Let me tell you how all this happened…….
Last year  I was introduced to the work of the fantastic photographer and US Air Force Veteran Stacy Pearsall. Stacy was injured whilst serving in Iraq and found herself with time on her hands during her rehabilitation. This was particularly true in hospital waiting rooms during appointments. To fill some time Stacey would bring her camera and take pictures of the other veterans, thus the Veterans Portrait Project was born.
From my first visit to the website I was captivated by the images Stacy had produced. No words, only pictures but each one told its own story. I was blown away. Eventually I made contact with Stacy and thanked her for such an inspiring project. In the back of my mind I knew I would love to be involved in something like this……I had no idea what what was to come.
Who am I?
My name is Stephen Porteous, known affectionately as ‘Spike’. A name I was given more than a few years ago in high school. I am passionate about photography and strive to learn and be excited by new ways to approach the craft. My subject of choice for a long time has been live music and I love monochrome images. The veterans portrait project now takes up most of my time and I am also a proud military veteran, I served for over 20 years in the British Army [Royal Engineers] and deployed to many operational theaters throughout the world including Iraq and Afghanistan. I now live in the wonderful German countryside, a place that stirs up many memories from my service years.
What is the veterans portrait project?
We, as veterans, have had a higher profile in the last 10 years than at any other time. We now have a Veterans Agency, there are Government charters, there are charities throughout the country with the sole aim of providing support to us if we need it. Becoming a veteran is now also marked with the issuing of the Veterans Badge. Gone are the days when a veteran was the old guy in his flat cap sat in the corner with his pint of beer and a few war stories. We now come in all ages, with varying service experiences and some have been affected to differing degrees. This makes for a complicated bunch of people. Veterans are a proud group. Who do not ask for thanks, who do not ask for recognition. To us it was a job and we done what anyone else would have done. As members of the public I also believe these guys and girls deserve our respect and we should celebrate them. Not put them on a pedestal for being heroes or superhuman, just for being ordinary folk who often found themselves in sometimes extraordinary situations.
With the cessation of operations in Afghanistan earlier in the year, the United Kingdom has reached the point where, for the first time in living memory, we are not involved in combat operations ‘anywhere’. An indirect consequence of this being that veterans are not as media-worthy as we were, we are in danger of slipping from the public’s consciousness . Veterans charities are having to fight even harder for every penny that they so desperately need if they are to continue to provide support. I am not suggesting things are at breaking point, I am suggesting it’s a point we want to avoid. These wonderful organisations take up the slack in the system. In many cases they provide an invaluable link between the veterans and health and social services. The aim of the veterans portrait project is simply to say thank you and to help maintain the public profile at as high a level as possible. The portraits will contain no story, no text, however they will speak a thousand words. Through public exhibitions we hope they will speak to you. If we can achieve this the project will be a success.
Who can take part?
Simple, if you are entitled to wear the veterans badge, you are more than welcome to take part and we would be love to take your portrait.
Where we are at?
A project of this importance and potential magnitude (we have around 4.8 million UK Veterans) does not happen overnight. In these days when we are bombarded by requests for charitable donations on a daily basis I believe the UK suffers from charity fatigue. I know I do. Fortunately Stacy is sponsored by some fantastic companies who have agreed to extended their support to the UK project. Manfrotto UK will supply our stands and bags, The Flash Centre and Elinchrom will supply our lighting equipment. Photoshelter.com have agreed to host the project website and Truprint and Photobox UK have also confirmed their support and will supply us with printed images. I cannot thank the sponsors enough, without them this would be an impossible venture.
Stacy and I will officially launch the Veterans Portrait Project UK in early May 2015. We will both travel to London where we portrait sessions will be conducted at some high profile locations including the Tower of London, Lloyds of London and the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The project launch will also coincide with the 3 days of Victory in Europe (VE70) commemorations that will take place in the capitol. Post launch I will begin a UK wide tour which will visit the major UK cities. We have also been invited to attend many commemoration and celebration events throughout the country. I will publish regular updates on this blog, through social media and on our website.
It has been a long time since my attention was grabbed to this degree. I am extremely excited about the future and I am proud to be a part of the Veterans Portrait Project.
Thank you for taking an interest in our project.
The VPPUK Team