East Midland and Central Region Photo-day at the National Memorial Arboretum in October 2021
A Day Out at The National Memorial Arboretum
This was the first ‘get out and take some photographs’ regional meeting we have organised since we made a visit to Park Hill, Sheffield in February 2020, just before the pandemic locked us all down. I had decided we needed to get out with our cameras again and called a meeting with two of my committee members, Richard Hall, and Robert Herringshaw. I think it was Richard who suggested the National Memorial Arboretum, and he agreed to look after the admin. The event booked up within a day and on Sunday 17th October 2021 twenty-two regional members met at the front door ready to be let in at 10am.
One of the great aspects of these days is when we see the images afterwards and get to see how our colleagues made images at the same event and on the same day as ourselves. I hope you enjoy the photographs
Stewart Wall l East Midlands and Central Regional Organiser
Anne Haile LRPS
At first the rain was a bit of a disappointment but when we eventually ventured out of the café I saw how the water had clung to the memorials. My thoughts were to capture the way the rain increased the melancholic atmosphere of the sculptures . To me they became sadder than normal and the sense of loss was increased . This can be seen in the top right and left images as well as the bottom right one.
After the rain cleared the atmosphere lifted. The image on the lower left shows where the sunlight should appear on the 11 hour of the 11 day of the 11 month. I found this to be a sign of hope after the pain of the wars.
Finally the central image is an illusion, the figures are reflections of a third which is not shown. They are like ghosts of the war dead watching over us, hoping we never repeat the same mistakes again
This was my first visit and so every area held great interest.
The first image (and it was my first) struck me for several reasons. Firstly, the sculpture was of leaves and its juxtaposition with the grasses, complimentary colours and autumn leaves beyond caught my eye and then, as I studied it a little more, the rain (and it was throwing it down at the time) left droplets that not only added to the texture, but one also gave a highlight to the eye socket and suggested a direction of sight. Nature almost observing with pride what lay beyond for me to discover. The soft overhead light also added to the character of the head and shoulders. I Notwithstanding the other elements, I wanted to isolate the head, so that it was the focus of attention. The reason I swapped lenses to my 70-200mm for a shallower depth-of-field. Fabulous work by the artist/sculptor.
I was drawn to the second (and series of images I took of this sculpture) by its poignancy. I had been made homeless as a child but not been separated from my mother, as the war children were from their parent or parents. All of the figures faced in different directions and had belongings and expressions of great interest and merit, but this particular individual appeared to sum up the fear, uncertainty, expectation (showing or trying to show strength and courage to the others) and anticipation (perhaps of an approaching bus or train) but I also wanted to angle to shot to encompass the other figures as an integral part of an untold but fascinating storyline.
I took a number of shots of he third character, one of which included more detail of his underslung equipment, as he sought to haul it in but I settled for this image as it identified his professionalism (with his regiment cast in stone behind) and strength but also his vulnerability and the loss of his life (and his many comrades) by the tokens of remembrance at his feet and hands. I was happy to sacrifice the equipment from the shot, to leave the viewer to want to question ….. was there something there or just life lost that he is trying to retrieve?
I was really struck by the shot at dawn memorial. Having had a colleague who was awarded a gallantry medal for preventing Serbs from taking a bus load of Croats away for execution but moreover for all the heroes, heroines and many more innocents, only some of whom were named therein who have been executed during often senseless conflicts and power struggles over the years. I looked here for the best angle to indicate multitudes and settled in on leaving the bench in, to suggest onlookers who might have prevented such slaughter but did nothing or were or felt powerless to do so.
The final image is perhaps the most poignant, as this old soldier was trying to find a particular memorial, perhaps as his last opportunity to remember fallen comrades and his isolation and progression along a path suggested to me his own journey towards his inevitable reunion with his former band of brothers. It also served to remind me personally of my good fortune not to have been one of the fallen in more recent conflicts and how important this place is to so many.
I hope that helps and explains my rationale. It was a difficult choice, as I have other images of equal merit, but these spoke to me more personally that some of the others.
Janet Richardson ARPS
I last visited the National Arboretum 4 years ago. It was a sunny but frosty morning in January. It was bright, with interesting light and the winter sun created many interesting shadows and angles to shoot. This visit was totally different. It was a very wet day and this totally changed my feelings and emotions which I hadn’t expected. As the rain eased water droplets were dripping off all the memorials and sculptures. Interesting reflections of the memorials were visible on the stone work and wet paths. However, this time round, it was much more emotional for me as I found myself wondering how my Grandfather must have felt in the cold wet trenches (where he was wounded on 2 different occasions) and what his day to day life would have been like in the dark, wet autumns and winter days and nights on the Flanders battle fields between 1914 and 18.
Taking the photos this time round was very challenging as I tried to capture this emotion. Rather than taking landscape/architectural types of photos I took on my last visit, I tried to reflect my inner feelings and emotions caused by the wet and gloomy weather.
Definitely a place to visit in all weathers and seasons of the year to truly reflect the essence of the site.
I very much enjoyed the day with seeing and meeting fellow RPS Regional group members and also enjoying the surroundings. Unfortunately the weather was against us – I’m not keen on rain but in some situations it can add another dimension to an image.
Although I don’t live that far away from the Arboretum I have not been there before and found it a lovely quiet and reflective area with plenty to take pictures of and very good facilities but of course because I hadn’t been before I think I chose the wrong lens (I’m sure we all say that). I did take quite a few images that day as I’m sure most digital photographers did so I’ve just chosen five random pictures from the day.
Thank you to the organisers and kind regards.
Larry South LRPS
Many thanks to Stewart, Richard and Robert for organising the day
My pictures reflect my response to what I saw on the day.
The sculptures were stunning and evocative and each worthy of contemplation.
It was so wet when we started that I abandoned my SLR in favour of my smartphone.
It was great to talk to fellow photographers and conversation ranged from the very latest gear to medium format and large format film photography (which I also dabble in), so I picked up some very useful tips.
Mick Richardson LRPS
Sue Hutton ARPS
My 5 images
For Peace in Northern Ireland - Amidst all the memorials to the armed services, I found this little plaque attached to a tree, wishing for peace in Northern Ireland.
Hitching a Ride - these musicians were there to play at a service. It looked as if they needed a lift to the venue.
Poignant - at the RAFA memorial. What I noticed was that there was a small poppy cross above this stone embedded in the pavement, a memory from Ronald Wigley's son
Stick Man - a statue not apparently related to any of the memorials but a tribute to a very popular children's book
National Memorial Arboretum, on the path as you walk into the grounds. This statue of the head and shoulders of a young man made me think possibly of pilots burnt in the war but also of young men who have been lost and the memories that begin to fade.
Stewart Wall MA ARPS
When we arrived at the National Memorial Arboretum it was wet and grey outside, but inside it was a mass of colour, the colour of medals and smiles from RAF veterans.
I wandered over and asked if I could take a portrait of one of them, and it turned out he was the organiser of the event. He was in a bit of a panic as their ‘official photographer’ had not turned up, and he asked me if I could step in. I gladly agreed to and soon felt at home, as I am a veteran press photographer and this was the sort of photography I do.
Then the rain stopped, and we all walked over to a memorial dedicated to those who had served in the RAF in the Far East between 1949 and 1971, and I photographed the event there.
As a bonus they invited me to lunch, although it was a shame I did not get chance to talk to many of the RPS members who attended the day.
Robert Herringshaw ARPS
7361483 Private HERRINGSHAW K J
My father survived the War , serving throughout in the Royal Army Medical Corps. 1939 -1945
He never spoke about it and yet I have always known the story of how my Grandmother, a devote Christian lady , placed a New Testament in his hand as she said goodbye to her only son, on the platform of Dawlish Railway Station on November 1st 1939.
My Grandfather had also written inside the book in his distinctive hand , a verse from Old Testament, Proverbs 3.6 . “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
That small testament was with my father throughout the conflict. It was with him on the beach at Dunkirk, all through North Africa and with him as the 1st Army advanced through Italy.
I took that small Testament with me when I went to the National Memorial yesterday; together with my father’s Army Paybook and his Red Cross Identity card , his identity tags and a box of medals , barely opened or unwrapped .
I though it appropriate to lay them on the beach of the Dunkirk Memorial and photograph them, there on the sand and pebbles from Dunkirk . Whether my father would have thought it appropriate, I will never know.
I simply did it out of my respect for him and for his comrades, many of whom never returned. for For what they did for us all , out of a sense of duty.
Opening the door of Remembrance
Rosemary Mutimer ARPS and Michael Mutimer ARPS
This was our first trip out with the RPS East Midlands Region and are now looking forward to many more, our photography is aimed at taking images we like, we have no commercial interests and competition entries are few and far between, we are not interested in taking images for judges, they are our images and we like them.
We live about ten miles from the Arboretum and have made quite a few visits since its opening, a wonderful place to sit and clear the mind.
It is a location that requires a number of visits with its rapid change of monuments, colours and weather, even in the rain there are many subjects to consider, the more you look it makes you think of the Autumn colours in a few years time, its a place for photographers to visit regularly, always a warm welcome.
Richard Hall FRPS
My first adventure leading an RPS visit, alongside Stewart Wall and Robert Herringshaw. It was a pleasure to do it at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The site is extensive, set over 150 acres with over 400 memorials. I have had the pleasure of visiting twice previously and, on the last occasion, took my father for his 86th birthday in September 2019. On that visit, I pushed him around the site in a wheelchair for six whole hours but we still didn't see everything on offer. He did not want to leave and still talks about it now.
Today I had two targets, 'The Gift of Life Memorial' sponsored by the Donor Family Network, which remembers and celebrates organ donors and their families. The memorial made by Julia Hennessy Priest features a butterfly -a symbol of health and new life and Forget-Me-Not's as no donor is ever forgotten. I am fortunate to be the official photographer for the British Transplant Games and will be attending the next Games in Leeds 2022
My second target was the newly commissioned National Police Memorial which was unveiled in July the year. Spending time with it, and picturing it, allowed me a period of reflection to think about my 30 years as a Nottinghamshire Police Officer.
Finally, I include a portrait of one of the volunteers. Keith was kind enough to stop and talk to Robert Herringshaw and me. Keith is a retired teacher and told us some of his experiences volunteering at the Arboretum over the last ten years. Keith is an addition to my 100 Strangers' project on Flickr.
Michael Goodwin BA (Hons)
This was my second visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, I cannot remember exactly when I first visited it, but it was quite a few years ago. Certainly the number of monuments and buildings open to the public has increased considerably.
Walking around, I decided that I would like to concentrate on less obvious aspects of the conflicts covered by the Memorial Arboretum.
The statues representing the Women's Land Army and the Women's Timber Corps illustrate the importance of food and timber to an island nation, at times of war. Many people have heard of the Land Girls and without detracting from their importance, I'd like to illustrate the important contribution of the Women's Timber Corps, known as the 'Lumber Jills'. With the conscription of male forestry workers and the fall of Norway (A traditional source of timber to the British Isles). The Lumber Jills cut trees, manned sawmills and transported timber, for telegraph poles, pit props and railway sleepers and other essential requirements.
The Railway Industry Memorial, the railways were crucial during both World Wars, particularly for the transport of troops and material. An industry made more hazardous in wartime by the obvious targets of railway lines, goods yards and railway stations to enemy aircraft.
The evacuation of British Children separated from their families, represented by a memorial, that captures the apprehension on the faces of the children. During the Second World War a total of 1.5 million people were moved including 827,000 children of school age.
The 'Shot at Dawn' memorial represents the 306 British Army and Commonwealth Soldiers executed by firing squad, after court-martial for desertion or other offenses during World War 1.
The last Memorial should be studied by the viewer in order to interpret the message intended by the artist.