'When the wounded started to appear on the street, it was all too much to take': Bryan Adams on photographing wounded veterans

The rock musician and photographer describes his experience taking photos of soldiers disabled by war, and what he learnt from the project

Max Benwell
Saturday 20 December 2014 14:03
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When did you start getting into photography, and what do you enjoy most about it?

Pretty early, but not seriously until the 1990s when I started doing my own LP covers.

Why did you decide to photograph wounded veterans?

What bothered me, was all the lies when we went to war in the Middle East: “45 minutes to drop a bomb on us” and “the world will be safer without Saddam”, all nonsense. Not to mention the financial and human cost on both sides. When the wounded started to appear on the street, it was all too much to take, I wanted to do something.

Was there a connection there already?

The connection was made with a journalist from ITN called Caroline Froggatt, she introduced me to most of them.

What were you trying to achieve with the photos?

I wanted to do something. Creating photos and documenting as many people as I could who had incurred severe injuries, seemed like a good plan. Thankfully, my publisher Steidl was able to see the beauty in them and agreed to make a book.

Were there any photos in particular that you found difficult to take?

They were all easy-going [subjects], we’d have a chat and I’d show them what had been done so far, and we’d just get to work. Usually there were lots of people there, friends and family, so it was comfortable for them.

What did you learn about the veterans and their lives now?

I discovered that no matter what training you had in the military, nothing prepares someone for discharge with disability. Learning how to cope with a new life, while both physically and mentally injured, and how to rediscover how to do the simple things, such as walking. It was seriously humbling and makes you appreciate how much you have.

Did the project have any effect on your understanding of the conflicts the veterans had been involved in, and the work of the armed forces in general?

Yes of course. A lot of the stories are so harrowing you wonder how most of them survived. Then I discovered that the medical advancements have changed so much on the battlefield, that the reason many of these people are alive is due to the quick responses of their comrades, and their training.

For a lot of people the project was really unexpected. How did you feel about the response?

It took some time to get the right light to shine on the book and the project in general, but I was very pleased with the outcome, particularly with the book, the exhibition and Prince Harry coming down to show his support. It meant a lot to everyone.

What do you think of The Independent’s Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal?

I think the more support for wounded veterans the better, but the idea that on top of that, there are homeless veterans is something the Government needs to address. Especially at Christmas.

‘Wounded: The Legacy of War’ by Bryan Adams is published by Steidl

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