A difficult place for art is the military. As stereotypes, the two corners of culture couldn’t be more different, never mind the fact that a battlefield, or day-to-day training, doesn’t provide much time for artistic development. With every conflict, there are the years where none involved want to discuss their time fighting, and eventually, the memoirs, the canvases, and the poetry will arrive. It takes time to digest the events of any war, and even then, it is never an easy task to relay the experience to those who watched from a distance. The perfect time, then, to capture the essence of soldiers, is when they have the time to be captured.
That is precisely what photographer Rory Lewis has achieved. In his new collection entitled ‘Soldiery’, Lewis has taken portrait photographs of a huge range of modern soldiers, from a variety of different nations; Australia, Malaw, Zimbabwe, to name three. The pictures celebrate the bravery of the military, but they do more than that. It is easy to find courage in those serving. Lewis’s subjects offer more than that, though, and allow a different perspective. The photographs possess an historical quality, akin to those portrait paintings of generals celebrated for victories abroad.
One shot in particular, however, has caught the attention of the Portrait of Britain Exhibition, in which a multitude of diverse portraits of British citizens are put on display around the UK. Captain Anani-Isaac, a member of the Royal Lancers, is one of the subjects of Lewis’s collection, and it is his image that the Portrait of Britain Exhibition have shortlisted to be a part of their project. It is not difficult to understand why, from those in Lewis’s shots, that they shortlisted that of the Captain. Besides the dramatic weight behind the image, it provides a broader view of the UK military. It also does what can be a struggle, and what the rest of Lewis’s shots do: allows an artistic style to the military and its otherwise polar-opposite culture.