“And we were driving, and we stopped for gas, and a truck, a truck on the other side of the road, well he lifted his back up and dumped his load on the ground there. Gravel it was. Well the guy I was with, was just down on the ground immediately. It was the noise, the sudden noise. He thought he was back in the trenches. That would have been about 1977.”
It’s closing in on Anzac Day here in New Zealand, and my local library will use a few of my pictures as part of their Anzac display. So this seems as good a time as any to reflect on those images, which are now two years old.
My local Menzshed, a group of mainly men, mainly retired people who work on their own DIY projects, and also projects for individuals and groups around the town, were approached in early 2015 by the local RSA to craft a cross for each man who died during, or as a result of, WW1. I knew I wanted to photograph this project because it seemed to me everything a memorial to the dead should be. Considered. Heartfelt. Produced with skill and patience. Personal. I wanted the photographs to reflect this, and also give a sense of the beauty of these objects. With this in mind, largely I chose to make these images in the mornings, taking advantage of the light as it reached toward its’ peak through the back windows of the Menzshed building.
I also followed the story of the crosses after they were finished, to the point where I made a connection with the family of one of the soldiers who came to pay their respects to him on Anzac Day. Those images bookended the project neatly. My abiding memory of the four months spent on the project however, is a verbal one, and not a visual one. It is the above quote, taken from an interview made for this project which I know will never leave my mind. Fifty years on from the end of that war, and scared shitless by a truck dropping its load. What private hells those men suffered in peacetime.