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Soldier On

As part of the ways of looking festival I was given a few set events I should really attend. One being the Stuart Griffiths talk about his new book "The Myth of the Airborne Warrior". I hadn't heard of him before and when I attended the talk to document it I saw a different side to the conflict in Ireland that is so infamous. I have previously seen Donavon Wylie's work which is exhibiting at the moment in The National Media Museum in Bradford. And so I had seen a photographer who had grown up around the times of "The Troubles" he had looked at watchtowers in Ireland, and then as they were taken down and sent over to Afghanistan to be used as watchtowers over there, he followed them. The work is stunning and moving and shows the development of crossing over views of being on one side where has said he would shout at the soldiers in the street with his friends, to walking with soldiers in Afghanistan through local villages feeling isolated and truly unwanted. Griffiths work is from the viewpoint of a soldier in Ireland in the 80s and 90s. His images sometimes are harrowing and hints at how isolated these men were who were sent to fight against the IRA.

Griffiths says in his book "The Myth of The airborne Warrior", "I did feel alot of animosity towards the IRA...but I didn't find any pride in the reality of the situation". I find this really interesting, you hear stories of soldiers who go to fight for their country but don't necessarily know what they're fighting for. Girffiths says this and implies that yes he did resent the IRA and the trouble and war that had been inflicted on Ireland but it doesn't make him feel proud to have been a part of it. With Wylie's work it is more about his journey of understanding soldiers and the pride and reasoning that goes behind it. And during a lecture held by Wylie he stated well there didn't seem much point. And I feel after reading Griffiths book that he would have similar views. He said that "95% boredom and 5% mayhem". Most of the time soldiers are sent to places just to show a presence rather that steady a seriously unbalanced society. As I am not Irish, a descendent of any close related irish people that have ever lived there I find it very interesting when photographers and artists distribute their stories and the different contrasting views they have.  An audience member during the talk asked Griffiths, What does he mean by the title of the book "The Myth of the Airborne Warrior". And Griffiths replied saying that the myth is that you go to fight and die honourably for your country when the reality is much more blurred and unrealistic to what is commonly heard about being a soldier. I looked more on his site and some of the images of soldiers affected by war are truely heartbreaking and show a darker side to just fighting for your country and taking all the physical, emotional and phsycological damage that comes with it. 


Griffiths, S. (n/a). Portfolio. Available: Last accessed 24th Oct 2011. 
Griffiths, S (2011). The Myth of the Airborne Warrior. Brighton: Photoworks. p39-52.


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