Student Ian Bellingham captures a slice of life as a soldier
Using a camera passed down from his father, Ian Bellingham captures the realities of being a soldier.
I BECAME INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY when my dad gave me my first camera at the age of six. I was always fascinated with watching the way he worked in his homemade studio, taking portraits and creating unique projects. When he sadly passed away, he left me a box filled with his old photos and a camera with a note that simply said, ‘for Ian’.
Ever since then I haven’t put that camera down. I’ve used it for years, including during my work on ‘Private’, a project that explores my inner conflict between being a student and a soldier. Photography has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s also given me the ability to prove myself and to show people the world through my eyes. It’s made me realise that life is filled with mysteries that need to be shown through the lens of a camera.
However, my obsession for documentary style work soon became more than a hobby. When I joined up to become a Reserve in the Army, the power of photography became much more real. I suddenly found myself caught between two worlds, training to fight alongside my brothers one day, and attending a lecture on photography the next. Coping with this juxtaposition wasn’t easy, and I struggled trying to reconcile the art student and the soldier. One world is free-thinking and speaks its mind, while the other is disciplined and stoic. The dichotomy was almost intolerable, but after a while it became strangely addictive. I needed the army as much as I needed to photograph and document my life. So, I began to train more, think differently and make myself take control of these two opposing worlds. I reflected on how much the army meant to me, and what it is to be a soldier. I took the camera my dad had given me and began documenting what was happening in training.
For this project, I wanted to produce something that people could see as a genuine and private response to these seemingly conflicting ways of life. My plans for the future are to become a full-time soldier and eventually work my way up to being an Army photographer. I hope that I can continue to balance the private contemplation of the artist with the discipline of the army.
Above Ian worked in the artillery unit in the Army Reserves. Once he has completed his selection training, he’ll be entering the Army as an unmanned aircraft operator.