Life’s a bench

This is one of those projects that starts in a very unassuming way as this one did a few years ago. Without any real planning or forethought it was a project that just seemed to take shape only after a number of pictures had been taken and the collection was added to. Let’s face it this project isn’t demanding in the sense of logistics or kit requirements or any of the other technical issues that may be a concern as a project is planned. It isn’t particularly demanding of my photographic skills either but in a way that’s kind of the point.

I like the simplicity. If I see a bench with a plaque attached to it as I pass by then I might shoot a picture of it.

The pictures speak for themselves. It is obvious in the pictures what the sentiment is but I like the idea of documenting the ways or more accurately the words, in which people have chosen to make these small gestures to remember someone they were close to and how they are tied in to a particular location or to an activity or to something that they enjoyed doing.

I’ve always had an interest in seeing really old black and white pictures – doesn’t matter that I might not know who they are or in what context the picture was taken – I just like the idea that a picture, for whatever reason was taken and that there is a story behind it – for someone. This is similar in a way. I have no idea who these people were, I don’t know anything about their lives or what they did but it is fascinating to think about or to imagine who they were, what kind of people they were and what they did and how they lived their lives?

So next time you take a seat on a bench someplace check behind you and see if anyone else used to sit there enjoying the same views that you are?

 

It also begs the question though…..What would YOU have written on your bench..?

 

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Pictures copyright Ian Forsyth

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His duty done

When silence descends at 11am tomorrow morning and the majority of people around the country quietly acknowledge the sacrifice and commitment of the men and women of the armed forces with two minutes of quiet contemplation and respectful thoughts I will be photographing one of those services at my local war memorial in Saltburn.

It will be an unusual time for me also. Unusual not because of the wreath laying or the silence or indeed the veterans from many conflicts who might be there as I have witnessed and photographed these important occasions many times over the years – and feel privileged to be able to do so. But this Remembrance Day will be the first time, in twenty two years, that I do so as a civilian. My military career having come to an end earlier this year as my contract was fulfilled.

So to mark this Remembrance Day I have been through my archive of photographs from more recent years and have included some of them here to share with you.

Some of them may be difficult to look at for some. They should be difficult to look at. This should never be allowed to become the norm but it is hugely important, I believe, that we see these pictures so that those who aren’t aware can see the reality of what it takes to bring us all the freedoms that we enjoy.

Some of the pictures here I photographed during the repatriations of soldiers killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the final journey they made through the streets of Royal Wootton Bassett and RAF Lyneham. Others are from my own personal projects that I’m currently involved with documenting ex-servicemen. Some show military personnel who have suffered injury, either physical or mental, and who are now fighting their own hard battles, closer to home, as they try and get used to living without limbs or to break through the darkness of PTSD.

Other pictures show a young soldier in the back of an armoured vehicle in Iraq looking up as a bullet hits the outside of his vehicle. Another shows a soldier in Afghanistan sitting against the wall of a compound in quiet reflection, sweat on his face, after a firefight that we had just been through. Another shows a young child held aloft on shoulders at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium- The memorial to those who were killed at the Ypres Salient during World War One and whose graves are unknown.

Others show veterans from those and other wars. On the beaches of Normandy. At memorial services. At the National Arboretum. Others show the headstones of those who have died, including that of German soldiers killed in 1917. There are no winners or losers in war. Everyone pays a price.

So tomorrow I will take my pictures from the small memorial held in my hometown. I will try and record as best I can the dignity and honour of those who attend. I won’t wear my medals. They remain wrapped in a cloth in a draw at home. I won’t march with those who march but I know that over the years I have witnessed and been a part of many things and that this year I am on the outside looking back in, in the knowledge that my duty is done.

So wherever you might be or whatever you might be doing tomorrow, take a couple of minutes…..it isn’t much too ask.

 

The Royal British Legion

Combat Stress

 

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