This week I'm travelling to Canberra for what will be the last part of a very big project the AIPP has driven over the last three years. While I lived in Melbourne I got involved with the AIPP Reflections Project (see below) and had the opportunity to work with the Box Hill RSL and Hampton RSL who generously gave their time to help me find veterans, and provide space for me to photograph for the project.
I cannot begin to even explain the overwhelming sense of emotion I felt in meeting these men, hearing their stories and sharing some of my own about my Grandfather who served as a Stoker in the navy during WWII. I am forever grateful for the poems sent to me, and for the invaluable tips shared with me so that I could find out more about where my Grandfather travelled and what happened to the ships he worked on.
It's always assumed that we are educated on the things that happened during WWII but nothing takes the place of a survivors account, and I learned a lot about conditions during the war, and just after the war ended. Particularly in the Pacific where soldiers waited for months, some still under attack, for retrieval from the battle lines. One such soldier who I was extremely honoured to photograph was the legendary Essendon footballer Jack Jones, full of charm, wit and lively stories.
I will also be forever reminded of the enduring friendship between Twinkles and his mate Bill, who met at boys scouts when they were 13, continued on to the armed forces and were still firm friends when they came in for their photographs.
What struck me most, was the enduring sense of honour, pride, contented positivity and humility that these men carried with them.
On the 25th of April 2015, the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) embarked on 'The Reflections Project - Honouring our WWII Veterans'
The mission: To capture a portrait of every surviving WWII veteran living in Australia and produce a portrait book to be gifted to the Nation.
Over the following two years, and with the help of over 400 AIPP members, we photographed just over 6,500 portraits.
AIPP members throughout Australia donated their time and skill to capture as many veterans as possible. Included in this collection are the men and women of our Australian, New Zealand and Allied Forces.
On the 17th of August 2017, the entire digital collection was donated to the Australian War Memorial; this collection is proudly displayed in a permanent looping slideshow in their WWII Galleries.
This year is the ‘grand finale’ for our project! At 10am on the 7th of November, two volumes of The Reflections Project Portrait Book will be gifted to the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial will present the book to the National Library in the presence of some of our WWII veterans.
Thank you to the photographers, sponsors and supporters who worked without hesitation to complete this mammoth project and of course thank you to all of the amazing veterans, their families and friends.
Although we couldn’t photograph every surviving veteran, we tried our very best and we are extremely proud of what we have achieved.