ANZAC Day services are a significant and powerful part of New Zealand culture. Until today, I hadn’t been to a dawn parade for around 10 years. I guess it isn’t something I feel a strong personal connection to. It doesn’t usually seem particularly relevant to me, and I imagine that I would feel out of place being present at such an emotional ceremony that doesn’t feel like part of my own story. This year the NZIPP organised a national project collaborating with the RSA with the aim of photographing all remaining WW2 servicemen and women. The object was to photograph as many as possible on ANZAC day.
I volunteered to participate, because although the day’s commemoration and ceremony feels a little unfamiliar or distant to me, I understand the value of remembrance. I understand that documenting our history and heritage is important. In the case of war, though I don’t appreciate glorification I do believe in honouring those who had little choice but to participate and suffered great personal loss in the course of serving in the armed forces. I also believe that the road to a peaceful world involves much reflection on the past. And I wanted to use my skills and resources toward a project that I could see had huge value from many perspectives. Since I was going to be photographing vets on ANZAC Day, it seemed appropriate to attend the dawn service beforehand. Both because I had never attended a Greymouth service before, and to add to the documentary value of the project by photographing the ceremony.
I’m really glad that I did participate. I’m especially glad that I went to the dawn service. It was moving to see a large crown gather in spite of inclement weather conditions to pay their respects. It was great to spend time talking with gentlemen who served in World War Two so long ago. And it was fantastic to be able to be part of such a huge and meaningful project documenting a disappearing part of New Zealand’s history.
Here are some images from the service. The portraits will be released as a full collection by the NZIPP and the RSA down the track, in time for the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, ANZAC Day next year.