As with every year Armistice Day reminds us all of the sacrifice made by the generations before us. Where so many (too many) have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of future generations to live in peace in democratic societies. To give my family for example the freedom to choose to 'up sticks' from our home country of England to come and live here in Normandy back in 2004.
I'm privileged in that as a photographer based not far from the famous D-Day Landing Beaches of the northern Normandy coast that I have been asked a number of times to capture the return of both American and British D-Day Veterans as they return to visit the places they arrived at all those years ago as part of Operation Overlord.
This was a slightly different project and not the usual 'reportage' capturing and documenting a return visit. This time I was commissioned by the regional tourist Board Normandy Tourisme because they were looking for a specific photo. They asked for an image of a child with a Veteran interacting together. They wanted it to be simple and not 'cluttered'. The image would be used in marketing materials often used for the British market in posters that would for example appear on the London underground, to attract visitors to visit and discover the history of D-Day and the Landing Beaches.
So it was over to me to find and organise both available children and the possibility of meeting and photographing several Veterans. With some good luck and making contact with a few very helpful people I was fortunate to organise an early morning event with the wonderful men of the Surrey Normandy Veterans who were coming over for the annual D-Day commemorative events around the 6th of June.
With the help of the lovely organising lady of the group the photo-shoot was carried out as quickly as possible so as to not tire out the Veterans before their busy day of events. The two children are two of my own who fitted the right age range for the Tourist Board and therefore were lucky enough to spend a few minutes each with these heroic men who were only too happy to explain and answer their questions about their D-Day arrivals on the beaches behind them. Yes, we shot these images perching on the sea wall of Arromanches above the very beach where they landed within sight of the very cliffs they climbed over 70 years ago, with the remains of the Mulberry Harbour featuring in the background.
I'm not sure my children aged 8 and 13 realise the opportunity they had that day to meet and listen to these gentlemen and to be shown their black and white D-Day Landing photos they happily brought out of their suit pockets to share with the children, but please believe me...I realise and will remind them when they're old enough to appreciate it. That was a day I'll never forget; how these men, now in their dotage (though no less enthusiastic and surprisingly sprightly given their advancing years), were happy and proud to share their experiences and to be photographed with my children, but more importantly feeling grateful for what these men did back then and of course, for those that came and never made it back home during WWII.
Free digital copies of these images have been offered to the gentlemen involved and are available to family members (for private use only) upon request. please contact me for access to the full photo gallery featuring all images
Please enjoy these images, some of which are 'behind the scenes' or simply favourites that touch my heart, as well as the commissioned images.
To organise a trip to the Normandy Landing Beaches and discover the history and museums on the region please visit - Normandy Tourism
To support all British Veterans from WWII and the more recent generations who have also risked their lives, please support the Royal British Legion