City photographer Rory Lewis spent a year focusing on the British army
A Liverpool photographer is putting the army in the picture as the city looks forward to hosting the Armed Forces Day national event on June 24.
Rory Lewis has spent a year travelling across the UK and Germany taking classic portrait shots of service people of all ranks and ages.
Now he is looking forward to hosting an exhibition on the waterfront on the big day, as well as releasing a book of his images.
Both the exhibition and the book, to be published by CreateSpace on April 28, will be called Soldiery.
“My degree was in history and I am fascinated by military history,” explains Rory, whose grandfather was in the army and served during World War II.
And he got the idea to do an army project after taking a photograph of General Sir Nicholas Houghton in 2014 for a national newspaper. Sir Nicholas, who has since retired, was then Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces.
During his subsequent, entirely self-funded, project, Rory visited a variety of regiments – working closely with General Sir James Everard, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Sir James also wrote the foreword for the resulting book.
“I started off at 1st Battalion The Rifles (1 RIFLES) in Chepstow,” says Rory. “And I was shocked because there were young guys there of 17 – like kids with guns, almost. I also encountered veterans, so you had these soldiers who had seen action – which you could see in their eyes – and then you would look at the fresh-faced ones who were eager and ready for action. It was a culture shock for me.
“I also went to Germany to meet those serving with the Queen’s Royal Hussars (The Queen’s Own and Royal Irish), the last armoured regiment in Germany. They will be coming home soon, and so it was interesting to see the army in transition.
“I also discovered that the army is very diverse. For example, about a third of those serving with 3rd (United Kingdom) Division, which is the only division at continual operational readiness in the UK, are not British but come from various Commonwealth countries. And it was interesting to work with soldiers from all over the world.”
Rory’s work also focused on members of the Army LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Forum, again echoing the diversity of the army – as well as the photographer’s own project.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though, as he explains: “Many soldiers were suspicious of me, and some of them really didn’t want to be photographed.”
But Rory was fascinated by the contrasting experiences of those serving in the Household Cavalry, saying: “I got to see both sides of the regiment. It has 350 horses in Knightsbridge – all brought over from Ireland – and they are ridden by kids who have often never been on a horse before in their lives. And these young men also suddenly find themselves living five minutes from Harrods, riding in Hyde Park and working with their horses outside places including Buckingham Palace.
“I then went to Windsor and saw these guys in combat roles, which couldn’t have been more of a contrast.”
Rory will be inviting the soldiers who posed for him to his exhibition. And he is also hoping as many rank and file Merseysiders as possible will go along to the free event at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal on Armed Forces Day, Saturday June 24, between 10am and 4pm.
Armed Forces Day is a chance for people to show their support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community, including currently-serving troops and cadets, Service families and veterans.