A Soldier’s Eye View: Images By Paul Stephens
We’re nearing the end of term at the Botanical Gardens and as usual, my “Advanced SLR/DSLR” course is yielding some excellent work and some very talented photographers. One, Paul Stephens, has produced not one but two excellent projects in the last few months. I will be bringing you both of them, but as we’ve just had Remembrance Sunday I’m going to start with Paul’s superb images with a military theme. Here’s the inspiration in Paul’s own words…
“As a huge fan of and the TV series Band of Brothers, The Pacific and World War II movies in general, I wanted to create set of images that portrayed the human emotion that is so prevalent in these programmes which, for me, makes them such fantastic television viewing. They are also of course, a reflection of the incredible work that our armed forces have done and continue to do for our country, and in some small way I hope that they can be seen as my mark of respect to those who have sacrificed so much and paid the ultimate price. The photos themselves were taken at a World War II exhibition that held a battle re-enactment. The exhibition itself really brought to life what war-time life would’ve been like, which helps to keep such an important part of our history alive, and I hope that images play their own small part in doing such that.”
What I like most about Paul’s images is that there is no actual glorification of war. His subjects, amateur re-enactment volunteers though they may be, have grave – and at times, almost frightened – expressions. The use of dark, grainy monochrome only adds to the sombre and respectful atmosphere of the images. One gets the feeling these are not “gung-ho” squaddies, but reluctant and care-worn veterans.
One gets the feeling this is the END of WWII, post-D-Day, somewhere in northern France or perhaps even Germany. I think the project shows great sensitivity. By using the visual tropes of war films and newsreels but in a more subtle and humanistic way in terms of subject matter. These are definitely more Don McCullin than Robert Capa.
This project is rather different from the other one I will show you in future posts. Actually VERY different. Keep watching.
Many thanks to Paul Stephens for his permission to reproduce his images here.