APS Behind the Lens: The Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria’s monument honouring the sacrifice of Australians in war.
A key feature in Anzac Day ceremonies and parades, I was in my mid-20s before I actually went inside and experienced ‘the ray of light’ - at 11am each day, when sunlight enters the Sanctuary to shine on The Stone of Remembrance illuminating the word, ‘Love’.
A few years later, I attended a dawn service for the first time.
Seeing children dressed in their parents or grandparents service uniforms, and an elderly gentleman wearing a slouch hat and handknit cable jumper adorning his father’s medals, deep in thought watching the flicker of the eternal flame - I began to appreciate the profound effect of war and loss on society, the sacrifice of all who defended Australia, freedom, and democracy.
On a dark, cold, and windy winter’s day, I walked to the Shrine from Anzac Avenue. The skies were foreboding. With the threat of rain forever present, it made me think of the experiences of thousands of soldiers, sailors, and aircrew, many barely out of their teens, enduring terrible conditions, cold and starvation, frightened of what lay ahead or shocked at what they would have just witnessed.
I was determined to create an image capturing the foreboding conditions and the feelings of despair, but also the reasons for war, the desire to protect our society and ensure a future.
I snapped a one second exposure, the wind strong enough to move the clouds at a reasonable pace. The Raw file appearing colourless on the LCD screen, and I didn’t have high hopes for the image. With the threat of rain now real, I grabbed my gear and quickly walked to the tram stop on St Kilda Road, annoyed at the conditions.
Later that evening, following a quick edit in Adobe Camera Raw and a conversion to black and white, I was reasonably happy with the result, but at the same time I didn’t think it hit my own ‘brief’.
The image stayed silent and soon forgotten on a hard drive. The following autumn while walking the dogs in a local street, I saw red autumn leaves thickly scattered on the path. I returned later that morning with a wide-angle lens and took a low shot of the colourful leaves. The background wasn’t the best, however I had fun selecting the colour of the leaves, turning the remainder of the image to monochrome.
Along with the image of the Shrine, the image was temporarily forgotten. A couple of months later, a sunrise shoot at Altona saw hundreds of birds take flight moments before the sun rose. I snapped a silhouette.
It wasn’t until the following Anzac Day that I remembered what I was attempting to create two years earlier. Opening the image of the Shrine, I pondered how to convey my original message. The paved foreground dominating the image lacked interest. I suddenly thought of the autumn leaves, the red possibly representing the blood spilled in war.
The leaves fall and die, but the tree remains solid and alive for future generations to live and thrive. Now for the sky - dark and foreboding, the bird silhouettes like the winged angels of the fallen.
A slow process, but I hope to have finally created an image that might make the viewer think about the past and hope for the future. ❂