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.

Practical Photography (UK) - - January -

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.

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