Monthly Archives: September 2011

New website

I ve just put together a website but due to limited funds – soon to change for the better (I bloody well hope) – it is racked with ads and lacking its own domain name. Should change by end of week.

Do take a look though: http://www.wix.com/georgeramsayphotogra/george-ramsay#!

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The Portraits

Portraiture is one photographic discipline that I ve seldom attempted in its purist form, i.e the head shot.

Earlier this week I was asked to pop over to the see guys of Sayonemedia, a group specialising in manufacturing journalism. They wanted photos of the team to go in the next edition of their magazine, The Manufacturer.

We decided to take the shots outside and allow all those involved to take some time away from the office. The light fluctuated and the wind blew hair but it was still desirable – and I don’t have the pleasure of owning a studio yet!

Portraiture – or head shots – will from now on be a larger focus in my work than previously. I have been idiotically oblivious to the power of insight allowed to you through a very simple style of photo.

Here are but a few.

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Burma Star Association

Second World War Burma veterans and family paid their respects at the Annual Wreath Laying ceremonies in London last week. Having travelled from various parts of the country, they came to lay wreaths at both the Mountbatten and Viscount Slim memorials in London. All present are members of Burma Star Association.

Louis Mountbatten acted as the Supreme Allied Commander to forces serving in South East Asia, including the soldiers and sailors present at these ceremonies. He also oversaw the partitioning of India and Pakistan as the last Viceroy of India. The veterans met and remembered at the Mountbatten memorial before making the five minute walk to the Viscount Slim statue.

Field Marshall William Slim, known as ‘Uncle Bill’ to his soldiers, fought in both the First and Second World Wars and was wounded three times. During the Burma campaign he led the 14th Army – also remembered as the ‘forgotten army’. Those under his command considered him a great man – someone who knew by name even the lowest ranking soldiers.

The formalities were brought to a close in the refreshingly informal settings of The Clarence pub, a moments walk away.

A great bunch of guys and gals were present. Medals glistened on nearly every chest and backs were purposely straightened. In fact, it was remarkable the number of guys that stood to attention as soon as I pointed my camera their way. Some habits never die, eh.

This wonderfully touching outing moved and stirred. Collective grief and positive remembrance of trying times are necessary constituents of a stronger society. Theirs is a generation fully in line with that principle and lessons can be drawn from time spent in their presence.

I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering what these animated characters were like in their prime. It appeared to me that they were perhaps not too disimilar – other than the agility of their movements, of course.

In the middle is the 2nd Viscount John Slim, the son of 'Uncle Bill' and former member of the SAS

Mountbatten memorial

Viscount Slim memorial

These annual ceremonies are not only times for remembering the fallen, but also being reminded of those still present. They were truly pleased to see one another.

This is Albert, or 'Bert'. He described being surrounded and then charged by 50 Japanese soldiers with bayonets fixed; he is adamant Gurkha soldiers saved his life.

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In Memoriam 2014

Welcome to the National Memorial Arboretum and the War Memorials Trust (WMT).

The WMT is a charity that focuses its efforts on the protection and conservation of war memorials in the UK. There are over 100,000 memorials throughout Britain and looking after them is a great task to say the least. Working with regional volunteers and local communities, the trust is fighting against reduced funding, neglect, vandalism and the inexorable passing of time – not to mention the logging of many hidden or, dare I say it, forgotten memorials.

What caught my eye was their new initiative, In Memoriam 2014. By 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, the trust in partnership with Smartwater, are hoping to cover as many memorials as possible with a colourless forensic liquid that will deter criminals, or at worst allow greater traceability to stolen plaques. The high-tech ultra-violet solution will not only withstand burning and sandblasting but will also rub off on the clothes of those pitiful enough to attempt any form of desecration.

Late last month I approached Frances, the director of the WMT, with the intention of putting together both a photographed and written piece on In Memoriam 2014. They were very keen and have since been invaluable – and wonderful.

I want to bring to light the many colourful characters involved in the care of memorials and their many motivations for doing so. Already, the project is moving at a fantastic pace and I am meeting more and more brilliant people each and every week.

My visit to the National Memorial Arboretum was my first attempt at putting pen-to-paper and my eye to the viewfinder. It was great. Frances had set-up a meeting with a member of the Burma Star Association , Charles Wall. Mr Wall is the most vivacious of characters and at 91, surprised all of us with his get-up-and-go and dedication to the Burma Star memorial. He is one of the aforementioned regional volunteers who gives up an enormous amount of time to care for and develop the memorial.

Charles goes by the nickname, ‘Wagger’, and upon meeting him the name becomes quite clear – he’s a fantastic talker. He served in the Royal Navy as a leading stoker (or engineer) from 1940 until 1945. ‘Wagger’ was 19 when he joined and saw action in the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and survived being torpedoed twice – very unlikely for an engineer. When a ship is struck by a torpedo the engine compartments are usually sealed immediately – to allow other sailors the time to abandon ship before the torrents of water force the vessel to capsize, sink and/or break in half .Very scary stuff.

This is the Burma Star memorial. It is designed to be the perfect English garden. While based in Burma and in an attempt to escape the horrors of war, he and his mates would fantasise over their 'perfect' English gardens. Charles designed this memorial to be precisely that; the idyllic garden for those alive and those not forgotten.

Charles 'Wagger' Wall

While at the arboretum I noticed some soldiers grouped around two tents. In one tent they were taking it in turns to row the 91.1 miles that separate Kandahar airport from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan; outside the other they were doing five pull-ups for every British serviceman and woman killed in the conflict – 1,900.

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