Hey Gordon, thanks for taking the time to have a quick catch up with us!
Firstly, tell us a bit about the exciting opportunity you have had working on a project with Michael Madden…
Hi Luke, about five years ago my wife told me that I needed to get a hobby after I had been medically discharged from the Army in 2006. I joined the Bellarine Camera Club as my brother in law was a member. I was asked by the TPI Association (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Association Victoria) six months ago, if I would be the photographer for the book they are putting out to raise funds for the welfare of veterans. The book is called, The Victoria Cross - Australia Remembers and Michael Madden is the author. Michael is a son of a TPI Vietnam Veteran.
Can you tell us a bit about how the offer to work on this project came to be made?
The offer came from within the Association by asking me if I could supply some images for their website as I am also a TPI member. They had seen some of my work at the story writing and art competition that the Department of Veterans Affairs runs annually. The Association wanted a veteran being involved with the book. I met with Michael Williams CEO of TPI Victoria and Michael the author and went over what Michael had in mind for the book. Michael had started the book about 12 months earlier and had written a few stories when I had been approached. Michael had established himself as an author who had released four books up to this time. Michael was also a medal mounter with a huge appetite for military history especially the Victoria Cross.
Tell us a bit about the book itself and what the end product aims to be…
The book is about the 100 Australian Victoria Cross (VC) recipients. The stories are not just about the battlefield exploits but about the brave men who have been awarded the VC. We are speaking to as many relatives as possible to tell their story of the VC and what the ripple effect of this had on the families. My role as the photographer is twofold as I had spent 28 years in the army and had operational service in Iraq. During my career it was not uncommon to be in the presence of a VC recipient. Military history has always been in my blood and when asked to be the photographer I jumped at the chance. Since coming on board I have also been doing a lot of research on the 100 Australian recipients. My other role is the photography that will feature throughout the book which I love as much as the research.
Can you tell us about the locations, people and places you will be shooting for this project?
I will be visiting countries that have the graves of these VC recipients like the UK, Belgium, France, Gallipoli, PNG, Japan, NZ, Malaysia, Egypt, Libya, Russia and Kenya. I have travelled extensively around Australia with still more places to cover for the book. Some of the people we have interviewed are Doug Baird the father of Cameron Baird VC MG (Medal for Gallantry) who was the 100th Australian VC recipient who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Keith Payne VC AM and his wife, the Wheatley family whose father was killed in Vietnam and as an 11 year old, George Wheatley was presented the VC from Lord Casey. When in the UK we will be filming and photographing the cannon that was captured during the Crimean War that has been used to make all VC’s around the world, it is kept in a bunker on a Military base in England. We also be meeting and filming in London at Hancock’s the Jewellers are the Royal Accredited Jewellers - that have made all VC’s since its inception when Queen Victoria ruled. I have been immensely privileged to hold five original VC’s, the highest Military Award you can be awarded.
You studied at Oxygen College, how did your study here help you in reaching a stage where you were able to take on an opportunity like this?
I had an amazing trainer- Andrew Whiteford for Certificate III & IV Photography qualifications. He was able to convey his love of photography which came through in his training practices. If you ever had a question Andrew would give a solid answer and help solve any problem you may have. Oxygen Collage was a terrific place to go to as it had all the things you needed to grasp what photography was all about - great classrooms, studio and equipment.
Where can we get the book when it’s finished or look at your works?
If you go to the TPI website (www.tpivic.com) you can pre order the book which will help fund our travel. As we are creating this book as a not for profit project Michael and I are not receiving anything from the sale of the book. All sales are going directly back to the TPI Association to help the veteran community.
Anything you would like to add?
I am so blessed to be given this opportunity as a photographer - to have your work in a book and to meet so many lovely people along the way. Also we have to keep showing the younger generation what these men did in service for our country.
If there is anyone that is related or knows someone who is related to any Victoria Cross Recipient, please get them to contact me on 0430 144 103.