I need to find ‘match funding’ that is, a partner to supply sponsorship.

You could help by sharing this story with your contacts and colleagues. My hope is, that it would then reach organisations who might be interested in giving back to our troops’ efforts and their sacrifice by backing such a project.

Each case study who takes part gets to support their chosen charity, so by even just tweeting or Facebooking the story, you would be giving back in a small way.