Servicemen and women injured in the line of duty are owed a special debt of gratitude by the state. They also deserve the very best medical and remedial care that we can give them. Members of the British armed forces will probably spend time at The Defence Military Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court. I was lucky enough to spend a day there in June, meeting members of staff and shooting pictures of two young Royal Marines who had both lost limbs on active service. I was struck by many things whilst I was there, not the least of which was their very dark sense of humour. The overriding impression however is that these are fit and determined young men who are not going to let missing limbs get in the way of their lives.
They work hard with physiotherapists, prosthetic technicians and other medical staff to make sure that the mobility aids and prosthetic limbs they are supplied with are as good as they can be and that their own physical well being is also as good as it can be.
One of the hardest parts of shooting a story like this for a specialist magazine is to keep focusing on what you are there to do and not get too far into the personal stories of the subjects. I knew that I had a spread to fill and I knew that I was supposed to produce a cover image that fitted in exactly with the house style. The picture on the left was shot in the impressive grounds of the centre on one of those rare days this summer when we have actually had some sunshine.
Controlling the image meant taking him into the shade and using my flash units to light him. This was a direct contrast to the two images shown above which were done without changing or staging anything. The young Marine in the top two pictures was happy to be photographed but didn't want to pose or be interviewed. The energy needed to walk with two artificial limbs is immense and in the brief chat we had he mentioned competing in the 2012 Olympics. With his level of determination and fitness, I would not bet against him.
I guess that our lives are shaped by the experiences we have and the people we meet. Shooting this job at Headley Court will definitely inform my opinions and attitudes for years to come. Not only will it make me even more aware of the price that so many young servicemen and women pay for their country but it is already making me want to go and shoot pictures that really matter far more often than I get the chance to at the moment.
© Neil Turner August 2009