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The 1943 Harley & D-Day Despatch Rider

Inspired by some very old musty prints and tales from my Mum and Dad about living and working through WW2 I set out to shoot some images that represented that era.
Through some research I managed to find a guy called Manny who had collection of WW2 memorbillia (and that’s a huge understatement !) who was also located not far from me.
I also thought Manny would be a great addition to my Life In A Somerset Landscape Project so I gave him a call.

As expected Manny was very passionate about the era and travelled to many of the re-enactments both here and abroad during the summer months.
During our telephone chat he mentioned the authentic 750cc 1943 Harley Davidson he had and a U.S infantryman’s uniform as worn in the D-Day invasion.

At that point the image came together at least in my head
We decided that we create a story where a U.S Army Despatch Rider from headquarters company is delivering messages to and from various units.
The setting would be a forest in northern France and so my next job was to find the location and arrange the logistics of getting Manny and his bike there.

A week later the pre production was finalised and the shoot day arranged.
Manny was a dream to work with bringing authentic maps,rifles,etc giving us plenty of options for many variations I may want to try.

As my work is about quiet moments I worked around the narrative of the rider taking a rest from riding on his dangerous assignment.

A Brown Case Of Memories

Last week was the most difficult in my life with the sad passing of my mother.
As I have dealt with the things that need to be arranged I found myself needing an image of my mum that I knew we had from her wedding day from 1949.


I finally found the image I was seeking  in a small and very old brown case which also contained a treasure chest of images dating back to 1917.
I decided while I had time I’d copy the aging prints most of which where in amazing condition despite their age. The images ranged from the usual family snaps of Mum,Dad,Grandad,Grandma and various other siblings to some more unusual from my dads naval days.
My Dad served on the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable during WW2 in the Mediterranean and the Pacific and spent time on R&R in Sydney.
One in particular shown here is my Dad in his uniform with a blonde lady which we believe was a girl he met and got engaged to while in Sydney.
He returned to England with intentions of returning to marry her but then met my mum.

On top of this we also discovered letters he wrote home to his mother and newspaper clippings of him which really adds to the whole story of that time in his life.
This got me thinking firstly how lucky we (myself, brother & sister) are to have this family archive of images and letters. Secondly just how important image captions are as only a few of the prints had any kind of dates or descriptions scribbled on the rear of them.
It’s a shame that the majority of children growing up will never have a dusty box or case full of prints in Grandma & Grandads loft to open up and explore as most people these days simply do not produce prints but share their images just digitally.
Maybe we all should have a box and place prints into it periodically for our children & grandchildren to enjoy when we are no longer around .

In Loving Memory

Banking Above The Crops, P51D Mustang

Hot off the screen today is this image that I started and competed retouching this afternoon (gotta be a record ! )
The plane was captured a couple of years ago during a shoot at the Airbus family air day display and is an historic WW2 P51D Mustang called Ferocious Frankie.
I had two ideas for the final image the first was to have the plane flying above the ocean and cliffs or the English countryside.After seeing several fields in my village bearing some rather lovely golden coloured crops I decided to go with the countryside idea.
From here my idea grew another step further and I decided to have someone in the image working the land and my son was suitably bribed for the job ! The shot was completed very quickly as it started to spit with rain and was very simply lit with just a little fill in flash to aid the slightly flat ambient lighting.

Behind The Scenes..Shooting U.S Army Despatch Rider With ” 1943 ” Harley

I consider myself a people person, I like meeting and talking to people and I especially love photographing them in their environment (as you can see by my recent posts here).Probably one of the most enjoyable things about my 20+ years in photography is the many people and places I have been fortunate to experience.
I have enjoyed photographing many gorgeous models people in the public eye and heads of industry but what I really love is shooting characters from everyday life doing what they love in work or play.

Twelve months ago I shot the image and video “Praha 44”  for my Digital Photography training site . The image below features a German Officer at night against the backdrop of Prague.

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The gentleman who I hired the costume from also had a huge collection of other  items from WW2 including a U.S Army 1943 WLA Harley Davidson.After seeing the bike the ideas and story started to grow in my head and knew I had to shoot it.After a few discussions with Manny (the owner and model in the images here) I decided the scene would be set in Northern France and the rider would be dressed as a US Army Infantryman Despatch Rider from Headquarters Company delivering messages to and from various units after the D Day invasion.
In my mind the scene I wanted to portray him in was one of him resting after a hard ride (a quiet moment) against a Forest backdrop and I knew the perfect place.

A day was set and myself and my assistant met Manny with a van full of props including a genuine M1, semi-automatic, Garand rifle (deactivated of course !) and set up the scene.
Like many of my images I look for simple compositions and uncluttered lighting.For example in this image the soft light was quite important as I felt harsh light coming though the trees would simply cause too many distraction in the scene and I definitely did not want that.The shoot took about 90 minutes to complete partly due to the fact we where all having a blast and did not want to stop creating images.

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1940’s Pocket Guide To France !

Manny eats breathes and lives his love for things from WW2 but in a very positive way and it was a pleasure to work with someone as passionate as I am about getting the fine details just right.

Manny has an incredible collection of other WW2 memorabilia including a WW2 Sailers Uniform which struck a chord with me as my father served on HMS Indomitable in the Pacific during the war.
Watch this space for that one !

View some brief video footage from the shoot below.