Isolation

On Tuesday night this week speaker Stuart Griffiths [ www.stuartgriffiths.net/ ]presented to us a very different evening to our usual offerings. Stuart served in our Armed Forces in Northern Ireland. He was a keen artist and photographer which he carried on after joining up. After a while he applied for a post as photographer in his unit and was appointed. This evening was about two things. His life as a photographer in and out of the army.

After leaving the army Stuart fell on hard times, as apparently do many soldiers when they come out. He eventually became homeless. Most of his post army experience was about the love of his life, photography, his photographic development and most of all his struggle to come to terms with himself and the difficulties he suffered.

Throughout the evening his photography showed a keen insight. Clearly his technique and vision developed as he became a more experienced photographer and following some training in the army and later a degree at Brighton University. However, the central core of our evening was dedicated to the grave difficulties that the ordinary ex-soldier suffers. This was especially so in the film we saw in the second part of the evening. It was a very edgy, but insightful review of hostels and people and the environment of homeless ex-service people. Stuart wanted people to see what most of us miss in everyday life – the hopeless and sometimes numbing isolation that some ex-soldiers feel and the difficult times they suffer. A disproportionately high level of ex-soldiers get involved in drugs and there are many suicides. Often they don’t have friends or family. A downward spiral follows. It was this plight, devastating as it is, that the film and photographs illustrated.

Aside from some interesting stylistic photography we gained a small insight into a world that few of us have experienced. Being down and out is difficult to comprehend from a position of a privileged lifestyle and settled family life. So for me at least, the evening was an ‘uncomfortable’ experience and insightful because of that.

This was an evening that perhaps many of us would have chosen to stay away from if we had known more about it. The fact that we were all there at the end of the evening is testimony to the fact that Stuart had an important point to make and had illustrated it well through his project. I for one feel more able to understand this problem – although I don’t feel I know much about it even now. I think you have to feel and experience devastating circumstances like that before you really know it.

An interesting evening. I feel a wiser and more informed person for having been there. In a curious way I enjoyed the spectacle but felt upset that so many people go through this cycle of hopelessness. Stuart used his personal experiences to bring to us a world which we rarely glimpse. His work showed his compassion for those he interviewed and his passion for photography. Thank you Stuart for sharing some difficult material with us.

By Damon Guy
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Editor – Photokonnexion.com
Netkonnexion on 365Project.org


Comments

Isolation — 2 Comments

  1. This was quite a chilling evening and, as Damon has remarked, quite different from the usual camera club event. The evening was devoted to the experiences of Stuart Griffiths,an ex-soldier who had served in Northern Ireland, and became the platoon photographer. This talk was not about technique, but about visual recording. Telling a story though photos and film which the majority of the country never see, never think about, and remain unaware of.

    Maybe I would have forgone this opportunity if I had known the content, but I am very glad I didn’t. Not only did I learn about many very harrowing and disturbing realities, I also learnt about the power of the camera in conveying the previously unseen, unknown, and invisible actualities of life in and after the Defence Forces.

    Of course there is also a measure of bias in such dissemination, but at least it brings out ‘the other side’s’ view on which to base opinion, or seek to discover the truth.

  2. Not quite what I was expecting from the evening. it was fascinating and really gave an in depth feel to the life of a Paratrooper and what was to come after Army Life. Distressing and quite devastating that someone would have to sink so low, becoming homeless, no money or friends, after serving his Country in quite often difficult circumstances.
    The film, I thought, could have been a little shorter. I found the walking to the wall at various points, a bit tedious. But again it was proving a point.
    The Photography in some ways was a little disappointing, although i accept Stuart was using a compact camera with no knowledge
    of Photography. It was obvious how he had improved after his course and with lots of practise. Well done for pursuing his goals and taking risks to achieve them.
    In all a very interesting subject made to fit a story through Photographs.

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