Hidden Places

For any photojournalist it is extremely important to be able to negotiate your way into areas of limited access, in order to get an inside scoop, or angle that may not be accessible to others. I have experienced this once before with a photo-shoot I did for my A-S level photography work. I based a photo-shoot around an old train yard in my local area and had to write to the council asking for access, luckily they allowed me to go ahead and I came back with some great images that I other wise wouldn’t have been able to take. Here are some of my favorite photographs from that shoot.  9SC_9485

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For this brief we were asked to negotiate are way into somewhere we wouldn’t normally be able to photograph. To provide a behind the sense view or inside look of the subject we chose to photograph.  I did my photo shoot at a fish and chip shop in Headingley, these are some of the images I came back with.

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Over all I am happy with this photo-shoot, I feel it provides a good view of a day in the life of a fish and chip shop from behind the sense. This task has made me want to do more of this behind the sense style photography, but apply it to my personal interests. I have recently been speaking to various events organizers to try and get press passes for various events over the summer, allowing me to focus my work around music. Hopefully I will get some good results.

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Street Photography

“What is the difference between a road and a street? It is not a question of size (some urban streets are wider than country roads). A road heads out of town while a street stays there, so you find roads in the country but not streets. If a street leads to a road your heading out of town. Keep on it long enough and a road will  eventually turn into a street, but not necessarily, vice versa (a street can be an end itself). Streets must have houses on either side of them to be streets. The best streets urge you to stay; the road is an endless incentive to leave.” [1]

Street Photography is often a portrayal of the human condition within a public place. Despite this, the subject of an image may not necessarily be people or even be even set in an urban environment, but reflects an aspect of human character in aesthetic, or what may be signified within the image.

“I suspect it is for one’s self-interest that one looks at one’s surroundings and one’s self. This search is personally born and is indeed my reason and motive for making photographs.” [2]

Here are a few examples taken from Walker Even’s Subway Photography between 1938 and 1941 using a 35mm Contax camera set at a wide aperture and a 50th of a second shutter speed.

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As you can see in this case the photography is also candid, with the subject having no idea they were being photographed due to Even’s hiding the camera with his coat. As a series of images they portray the vast diversity between individuals in New York at the time, as well as how they represent them selves publicly, with a slight insight into personality.

These images have been taken by Martin Parr a British Street Photographer who  successfully portrays British culture though his work especially throughout the 80’s.

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“If there is poetry in illiteracy (‘starwbery’, ‘choclate’) there is also beauty in vulgarity.” [3]

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“Street photographs are telling objects, portraying how individuals perform their identities in public” [4]

These images are work by famous New York street photographer Joel Meyerowitz capturing the essence of busy city life in the big apple.

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At almost every workshop I’ve taught, someone will come up and ask me what they should shoot and/or where they should go to shoot. I try to explain that photography is a process… a process of discovery. Not only do you discover things to shoot, you discover things about yourself as a photographer. And, you discover what your interests really are and how best to capture those subjects. One suggestion I always make is to avoid preconceptions. Planning can be highly overrated. Don’t go out there with a definitive idea of what you want to shoot. Leave yourself open to chance… whether it’s the light, a moment, etc. This way you will avoid being disappointed by what you don’t find and instead be amazed by what you do!” [5]

We were given the task of producing 6 street photographs based on one of the following themes:

Fast Food

Family Life

After Hours

Fur and Leather

I chose to do my shoot under the subject of After Hours and did my shoot in Leeds city centre after 10:00pm on a Wednesday night.

Here are the 6 photographs I produced.

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Reflection

Overall I was happy with this shoot as I feel they well depict an after hours, urban environment. I edited the photographs slightly to enhance the neon street light feel of the environment. Overall my favorite image is the one of Mc Donald’s, with a loan man sitting in the window, as I feel it is not only technically, the most well shot image, but I also feel the subject best fits the brief of After Hours, whilst also having connotations to loneliness.

Here is another image that I did not include in the original six, due to its grainy and slightly out of focus quality. The image was taken from the hip as we walked past each other, hence the poor quality. Despite this there is something about it I like that I cant quite put my figure on.

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References

[1] Geoff Dyer – The On Going Moment – 2005 – Great Britain – Little Brown – 1st edition – Page 202

[2] Lee Friedlander – Unknown

Erick Kim – 10 Famous Street Photography Quotes You Must Know – erickimphotography – 2011 – 01/05/2014

http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/09/12/10-famous-street-photography-quotes-you-must-know/

[3] Geoff Dyer – The On Going Moment – 2005 – Great Britain – Little Brown – 1st edition – Page 189

[4] Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spizer quoted by Jennifer Tucker Eye on the Street: Photography in Urban Public Spaces Radical History Review September 2012

[5] Arthur Meyerson – Unknown

http://www.photoquotes.com/showquotes.aspx?id=1067&name=Meyerson,Arthur

 

 

Magazines

In this lecture we looked at magazines, and the magazine industry, discussing semiotic analysis, Readership, Markets and understanding the potential audience for are work.

“When investigating a whole text like a magazine, we will need to think about how the process of reading the magazine effects the meanings of the signs which are used. We will need to ask how far polysemy, the multiple meanings of signs, is limited by the context and interrelationships of signs with each other.” [1]

Semiotic Analysis Of Magazines

* Magazines construct signs to communicate social meanings for their readers.

* These signs relate to an ideology that appears natural in the context of the magazine.

* The ideology that the magazine constructs relates to the advertising that the magazine attracts.

Who are the readers?

“The categorisation of readers by age-group or relationship status is used by magazine publishers and advertisers as a shorthand way of indicating the main issues discussed in the magazines editorial material, the kind of readers the magazines are thought to have, and the kinds of products advertised in the magazines.” [2]

A semiotic analysis might reveal that a particular magazine has an (ideal reader) corresponding to the man or woman whose interests are targeted by the magazine, there will also be a large number of (non – ideal) readers, who may not have particular interests that are in line with a publication, For example if a man was to might pick up a Woman’s Fashion Magazine in a Hospital waiting room out of boredom he would be a (non – ideal) reader.

Magazine Markets

* Consumer Magazines

* Business to Business Magazines

* News and Educational Magazines

* In House Journals

* Independent or Alternative magazines

” As in any commercial transaction the sellers attempt to make their wares as attractive as possible.” [3]

Understanding Your Potential Audience

*Who will see your pictures?

i.e What publication is your work for, or being pitched to. Dose your work suit that demographic and is it in fitting with their interests?

*What will they Expect to see?

*What will they not expect to see?

“Photographers’ work is greatly influenced by the relationships they develop with writers and how closely the photographs mirror the word stories.” [4]

Would a reader expect to see your work in this publication? Is it in fitting or dose it stand out as something that isn’t in tune with the rest of the magazine?

*How will you provoke their interests?

Dose your work relate with the interests of the readership? Is it relevant?

” If video captures immediate attention, the still frame is a lasting image. If it defines a story and fixes it in the collective memory…. What people forget, however, is that a picture can mislead as easy as a set of words. When Asian refugees streamed out of Kuwait into Jordan, I went to the boarder each day to write what I saw. Photographers came along with instructions. Sometimes, a distant editor asked for tragic pictures. On other days, he wanted happy ones. (Rosenblum, 1993, p. 93)” [5]

References

[1] Jonathan Bignell – Media Semiotics: An Introduction – 2002 – Manchester England – Manchester University Press – 2nd Edition – Page 55

[2] Jonathan Bignell – Media Semiotics: An Introduction – 2002 – Manchester England – Manchester University Press – 2nd Edition – Page 57

[3] Loup Langton – Photojournalism And Today’s news – 2009 – Sussex England – John Wiley & Sons – 1st Edition – Page 97

[4] Loup Langton – Photojournalism And Today’s news – 2009 – Sussex England – John Wiley & Sons – 1st Edition – Page 105

[5] Loup Langton – Photojournalism And Today’s news – 2009 – Sussex England – John Wiley & Sons – 1st Edition – Page 93

 

 

 

I Love my Uni Task

In this task we were asked to take two photographs around the university campus, that would complement articles under the header (I love my Uni). One was to be used for an article in The Daily Mail and the other for National Geographic.

This was the photograph taken for The Daily Mail, are angle would have been to focus on the history of the building and how it was once a hospital during World War 2.

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Another idea was to use this image, for a rather cynical article about the darker side of university. With the title of the article (I love my uni) being used ironically. I feel this would be more in fitting with other articles that can be found in The Daily Mail. The article could possibly have been about violence, caused by excessive drinking.

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The Photograph taken for National Geographic focuses on Becketts park, in which Leeds Metropolitan University is based, this would have been are angle for this article, aimed at the natural beauty the university is surrounded by.

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I feel we came back with images that could be worked into articles for either of these publications, as we considered possible angles when taking the photographs. Unfortunately the image quality is poor due to the photographs been taken on a phone.

Documentary photography

Documentary photography usually refers to a type of professional photojournalism , but it may also be an amateur or student pursuit. The photographer attempts to produce truthful, objective, and usually candid photography of a particular subject, most often pictures of people. The pictures usually depict a certain perspective of the photographer.

“Usually such photographs are meant for publication, but are sometimes only for exhibition in an art gallery or other public forum. Sometimes an organization or company will commission documentary photography of its activities, but the pictures will only be for its private archives.” [1]

when shooting documentary photography it is important to have an angle, and work towards an overall or theme.

“For me, documentary photography has always come with great responsibility. Not just to tell the story honestly and with empathy, but also to make sure the right people hear it. When you photograph somebody who is in pain or discomfort, they trust you to make sure the images will act as their advocate.” [2]

Photographer Ed Kashi is well known for his work surrounding humanitarianism.

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These images were taken from his work on northern Nigeria, done for National Geographic in 2013. As you can see they depict a place and its culture, in essence relaying a story to the viewer. The photographer is likely to choose their shots carefully in order to paint the picture they are trying to portray and create an overall piece that works towards a theme.

These pictures are taken from a collection titled cocaine blues by photographer Eugene Richards.

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As you can see these photos document the gritty life styles of drug abusers, giving the viewer an insight into their world. Documentary Photographers often get close to the people they are photographing in order to get a true representation of their world.

“It’s a process of getting to know people. That’s what photography is to me. It’s about paying attention, not screwing up and blowing a great opportunity.” [3]

References 

[1] Unknown – Definition Of Documentary –  Unknown – http://documentaryshooters.com/definition-of-documentary – 04/05/2014

[2] Giles Dudley – Unknown  

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/gilesduley559497.html#6fL3Gqqj0ObL3yPs.99 (Giles Duley)

[3] Eugene Richards – Unknown

http://photoquotations.com/a/569/Eugene+Richards (Eugene Richards)

 

Appraisal

For part of this assignment we were asked to take a collection of photographs under the title (us), this title lead me to consider ideas that I could relate to me and my house mates. Originally I focused the shoot around the people in the house, and the state we tend to leave it in. I took a first collection of photographs the day after a house party, with images capturing the aftermath, as well as some of my housemates looking rather worse for were the next day. I felt this was a good portrayal of (us) and are current life style.

These images were taken with a cannon EOS 650, with a 35-70mm lens, using 24x36mm ilford XP2 black and white film. After taking this first selection of images, I developed the negatives in the darkroom to create a contact sheet, this was done by cutting of the extra inch of the film that is blank, and loading it on to a developing reel, which involved opening the film capsule in complete darkness and placing it into the reel. The reel is then placed into a light-tight developing tank. At this point you can turn on the lights. I found working in the darkness rather hard, as this was quite a fiddely process.

Developer is then pored into the developing tank, which is mixed at a 1:3 ration of developer to chemical solution. My film had a seven minuet developing time, meaning it would be left in the developer for this duration. I timed this process and made sure to flip the tank and give it a slight shake every 30 seconds in order to agitate the film. After this process was complete I poured out the developer and used water as a stop, this was then agitated a couple of times over a 2 minuet period, before replacing the water with fix solution. This was agitated again every 30 seconds over a 4 minuet period. Finally I poured out this solution and a put a small amount of water in the tank, giving it a light shake to rinse off any left over fix. After emptying the tank and taking out my film I hung it in a heater for around 20 minuets to dry.

When my film was developed. I cut it in to segments allowing it to then fit into the clips on the easel, that hold the negatives in place on the glass panel. I then placed my photo paper in the easel and closed it. Ensuring my negatives were flat and fit on to the photo paper. I put this to one side, as I adjusted the enlarger to ensure the light would flood around the whole film. Next I adjusted the focus of the light in order to ensure it was sharp.

Before continuing I set up the developer, stop and fix trays in order to place my contact sheet in when finished with the enlarger.

I set the time to five seconds on the enlarger, then covered up the majority of the easel with a piece of card, leaving one horizontal strip exposed to the light when I turned it on. Each time I turned on the light I moved the card across by one frame, exposing more of the film. When all the film had been exposed, over various time periods I took out my photo paper and placed it into the developer. I gently tilted the tray every few seconds, to ensure the whole paper was being covered by solution. This was done for one and a half minuets, its was then moved into the stop for 30 seconds, before finally placing it into the fix for around 3 minuets. After this stage was complete I put the photo paper through the drier.

Once this was complete it allowed me to gage the right exposure time for my film. As each vertical strip had been exposed for different time periods, it left me with a scale to see what looked best, with the over exposed images appearing too dark and the under exposed images appearing too light on the contact sheet. I judged that the best exposure time would be 6 seconds and then repeated this process after adjusting the timer, although this time I didn’t use card to expose the film at different times. Instead I let the light hit the whole of the easel exposing it all for 6 seconds.

There was a variety of images I was happy with on this contact sheet, although due to time scales I did not feel I had enough time to enlarge, and complete the process of developing my final images. Due to the time difficulties, I choose to go and buy a new roll of Ilford XP2 super 400 C41 black and white film. The difference between this and my original film is that it is chromogenic film, allowing it to be developed in standard colour negative chemistry, meaning I could have it developed at retailers such as Jessops.

This time round there was no house party aftermath to focus my shoot around, although the house was still extremely messy. The boys had been away for the weekend, and contrary to many opinions regarding girls being generally tidier than us guys, it was the girls that had turned the clean house we had left, into a disgraceful mess, with half eaten take aways, dirty dishes and empty wine bottles littered throughout.

Basing my shoot on the mess that had been left, fit with my original idea, so using the same camera, I took more photos with the new film. I chose to use 400iso film, as there is relatively dim lighting in the living room and kitchen of my house and I planned to take my photographs later in the evening, after it had gone dark. This is what I did originally and found that the sharpest images on my contact sheet were ones taken with slightly more lighting. Taking this in to account during the shoot, I took the photos and the dropped them of at Jessops to be developed the next day. Upon retrieving my pictures I selected one image to be enlarged to 10×8. This was the final image I chose to present, backed on a wooden board I bought from Wilkinson’s.

I am happy with my final images although would be interested in seeing how the original shoots negatives, would have turned out if I had continued to develop them my self. Therefore I may return to the dark room when I have a little more time and continue the process to see what I end up with.

Observation and Construction

Too Early and Too Late

Too early refers to observational photography, where one might say that the actually thinking of the photograph happens before the idea, has been fully realised.

Too late refers to constructed, highly premeditated photographs made in a manner that has come to be defined as ‘directional’.

We were asked two photographs, one of which should be an observational photograph and the other had to be constructed.

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This was the observational photograph I have taken, capturing a reality as it happened.

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As you can see this is my constructed image, it portrays a created reality, manipulated for the photograph.

Final Shoot Appraisal

After being shown the 3 issues we were to base are photo shoots around, I chose to make mine reflective of ideas brought to life by both the emotional issue and the dark issue. These Ideas included emotions such as, Violence, Isolation, Sadness, Abandonment and Distress. I looked at various photographers that had done work that also reflects these ideas, or emotions, through what is signified within their images.

Firstly I looked at work by Richard Avedon, in specifically a range of black and white portraits that I felt capture the oddity of the human psyche. I drew from the emotions signified through the facial expressions of his subjects and applied this to my own photo shoot, in order to signify a similar feeling of abandonment that I felt was well portrayed well within his images.

The Idea of trying to use strong facial expressions, in order to direct the narrative of my images, and signify the emotions I wanted to portray, became more apparent after looking at a similar series of images, taken by photographer Lee Jeffries. His images of people living on the streets of Europe and the U.S also had a strong emphasis on facial expression, as well as body language to portray emotion. These images made me consider the body language of my model, and how this could also be used as a tool to signify the emotions I wanted to portray within my own photo-shoot.

I also looked at a series of photographs taken by Logan Gelik, in which running mascara had been used to signify his model had been crying, reflecting the sadness of the girl in his images. This use of a signifier seemed to be another good way to direct the narrative of my photographs.

After finding work by photographer, Andy Armstrong portraying the emotional distress and physical pain of domestic violence, I chose to base my shoot around this topic. Looking at his images helped me to consider how I would create the stadium of my images, as well as what the punctum of in each image may be.

Barthes defines stadium as an education of some sorts, that allows for the discovery of the operator. Studium is what initially draws a viewer into an image for example the scene, subject or location. It shows a photographers intention encoding it for a viewer to then relay. Culture is influential to the way a stadium is likely to be interpreted, as connotations drawn from signifiers within an image are likely to vary due to a viewer’s cultural reference.

The punctum is the element that holds your attention keeping you interested, and looking deeper into what you see.  It can exist along side the stadium but also disturbs it. This could be something such as props, facial expressions, body language or lighting.

The punctum creates an element that stands out from the scene, and becomes the focal point of the image, adding meaning or a narrative that make the image much more interesting. The punctum can be individual to the viewer, as what people choose to read into can very, along with the connotations they may relay to it.

The studium is essentially coded, however the punctum is not, it is an element that within itself has a meaning, but was not originally embedded within the images meaning. Barthes describes this as “that accident which pricks, bruises me.”

When decoding the images I looked into, by Andy Armstrong. I noticed the studium to me, is created mainly through the lighting, with a circle of brighter light surrounding the subject, creating a visual contrast between light and darkness that draws in the viewer. This in turn leads the viewer to see a girl sat curled up in a shower, this is signified through the tiling on the walls of the images setting, and the wet hair of the model. The punctum is then established by the bruising on the girls face, as well as here expression and body language. Adding a new layer to the image, relaying emotions of sadness, and connotations to domestic violence.

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I feel the stadium in many of my images was created with deep shadows on the face of my model, causing contrast with a lighter, plane backdrop, in turn drawing the views eye into the image and onto the model. The punctum is then created through the smudged mascara signifying sadness, and the idea that the girl in the image has been crying. It could also be viewed as the bruising, facial expression or body language of the model.

The bruising that can be seen in some of my images, on the models face and neck, is what I feel signifies the idea of domestic violence, although is left dependent on the views interpretation of this signifier.

Out of the images I have taken, different elements can been seen to create the punctum. I feel in the images where my model is curled up, in a similar fashion to the model used in Andy Armstrong’s images, the punctum would be the body language, this the enhances the feeling of emotion re-laid through her facial expression.

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In images where my model appears to have slit her wrist, I feel it is the blood that creates the studium, as it draws the eye into the image. The deep red colour of the blood, contrasts with the darker colours in the shot, from there the viewer is lead to the puntum. Elements such as the running mascara, or facial expression, then build the narrative of the image. The mascara running down the face of the model signifies sadness, with connotations to someone crying, while facial expression of the model indicates, distress and worry.

By lowering the saturation of the image, it allowed me to make the red of the blood really stand out from the rest of the image, making it the strong, eye catching element of the photograph that draws you in. The blood signifies, self-harm, suicide and depression. This is re-laid to the viewer through the connotations they may draw from what they see.

The connotations they make to what is signified, helps further establishes the narrative of the photograph.

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I feel my images well reflect my intentions when going into this shoot. The emotions I wanted to inspire are brought to life through what is signified within my images. Ideas of, Violence, Isolation, Sadness, Abandonment and Distress, are all relayed to the viewer, and left to their interpretation when creating the narrative.

Ben Thompson

 

Online Article

What’s left of War? 

Over the years, I have had many friends that have chosen to join the Military, and at one point seriously considered signing up as a Royal Marine myself. I have watched some of these friends return from various war zones in the Middle East, and have seen first hand the effect that war has had on them.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only one who has seen its brutality, its stupity.”

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by extremely stressful, frightening or distressing events. It can develop in some people immediately after an event, and for others it can take months or even years to notice symptoms. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 3 people who have a traumatic experience suffer from (PTSD), although it is not clear why some people develop the condition and others don’t.

Year by year, troops are coming home with the emotional baggage of being at war, a heavy and complicated burden that very few can relate to or fully understand.

Prior to writing this article I had a conversation with a friend that had been stationed in Afghanistan numerous times, and is now left intent on leaving the armed forces. It was apparent to me that weather he knew it or not. Both him and members of his regiment had been affected by their experiences.

“I went to the chippy, got back in my car and opened the bag of chips to eat a few, then a car backfired on the street. I shit my self and dropped the chips all over the place, then went proper weird an nearly started crying.”

He explained to me how little insignificant things had sparked dramatic reactions and irrational behavior. Painting a haunting picture in great detail. Showing not the fallen soldiers we commemorate, but the surviving casualties of war, missed out as almost insignificant, due to their perfect physical condition, but living on, to face, and re-live, a war they were once in, for a lifetime.

The most worrying thing, was that there seems to be a stigma attached to people who choose to talk about the traumatic experiences a solider goes through, especially amongst younger people, as if they were weak or soft. This could be why many people suffering from (PTSD) don’t receive treatment, or why many people may even refuse to come to terms with the fact they are struggling.

I have seen my friend change, from the fresh faced teen he once was, enjoying basic training and keen to get out in the field. To the person he is now – not ruined by war, but certainly molded by it. Unfortunately, there are many people like him, some suffering from much greater psychological terrors, some of them spending lifetimes dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It seems apparent to me now that those going to war, not only have to survive their violent surroundings, but also the psychological scars they may come back with.

“If you think of humanity as one large body, then war is like suicide, or at best, self mutilation.

JEROME P. CRABB

By Ben Thompson.

 

Print Article

What’s left of War? 

Over the years, I have had many friends that have chosen to join the Military, and at one point seriously considered signing up as a Royal Marine my self. I have watched some of these friends return from various war zones in the Middle East, and have seen first hand the effect that war has had on them.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only one who has seen its brutality, its stupity.”

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Since 2003, 446 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan alone. 6,996 soldiers have been injured, and well over 100 troops have suffered amputations. More than 10,000 soldiers are still stationed in the Middle East. However the number of soldiers dealing with post dramatic stress disorder goes unknown.

Newspapers over the last decade have been riddled with articles that cover the death, or injury of troops stationed in the Middle East. Although it is a rarity that you will hear or read about the thousands of soldiers that come home in perfect physical condition, but emotionally distressed. Dealing with the immense psychological pain of war.

Post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is an anxiety disorder caused by extremely stressful, frightening or distressing events. It can develop in some people immediately after an event, and for others it can take months or even years to notice symptoms. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 3 people who have a traumatic experience suffer from (PTSD), although it is not clear why some people develop the condition and others don’t.

Symptoms of (PTSD) have been categorised by the NHS to fall under the following.

Re-experiencing – Apparently the most common form of (PTSD), When a person vividly re-lives an event or experience through the form of nightmares, flash backs or repetitive images and sensations. This can include physical sensations such as sweating, trembling, or even pain. Some people suffering from (PTSD) may repeatedly ask themselves questions, preventing them from excepting, or coming to terms with the event. Such as; could I have done anything to prevent this? Or, why did this happen to me? This can then lead to feelings of guilt or shame.

Avoidance and emotional numbing – Trying to avoid or be reminded of the traumatic event. Often by avoiding certain people, or a place that might be linked to the experience, as well as avoiding to talk to people about the experience. Emotional numbing is where by dealing with these feelings, you try not to feel anything at all; this can lead to someone feeling isolated or withdrawn and is also believed to have links to alcohol and drug abuse.

Hyperarousal or (feeling ‘on edge’) – This is when some one feels extremely anxious and finds it difficult to relax, they may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This state of mind is known as (Hyperarousal). This mind state often leads to irritability, sleeping problems, angry outbursts and difficulty concentrating.

Studies have also shown that young people are also more likely to suffer from (PTSD), with the worst cases resulting in suicide. Bearing in mind the U.K still allows people as young as sixteen to sign up for the armed forces, its no surprise that soldiers suffering with this condition is a very real and substantial threat, when returning from war.

Year by year, troops are coming home with the emotional baggage of being at war, a heavy and complicated burden that very few can relate to or fully understand.

I remember drinking with friends that had returned from Afghanistan for the second time, and hearing one of them make a joke as to weather it would be worth getting an arm or a leg blown off, in return for the compensation. Besides from thinking this was a rather badly tasted joke, I realized how much he had differed this time round. The first time he was due out, he barley spoke about his views, or feelings on what he was going into, besides the odd “I’m shitting it mate”. This time he had changed. Although at this point he did not seem massively effected by what he had seen. He was certainly de-sensitized by it. I still wonder weather the joke was made to mask his fear, or weather the worry of getting injured out there had truly gone, if he had chosen to either, ignore or except the possible consequences of war.

Years have passed since that conversation. He has returned yet again from Afghanistan and could one day end up back there, or in another war zone that seems worlds away from the place we call home. I sat down with him over a drink, prior to writing this article, and asked him various questions about his experiences and his views on (PTSD).

Although my friend seemed slightly reserved throughout this conversation, it was apparent to me that weather he knew it or not. Both him and members of his regiment had been affected by their experiences. He explained how members of his regiment had suffered from (PTSD), in Afghanistan after returning back to base from operations.

“Yeah some of them have really freaked out, especial when we were out there. You get shot at on an opp and when its over, you think thank fuck I wasn’t hit. Then a day or two later, your back out on another one and have to go through it all again. Seen a few lads break down at the thought of that like.” 

I could only imagine having to go through this day after day, for months on end. Its no surprise to me that this has extreme effects on the mental state of a solider. The immense stress, on top of witnessing horrific scenes, that us as civilians are only likely to see movies, such as Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, seems enough to mentally cripple any human being.

From the outside, it does not seem apparent my friend suffers gravely from (PTSD), although he admits he has noticed changes in his behavior, since first going out to Afghanistan. He explained to me how little insignificant things had sparked dramatic reactions and irrational behavior.

“I went to the chippy, got back in my car and opened the bag of chips to eat a few, then a car backfired on the street. I shit my self and dropped the chips all over the place, then went proper weird an nearly started crying.”

Although out of context, a story such as this one seems almost comical. When pieced together with the knowledge of what he’s been through and other more worrying tales I have heard, but didn’t feel comfortable asking about, a haunting picture paints itself in great detail. Showing not the fallen soldiers we commemorate, but the surviving casualties of war, missed out as almost insignificant, due to their perfect physical condition, but living on, to face and re-live, a war they were once in, for a life time. His view on war had changed, along with his view on the profession he had chosen at 17. He no longer wanted to be in the military, telling me that he would leave as soon as his time was up, to take on a more typical trade, such as becoming an electricians apprentice.

“When I first went out I was scared like, but I didn’t think it would bother me. After doing all your training your proper geared up to go. Then after the first time I really didn’t wanna go back out there. Couldn’t think of anything worse.”

The most disturbing thing about (PTSD) is that it seems many young soldiers seem to hide or suppress the problem, thinking they might be thought less of, for talking about what they’re going through. There’s no wonder people dealing with this problem feel isolated, when they’re afraid to admit what they’re dealing with.

“Well you don’t wanna get the piss taken out of you.”

It was no surprise to me that my friend didn’t go in to much detail when answering my questions, but who can blame him. How are you supposed to expect someone to fully explain something like this, when speaking about it brings the experience back to life? That seems to be the thing with (PTSD), some of the solutions, such as psychological therapy, seem as if they can add to the problem. Causing people to re-live their experience when prompted it to talking about it.

It’s as if there’s a stigma attached to people who choose to talk about the traumatic experiences a solider goes through, especially among’st younger people, as if they were weak or soft. This could be why many people suffering from (PTSD) don’t receive treatment, or why many people may even refuse to come to terms with the fact they are struggling.

I have seen my friend change from the fresh faced teen he once was, enjoying basic training and keen to get out in the field. To the person he is now, not ruined by war, but certainly molded by it. Unfortunately, there are many people like him suffering from much greater psychological terrors, some of them spending life times dealing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the age of 18 I re-took my A-level exams, with the aim of getting enough UCAS points to sign up for officer training, with the Royal Marines.  During this period I made the decision that I first wanted to go to university. Now almost half way through my degree I find myself writing this article, and I can definitely say my views have changed.  Although the Royal Marines careers pack, given to me in the recruitment office, still sits somewhere in a bedroom draw, the idea of joining now seems distant. Many aspects of the job still seem appealing to me, but the risk of going to war is always present, as after all, its what your there for. It seems apparent to me now that those going to war, not only have to survive their violent surroundings, but also the psychological scars they may come back with.

“If you think of humanity as one large body, then war is like suicide, or at best, self mutilation.” 

JEROME P. CRABB

By Ben Thompson.