The Victoria Cross & George CrossPortraitProject has been an exceptionally challenging, yet rewarding portraiture project. Individuals who have been awarded the Victoria Cross have been selected because they are worthy of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s highest military award for their bravery and conduct in the field. Similarly, those awarded the George Cross are civilians or military personnel who have displayed conspicuous bravery in and away from the field. These awards are not issued lightly. They are the very greatest honour for individual valour and merit. These individuals are the modern day heroes.
Over the next few week’s I’ll be posting all the VC & GC recipients in a series of Blog Posts. Let’s begin with Australian recipient Daniel Alan Keighran, VC.
Daniel Alan Keighran, VC is an Australian soldier and a recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in a fire-fight with insurgents during the Battle of Derapet on 24 August 2010, an action of Operation Slipper.
During the battle, Keighran “with complete disregard for his own safety” repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to draw fire away from a team treating a battle casualty (Keighran’s friend Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney). Keighran’s actions were key in allowing the Coalition forces to withdraw without further casualties.
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
Recently I captured a series of exceptionally detailed chiaroscuroportraits inspired by Caravaggioof actors René Auberjonois, Sir Patrick Stewart & Iain Glen. In these portraits I have attempted to emulate Caravaggio’s naturalism and dramatic lighting with photographic effect. Creating super detail of skin tone, texture and colour. Using inventive art direction I opted for vivid and stark expressions from the contemplation of René Auberjonois to the emotionless Sir Patrick Stewart and the wicked smile of Iain Glen.
Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’. It is an absolute honour to increase my acquisitions from One Portrait to Five Portraits now in the galleries archive. The Gallery having previously acquired my portrait of Actor David Warner.
Peter Norton GC, Bill Speakman VC, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Margaret Vaughan GC, Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
I was delighted to work with the regiment having the opportunity to capture portraits of a wide range of troopers, from the Colonel of the Regiment to the Regimental Sergeant Major, a selection of officers, NCO’s and enlisted troopers.
Soldiers are very easy to Direct, Sutherland, once quipped “Accuracy is Truth”. With a degree in history, detail is very important to me as a visual artist. I pride myself on capturing every line, mark and scar. Solemn duty and capturing the vivid yet emotionless expressions has been my directorial impetus for the soldiery exhibition.
June, I was back in Los Angeles for a few days to photograph a series of Portrait Sittings with three very talented actors. Bo Foxworth, Tony Amendola and Saul Rubinek.
Bo Foxworth is a wonderful stage Actor and recent star of screen and Stage Play All The Way in which Brian Cranston leads the cast as President Lyndon Johnson. My first Portrait sitting of the trip; Bo is a natural in front of the lens, a pleasure to photograph. My theme for the portrait sitting was ‘Expressive’. Directing Bo to assume extreme emotions. To achieve my goal I asked Bo to assume a Shakespearian Character. He obliged me with his favourite Richard III. To my astonishment, Bo became the Machiavellian King presenting me with the true theatrical talent.
Actor Bo Foxworth Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Tony Amendola has an instantly recognisable face and was the subject of my second LA Portrait Sitting. I had the delightful pleasure of seeing Tony on stage, playing Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler at the LA Antaeus Theatre. Amendola is a wonderfully versatile actor appearing on screen in the Mask of Zorro and in the television series Stargate SG1.
Seeking once more, expressive and animated portraiture. I reverted again to the Bard. Tony obliged me with a unique performance of a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. When working with exceptionally talented actors, truly great things can happen. As Tony performed I clicked away at the shutter; capturing a series of remarkably animated and expressive portraits. Movement is essential in portraiture, so many photographers keep their subjects static, whereas I prefer movement and animation.
Tony Amendola Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Tony Amendola Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Tony Amendola Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
My final Portrait Sitting was the most powerful. Actor Saul Rubinek has been a prolific presence on both the stage and screen for many years. Starring in films such as the Unforgiven to television series Warehouse 13. Saul was very familiar with my style of portraiture and when we sat down to discuss the sitting he had a very simple idea. Instead of Acting to the lens, he would tell me a story. The sitting was very profound as Saul regaled a tale about a traumatic time in his life, as he spoke I clicked the shutter and each frame I captured was emotional and thought-provoking.
Saul Rubinek Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Saul Rubinek Rory Lewis London Portrait Photographer
Embarrassingly this was my first visit to the Naval Port City. Surrounded by the History, Admiralty House is a stones-throw away from the iconic HMS Victory and the vast array of the Royal Navy’s powerful arsenal of Warships. The Portrait sittings were very enjoyable, and I took inspiration from the feast of Naval Portraits hanging on the walls in Admiralty House.
Recently I was honored to be commissioned by the Victoria & George Cross Associationto capture portraits of those who have been decorated with Britain and the Commonwealths Highest Orders for Bravery for both Military and Civilian actions. The commission has been exceptionally challenging; the recipients who live all over the globe from Nepal and Canada to New Zealand & Australia. The project is underway and has clocked up the air miles taking me across the globe to capture the men and women who have been posthumously decorated for exceptional bravery.
The stories of valor; selfless courage and fearlessness I have read are incredible and to meet living heroes is indescribable. These men and women have saved lives at the risk of their own; held their ground under immense pressure and injury to themselves. I wanted to post just a few of the tales of valor, if you would like to view the full collection please see my project page.
Lance SergeantJohnson Gideon Beharry VC (born 26 July 1979) is a British Army soldier who, on 18 March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Pte. Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Peter Norton (GC) London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Norton was second-in-command of the American Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) based in the outskirts of Baghdad. Going to the aid of a United States Army patrol that had been attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED) on 24 July 2005, he was checking for the presence of further devices when a secondary victim-operated IED exploded. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm, and he sustained serious injuries to his other leg and lower back. Despite his injuries, he continued to give instructions to his team, suspecting that further devices might be in the vicinity. He refused to be evacuated until he was certain that all personnel on the ground were aware of the danger. A third device was subsequently located and dealt with the following day. He was promoted to major on 31 July 2008. On 1 August 2013, Norton retired from the army on medical grounds.
Margaret Vaughan GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
May 28th, 1949, a party of Scouts, aged between 11 and 15 years, visiting Sully Island were cut off by the rising tide from a causeway which led to the mainland. Most of the boys got safely across, but two of them were forced off the causeway by the strong tide. The leader of the party returned to help the elder boy but in the struggle he too became exhausted. Margaret Vaughan (aged 14 years) saw from the beach the difficulties they were in. She undressed and swam towards them over a distance of some 30 yards in cold, rough water and against strong currents due to the rising tide. On reaching them she towed the boy to the shore while he supported himself by grasping the straps of her costume and his leader’s coat. At about ten feet from the shore a life belt was thrown in which the boy was placed by the other two and the three reached the shore safely. Margaret Vaughan’s action probably saved the life of the Scout leader as well as that of the elder boy.
In March 1973, Beaton was transferred to the Royalty Protection Squad, A Division, and from 14 November served as a Personal Protection Officer to Princess Anne. He was given the number 11 in the small team responsible for protecting members of the Royal Family. On 20 March 1974 the princess and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace from a royal engagement. Their car was stopped in the Mall by another vehicle driven into its path.The car was driven by Ian Ball, who was later declared to be mentally ill; Ball jumped out of his vehicle and tried to force the Princess from her car. He shot the royal chauffeur, Alex Callender, and a passing journalist, Brian McConnell, who tried to assist. Inspector Beaton was shot three times, including serious wounds in the chest and abdomen, and a gunshot wound to his hand, sustained when he tried to block Ball’s weapon with his own body, after his own gun had jammed. Beaton also sustained injuries to his pelvis while trying to disarm Ball. For his bravery Beaton was awarded the George Cross; Callender and McConnell were each awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Beaton remained with the Princess until February 1979.
Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
Limbu was 26 years old, and was a lance corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, British Army during the Indonesian Confrontation when, on 21 November 1965 in Sarawak, Borneo, Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu was in an advance party of 16 Gurkhas when they encountered about 30 Indonesians holding a position on the top of a jungle-covered hill. The lance-corporal went forward with two men, but when they were only 10 yards from the enemy machine-gun position, the sentry opened fire on them, whereupon Limbu rushed forward and killed him with a grenade. The remaining enemy combatants then opened fire on the small party, wounding the two men with the lance-corporal who, under heavy fire, made three journeys into the open, two to drag his comrades to safety and one to retrieve their Bren gun, with which he charged down and killed many of the enemy.
For Syndication & Picture Sales Queries on this Project Please Contact
Wolf has an amazing profile to photograph, I can see why he is always cast in villainous roles, with a Germanic, Prussian-like bone structure. I directed Kahler to assume fierce yet vivid Expressions to directly to the lens. Wolf’s piercing expressions are breathtaking. Portraits must have energy, the still image should hold the viewer. I encourage my sitter’s to express themselves using inventive scenarios and direction. This enables the sitter to show emotion; connecting with the viewer. The sitting was a memorable one, Wolf regaled me with several tales from his casting with Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon to his experience working with Harrison Ford in India Jones.
A first for me this week I had a Portrait sitting at my new Liverpool Studio with Chef Jack Day. Jack is passionate about food and wanted his portraits to reflect his enthusiasm. The images are to be used on Jack’s Website and Marketing Material. Everything from clutching a whole sirloin of beef to throwing carrots and twisting herbs we had a full hour of food fun with the camera to capture an amazing set of frames. If you are a professional in need of new portraits/headshots, I can offer a comprehensive service throughout the UK, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.
One of my current projects is entitled ‘Soldiery’. It’s an exciting, interesting and challenging project in which I’m working in collaboration with the British Army to capture a truly unique collection of military portraiture.
Soldiery has taken a year to complete and has seen me visiting a dozen regiments from theQueen’s Royal Lancers, to the Household Cavalry, Gurkhas and Parachute Regiment. There have been over 250 portrait sittings that have seen me march the length and breadth of the country. Over this past year, I’ve been in military bases as far apart as Scotland’s Fort George in Inverness, to Catterick Yorkshire, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, the MOD Headquarters in Whitehall and Army Headquarters in Andover.
Kings Royal Hussars
The aim of Soldiery has been to capture the ‘greats’ of our military in a portrait collection which will serve as historical record of the British Army in the early 21st Century. This is living history, and includes several of the Army’s Generals and the senior staff of the British Army.
Major General Tim Robinson CBE
The Challenges I asked myself, as a humble civilian, how best to approach the portrait sittings. These figures are eminent people of stature and rank. What was the protocol? What style of portraiture would be best suited?
Lieutenant Colonel James Gaselee LG
Photographers are, in many ways, like a chameleon. We adapt to our environment as we are a facilitator. As you may know, my inspiration is often drawn from historical portrait paintings of the past. I went back to my roots, channelled my inner history buff, and began reminding myself of military paintings of the Napoleonic period. Very quickly I stumbled upon the works of the celebrated George Dawe. His style laid the foundations of my style for the project. With a staggering 342 portraits of Russian Generals to peruse I wasn’t short of inspiration. He was a busy and incredibly talented artist – in an 18 month period he had painted 80 Generals to be displayed at the Winter Palace having gained the commission during a tour of Europe with his Patrons the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
Alexander-Bibikov & Dmitry Levin George Dawe Portrait Artist
George Dawe – Inspiration for Modern Military Portraiture From British shores, Dawe relocated to St Petersburg in 1819. He rapidly won acclaim for his work and also received complimentary poetry verses by Pushkin entitled ‘To Dawe Esq.’ His work is on display at the Hermitage in St Petersburg. In fact, he became somewhat of a celebrity throughout Europe, mixing with the Russian intellectual elite, even gaining an invitation to the coronation of Nicholas I in 1826. By 1828 he had been officially appointed First Portrait Painter of the Imperial Court. For me, perusing his work, it’s the subject’s heroism and responsibility that left its mark. This is what I wanted to capture in my project with a lens, rather than a brush.
Alexander Balashov & Alexander Seslavin George Dawe Portrait Artist
Military Sittings Began – Lt. General Mark Poffley First up was Lt. General Mark Poffley O.B.E at the M.O.D London Headquarters in White Hall. Poffley was commissioned into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1985 and has since served in the British Army for 31 years. He has been deployed in every major conflict in the past three decades from The Gulf War, Bosnian War, Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia, War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
Lieutenant-General Mark Poffley, OBE
So began my aim to capture the General as a leader, an implacable Napoleonic Hero in Dawe’s inspirational style. Once the shoot was underway I requested the General to clutch his sword as I shot from a lower angle. With eyes to the camera I was able to direct, and capture, a fierce yet responsible expression.
General Sir James Everard KCB CBE
My second sitting took place with Lt General Sir James Everard Commander Army Land Forces, this time at Army Head Quarters in Andover. Everard is a veteran of many campaigns and has seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq & Afghanistan. With Dawe’s inspiration at my fingertips I directed the General to pose profile allowing a full display of his medals and battle honours, with sword held close. I requested a responsible yet solemn expression looking to provoke the same thoughts in the viewers of my photographs as Dawe succeeded with his painting.
For historical recording, the sword is of critical importance. It is only part of the dress uniform for Generals who have received a 3-Star rank or above. The swords come from the Sovereign.
Lieutenant General James Bashall CBE
A tall and imposing man, Lt. General Bashall was photographed at the General’s Headquarters in Aldershot. The General is one of the British Army’s most veteran combat commanders, justifiably proud of his service with the Parachute Regiment.
In order to fully capture and capitalise upon the General’s stature, I opted for a half-length portrait. Key this time was to capture his ‘wings’, the symbol of the Paratroopers.
The Major-General commanding the Household Division commands the Household Division of the British Army. He is also General Officer Commanding London District. The Major- General has sole responsibility for the Service aspect of all State and ceremonial occasions within London District, having executive command of the Household Division and of any other units brought into London for ceremonial purposes and is the main channel of communication between the Household Division and the Monarch. He or she is appointed by The Queen, and will previously have commanded a Regiment or Battalion within the Household Division.
Major General Benjamin Bathurst CBE
The incumbent Major General Benjamin Bathurst CBE of the Welsh Guards, now occupies the role. The sitting took place at Horse Guards London. In the historic office, the Duke of Wellington once occupied, now used by the Major General of the Household Division. I couldn’t resist but to capture a portrait of Bathurst, sitting behind the desk once belonging to the Iron Duke.
It is known that the desk itself has been in the o ce of the Major- General since the late 1700s when the room was once known as the Courts Martial Room and then the Levee Room. It became the sole o ce of the Commander in Chief of the British Army sometime in the early 19th century. The desk itself was commissioned and purchased by Frederick Duke of York the second son of King George III, a truly historic sitting.
Major General Sanders is commander of the 3rd UK Division or ‘Iron Division’. It is the job of the Iron Division to respond to the call to field an army, whenever needed. The result is that General Sanders plays a crucial role as a combat commander. Previously a member of the Rifle Regiment, the General is no stranger to the field of combat. Direction this time involved instructing his eyes to focus on the camera with me shooting from a lower point. The result is a portrait capturing a powerful yet thoughtful figure.
Major General Patrick Sanders, London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis
The final General of the collection was Major General Bob Bruce, commander of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. I needed to display tradition in this portrait with Bruce captured in his traditional Scottish uniform. Profile to camera enabled me to capture his regimental badge and his feather plume in all its glory. I used lighting techniques to separate him from the backdrop, creating a split of light on the unseen part of his facial profile.
Major General Bob Bruce
From these sittings with senior military figures I have learned a great deal about capturing leadership. I have found myself directing prominent individuals who are used to themselves giving direction to the men and women they command. I have relished the chance to take responsibility and ownership for these historical images of senior military leaders. These portraits will stand the test of time.
Relying once again on my confidence as a portrait photographer, I was able to bring to the sittings the direction needed to draw on Dawe’s inspiration. This confidence is key to any of my sittings, both military and in other fields where I need to capture leaders: from business to government. Whilst Soldiery is complete, the lessons I’ve learned will follow through to all my future portrait sittings.