Friday, 29 May 2015

Battling stigma: The British war artist who suffered post-traumatic stress after stint on Helmand front line

After Mark Neville spent three months in Afghanistan as an official war artist, he returned to Britain deeply troubled. In a new book, he reveals the extreme strains of working as a civilian among frontline soldiers – and how he struggled with the PTSD that ensued.My grandfather Jack Neville was captain of a ship during the Second World War. His behaviour when he came back from four years at sea, suffering from what I now clearly recognise as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has had an effect upon everyone in my family.

He took a lot of photographs after he returned in 1945, and when he wasn't looking through lenses, he was barking orders at his family. The impact on me of his inability to communicate in a pleasant way, coupled with this need to mediate life via a lens, somehow transmuted into my career: for the past 10 years, I have used photography in a collaborative way, intended to be of direct, practical benefit to the subject.

In October 2010, I received an email from an arts organisation called Firstsite, regarding a residency working as a war artist in Helmand. The residency was to be hosted by 16 Air Assault Brigade, the largest regiment in the British Army, otherwise known as the "paras". It had never occurred to me to work in a war zone before, but I was highly curious. Perhaps the experience would illuminate my family's difficult history and perhaps I, in turn, could provide a unique perspective on the conflict in Helmand. Read more  HERE