Soldiery as a project, has given me the opportunity to indulge my historical ambitions. One of these creative urges has been to photograph a British Field Marshal.
Field Marshal is the most senior rank of the British Army. Higher than all the Generals I’ve captured thus far. Considered a five star rank in today’s modern militaries. In the British Army, Field Marshal has been the most senior rank since 1736.
Since the end of Empire, the rank has become somewhat redundant, this is due to the reduction in the size of Britain’s Armed Forces. The rank is now ceremonial, a gift of recognition from the sovereign to senior military figures, and bestowed on members of the Royal Family.
In 2012 Lord Guthrie was handed his Field Marshal’s Baton, in recognition of his remarkable leadership and service by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II . You can view a Pathe News Clip of another Field Marshal Jan Smuts being handed his Baton back in 1941.
The Baton is the main symbol of office, only given to Field Marshals. It stems back to ancient origins; namely those of the Roman Empire. A short heavy white Baton was a symbol of the Imperial Mandate given to Roman Military Legates. The Legate would hold the baton upon high, proclaiming, “above your head and mine to represent the power of the emperor”.
The British Field Marshal’s Baton is a symbol of the magnitude of office. The figure of St George and the Dragon is at the top, and at the bottom an inscription from The Queen to Lord Guthrie. The body of the Baton is covered with red velvet.
Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie Portrait Sitting, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Looking for inspiration I started with Sir Thomas Lawrence, studying his portraits of the Duke of Wellington. Neo Classical in Style; Lawrence painted the Iron Duke on several occasions. His most vivid depiction, a triumphant portrait of Wellington which dominates the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. Lawrence’s composition is that of victory, heralding Wellington as the finest of military commanders and the liberator of Europe.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) 1814-15
Then I moved on to looking at Singer Sargent’s portrait of Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts. The work similar to Sir Thomas Lawrence’s neo-classical depictions. I turned to photography, browsing the National Portrait Gallery archive, I discovered the photographer Alexander Bassano, who photographed Field Marshal Hague. The portrait captured in a solemn and dutiful style, the depictions relay the finery, yet the obligation and commitment of Hague’s role.
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig by Bassano Ltd whole-plate glass negative, 19 July 1921 Alexander Bassano
With all this in mind I set to work, with a desire to create my own interpretation. Using a red velvet backdrop, I aimed to recreate the symbolism of the fire and blood, that is the Red Coat. The British Military Uniform associated with energy, war, danger, strength and Royal power. These words associate with the office of Field Marshal. Full finery was the order of the day, medals, orders, and number one dress uniform. Wanting to portray Lord Guthrie as the man he is; the Commander held in immense regard.
The positions directed for the sitting are reflective, shooting from a low angle to make Lord Guthrie look prominent and tall. Harsh lighting is utilised to preserve the detail. To me the Portrait is historical , a document, all the detail must be safeguarded. With this in mind I hope I’ve done my predecessors, proud in this my first portrait sitting with a British Field Marshal. Currently I’m accepting public & private commissions both Military and Non Military for Portrait Sittings so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
“Fine Art Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis, is running a workshop focused on recreating the work of the Renaissance Painter Caravaggio.”
Los Angeles (CA) USA, London, England (UK) & Edinburgh, Scotland (UK)
(Left Actor René Auberjonois Rory Lewis Photographer 2017) Renaissance portraiture and the use of chiaroscuro by the masters has been of immense inspiration to my photographic style. For those unfamiliar, chiaroscuro is an oil painting technique, developed during the Renaissance. The technique uses strong tonal contrasts between light and dark to model three-dimensional forms. Artists such as Caravaggio used chiaroscuro for dramatic effect. Painting vivid religious depictions of light and shadow.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
“LEARN VIVID & INCREDIBLE LIGHTING AND DIRECTIONAL TECHNIQUE FROM ONE OF BRITAINS LEADING PHOTOGRAPHERS.”
Actor Tony Amendola Rory Lewis Fine Art Portrait Photographer
Recently I have attempted to emulate Caravaggio’s naturalism and dramatic lighting with photographic effect. (Above Sir Patrick Stewart, Rory Lewis Photographer 2017)Creating a series of portraits with super detail of skin tone, texture and colour. Using inventive art direction I opted for vivid and stark expressions. Over the summer i’ll be teaching a workshop to help you re-create these portraits. On the day I will feature THREE Professional models with amazing bone structure. The workshop will give you the unique opportunity to learn new skills in lighting and direction to create your own Vivid & Dramatic Caravaggio Style Portfolio.
About the Instructor
Rory Lewis is a British portrait photographer, his body of work includes countless celebrity sittings with Actors such as Sir Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Derek Jacobi, Natalie Dormer, Ian McShane, Iain Glen and many other Portraits of Musicians and men and women of accomplishment. Rory’s work has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London & Lectures at the National Portrait Gallery & Victoria & Albert Museum, and his recent Photography Exhibitions Northerners Photography & Expressive have received Nationwide Recognition being featured by the BBC and National Press & Television. Rory’s client list includes Pepsi, Ministry of Defence, Cancer Research UK, The Guardian & The Times Newspapers. Rory’s inspirations include Renaissance Portraiture and German Expressionist Cinema.
10:30am- Caravaggio Introduction
1045am- Learning Lighting/Chiaroscuro with Our First Model
1145am- Rory Lewis Talk on Directing Expressive Portraits
12:30pm- Dramatic Expressive Portraits with Our Second Model
13:30pm – Creating Group Chiaroscuro Portrait with Three Models
14:30pm- Working with our final Third Model of the Day to Hone All Skills Taught
My final Infantry regimental sittings of my Soldiery Portrait Project took place with The Coldstream Guards. Formed in 1650 as part of the New Model Army during the English Civil War. The regiment swore allegiance to King Charles II in 1660 and has guarded the country’s monarchs since.
The Coldstream Guards have two roles in the British Army. The first is as of an Infantry unit famous for being the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous service. The second is of a ceremonial Battalion trained to be involved in any state or royal ceremonial tasks. The regiment epitomises the British Army’s values and standards: selfless commitment, respect for others, loyalty, integrity, discipline and courage.
Drawing strength from its heritage to face the challenges of the future, the Regiment lives by its motto, ‘Nulli Secundus’ or ‘Second to None’. My sittings with the regiment, took place at the historic Wellington Barracks in London, where I was able to capture the Guardsmen before the changing of the guard.
Thank you to everyone who attended the open evening of Soldiery (British Army Portraits) at the historical Athenaeum Club in Liverpool. The evening held in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund raised over £2500.00 for the charity, which helps veterans and their families in need of support. I was delighted to show the work to the public for the first time. Many of those who sat for portraits where also in attendance.
The exhibition began with a talk about the work, followed by a speech by the projects patron General Sir James Everard, KCB, CBE. I’m now looking forward to taking the work to London, for a full public exhibition at the National Army Museum. If you missed the event, don’t worry the evening was captured on video, please take a look at below.