I was in a meeting a little while ago and told the person I was with about my illness (PTSD) and how photography was helping me with my recovery. They suggested I needed to tell my story as, to them, it was “fascinating and really unique”.
So here goes!
I was in the Royal Navy for 22 years. Unlike many, I did not join straight out of school, I had five years of live experience before joining aged 21.
Personally, I would say that my life and career was unremarkable, but to some, it appears the opposite is the case. I started out as a Writer, I better explain that this is the archaic title given to an HR/General clerk in the Navy at the time. I knew within weeks of starting my training that this was not what I wanted to do, but I had fallen for an age old scam run by the recruiters, “join up as …. and if you don’t like it, you can change specialisation easily!”
It took a while, but eventually, after seeing operational service during the 1991 Gulf War and the collapse of Yugoslavia, I transferred to the Royal Navy Police Branch (it was called the Regulating Specialisation back then). While many Naval ratings will snipe and call the job names, I thoroughly enjoyed it and rose through the ranks fairly quickly. I saw further service in the Caribean, Mediterranean, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
I have had the privilege of serving with some real characters and some incredible people over my 22 years career, and while it took me away from my young family a lot, it enabled me to take photographs of some of the most incredible places. One of my favourites being the Delphic temples in Greece and another, the wonderful islands of Malta and Gozo. The pristine beaches and reefs of the Caribbean in the 1990s, before the excessive number of tourist boats and holiday divers, also rank highly in my memories.
The latter part of my career saw me working in the Special Investigations Branch of the RNP. It was whilst employed in this team I experienced my traumatic events. I can’t and won’t go into details of these, it is not appropriate. However, I have a lot of very fond memories of my time with the team, more than the negative ones thankfully.
I left the navy in late 2008, and worked in the NHS from mid-2009 Spring 2017.
My care and treatment by Combat Stress, in particular, the occupational therapy team, reignited my love of photography, I soon found that I was able to deal with many seemingly ‘normal’ activities which had long eluded me if I had a camera with me. In a way, it has become a sort of security blanket, although I prefer the more manly analogy of it being my replacement body armour!
After having had a lot of difficulty dealing with my illness and my job, I was really struggling with life at home and at work. PTSD has cost me a career I used to enjoy in the NHS and my marriage failed because of it. On the up side, I attended a course hosted by Help for Heroes but run by a group called X-Forces on starting up a business/self-employment. It was here I learned that I wanted to make a career of my hobby of photography.
However! I know that I do not want to work in areas such as weddings or babies, so I am trying to market myself in the commercial arena, providing product photography, corporate, PR, Marketing photos etc. I also have taken the decision to focus (pardon the pun) on the automotive and motorsports sectors as I am a bit of a closet ‘petrolhead’.
If you need a photographer for your business, take a punt on this resilient veteran who has discovered just how creative he can be.
So that is my tale of woe and self-discovery, it is not finished yet, and I hope it continues for a long time yet. Watch this space.