Daniel Lilley is a photographer that has recently graduated from Bournemouth university. He has created a series of portraits based upon a group of boys in the Army Cadet Force who all wish to join the infantry in the future. When i first looked at these photographs the part that caught my eye was the ages of these boys and how it completely challenges the typical representation. I believe they create a strong sense of atmosphere and emotion yet they have such simple aesthetics. The use of black and white allows the viewer to just focus on the body language and the facial expressions which say the most about these boys. They look powerful and comfortable in their uniform along with holding a gun, they almost look too comfortable with it. Looking into the photographs does allow me to have a sense of acceptance with these boys, they are young but have a strong will of where they want to be in the future which I do appreciate and comes across well in the photographs.
To find out more about this series i emailed the photographer:
My name is Karen and i’m a 2nd year photography student at Bristol UWE. I’m currently working on a project based on British soldiers which has made me aware of your ‘The Cadets’ series. The set of images are beautiful, i love how they seem to have so much atmosphere and emotion to them even when the aesthetics are at their simplest. It would be very much appreciated if you could answer a few questions about this series on behalf on my research. I’m interested to know what gave you the idea to create ‘The Cadets’ and the story behind it.
Daniel kindly replied almost straight away happy to answer my questions. He sent me an interview he did with the BJP when his series was published in it which gave me an incite to the story behind these images and how he created such powerful photographs. Looking through the interview it’s very clear that Daniel was a participant observer whilst making this series. He joined the Army Cadet Force as an adult instructor to get the most of his experience “…I had originally intended for the meeting to be about gaining access to do a project but I figured if I became part of the organization I could become far more involved in it and therefore more informed…”. He carried on to say that during his time at the camp his final idea had changed a lot since he had got to know the cadets and what goes on. After reading this I’ve realised interviewing these soldiers is a very important part within my project so this is something I need to plan and get on as soon as possible!
The photographer had shown the boys images to give them an idea of how to present themselves but the rest was up to them, “…I showed the boys various modern military imagery and asked how they wanted to pose in an effort to gauge how they saw themselves as a future soldier…”. Body language is a key part of portrait photography, i believe that the audience base their interpretation mainly on the posture of the subject. Daniel wanted to represented these boys how they would like to be interpreted but in my series i would like to look away from the physical soldier side of them and look entirely on the emotional/mental side of things meaning that the posture of my subject would have to be quite simple to not give away any stereotypical representation.
Daniel Lilleys Cadet series is a group of photographs that i will be focusing on mainly for my project.