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Wounded The Legacy of War — Q&A with Bryan Adams

I saw some new pho­tog­ra­phy work by Bryan Adams a short time ago ago where he pho­tographed wounded sol­diers. The images of wounded sol­diers were stark and I wanted to ask Bryan a few ques­tions about the new work. What fol­lows is a quick Q&A about Bryan’s new work called Wounded: The Legacy of War.

Wounded - Karl Hinett © Bryan Adams

Wounded — Karl Hinett © Bryan Adams

 

Wounded: The Legacy of War — Q&A with Bryan Adams

Ph.ca - I’ve been fol­low­ing your pho­tog­ra­phy for a while and this lat­est work is the ‘rawest’ work of yours I’ve seen thus far. Can I ask what drew you to this sub­ject matter?

ba: I felt com­pelled to do some­thing for these guys as I was never happy that we went to war in the Mid­dle East. I was for­tu­nate to have meet a jour­nal­ist called Car­o­line Frog­gatt who wanted to do some­thing and she was acquainted with some of the sol­diers already, so the project started from that.

Ph.ca - Why pho­to­graph wounded soldiers?

ba: I want to cre­ate pho­tos of the time and doc­u­ment as many peo­ple as I could that had incurred these severe war injuries in order to raise aware­ness to their plight and also show peo­ple a side of the hor­ror of war that is often con­cealed from every­day media. The long term idea was that per­haps it could maybe be an exhi­bi­tion or maybe even a book down the road. All of that hap­pened thank­fully in part to my pub­lisher Steidl who saw the beauty in the pho­tos and agreed to make the “Wounded — The Legacy of War” book with me. It’s now its tour­ing the world as an exhibition.

Wounded Mark Ormrod © Bryan Adams

Wounded Mark Orm­rod © Bryan Adams

 

Ph.ca –How long did you pho­to­graph each veteran?

ba: For an hour at the most, then we would sit and have a chat and film that, I’ve not even looked at the inter­view footage, it’s just archived. Some­times these guys would stay over at my house as they had come great dis­tances from the North of Eng­land and even Scot­land to be involved and it was too much to travel there and back in a day.

Ph.ca - How long did this project take from start to fin­ish and where were the pho­tographs taken?

ba: sched­ules were always being sorted out, I sup­pose the whole thing took nearly 5 years, it was very on and off. Ini­tially it wasn’t easy to find sub­jects that would agree to being pho­tographed, but once a few sub­jects had agreed and par­tic­i­pated, rec­om­mend­ing their friends became nor­mal and the word got out.

Ph.ca - All of the pho­tographs that I’ve seen from this series high­light the vet­er­ans’ wounds, ver­sus play­ing them down through pos­ing tech­niques as other pho­tog­ra­phers have often done. Was the pos­ing of the sub­jects a col­lab­o­ra­tive process or solely under your direction?

ba: it was all ulti­mately under my direc­tion, how­ever they were wel­come to show as much as they liked and I always hoped they would show as much as possible.

I would show them what I had done with other sol­diers, and usu­ally once they saw what was going on, the shirts would come off and the wounds became very apparent.

Wounded Rory Mackenzie © Bryan Adams

Wounded Rory Macken­zie © Bryan Adams

 

Ph.ca - Did some vet­er­ans have trou­ble expos­ing their wounds so boldly?

ba: Only one as I can remem­ber who didn’t want to take off his pros­thetic limb. I never asked why.

Ph.ca - Was it an emotional/cathartic process for some veterans?

ba: I think they were curi­ous that some­one like me was doing some­thing like this, but I’ve had a lot of pos­i­tive con­ver­sa­tions with them since and the reac­tions have been incred­i­ble. Too many to men­tion here.

Mostly to do with see­ing them­selves as a vehi­cle to help other peo­ple, the unselfish­ness was hum­bling, let me tell you.

Wounded Rick Clement © Bryan Adams

Wounded Rick Clement © Bryan Adams

 

Ph.ca - Our read­ers will want to know - Can you describe the cam­era gear and the light­ing gear you used to cre­ate these photographs?

ba: It’s all shot in my day­light stu­dio using nat­ural light which I would drape off to cre­ate the amount of light for each guy. Occa­sion­ally if the stu­dio got too dark in the late after­noon, I would bounce a light into the wall to give me a stop or two and mix it with the day­light. There was never a direct source of light it was always dif­fused. I used a Mamiya RZ cam­era with a Phase One back.

Ph.ca - Given that the legacy of war will con­tinue, and there will be no short­age of future wounded vet­er­ans, will you be adding to this body of work, or is this a closed project?

ba: it’s closed for now, espe­cially now that the book is done.

Ph.ca - What addi­tional pho­tog­ra­phy projects are on the horizon?

ba: another book of sub­jects I’ve worked with is being planned, but it may be another year before it’s ready.

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I’d like to thank Bryan Adams for tak­ing the time to answer this Q&A.
30 images of Bryan’s new work are on exhibit at Som­er­set House from 12th Novem­ber 2014 – 25th Jan­u­ary 2015. The pho­tog­ra­phy book Wounded: The Legacy of War, Pho­tog­ra­phy by Bryan Adams, Edited by Car­o­line Frog­gatt is avail­able here.

Comments

  1. I haven’t seen this book yet, but I did see a selec­tion of prints from this project when Adams had an exhibit at Calgary’s Glen­bow Museum ear­lier this year. The exhibit com­bined some of Adams’ pho­tos of var­i­ous celebri­ties, with a set of the sol­dier por­traits from Wounded. Each group­ing was in its own room, located side-by-side. I don’t know but can only pre­sume that it was inten­tional by Adams and/or the Glen­bow cura­tor to con­trast the sub­jects in this way; I found it quite the com­men­tary. The por­traits from Wounded had a lot of impact in par­tic­u­lar… they illus­trate a real dimen­sion of the sac­ri­fice these men have made, and with which they will con­tinue to live. I also took note that sev­eral of the celebri­ties pic­tured in the com­pan­ion selec­tion had com­mit­ted sui­cide in the past cou­ple of years… there was com­men­tary in that con­trast as well.

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