In this small series, we take a brief look at the back stories for each member of Fullframe and how they got their start in the photographic industry. To start off we look at our Creative Director and Lead Commercial Photographer Ashley Roach, and reflect on his earlier days as a military photojournalist.In his bio, we joke that some of the places he visited during his time in the services read more like a top ten list of places unfit for travel. However, the experiences and the images he was able to capture during this time have really shaped the way he looks at photography. So we delve into the archives and show you some of his earlier work.
During an eight month deployment to East Timor, following its vote for independence, Ashley travelled throughout the small island nation, by hitching rides on helicopters, troop carriers and armoured personnel carriers, capturing creative photographs from some of the worlds most remote locations.
However, one incident he will never forget is walking through dense jungle to a foreign military checkpoint, with dirty, long hair, unshaven and armed with a camera and 400mm lens that could easily be mistaken for a rocket launcher. Lets just say that he was definitely saying his prayers as he emerged from the jungle with his arms and camera in the air to avoid being shot. A lot of the photos he captured during this time, really reflect how beautiful this newly formed nation is and the realities of military service.
The Middle East also presented its own set of challenges and unique opportunities. During an aerial reconnaissance over the Tora Bora mountain ranges, flying 150m off the deck with two Apache gunships in support, the trainee American pilot flew through a Chinooks jet wash and stalled the engines. The feeling of falling can be thrilling, but not over Afghanistan! Luckily the pilot was able to regain control of the helicopter moments before crashing. In the gallery below you will see an image of a soldier sitting on the the back ramp with his legs hanging over the edge, this was captured during that harrowing flight.
What drew you to the Military? There were two reasons why I wanted to join the military, the first was a sense of family legacy, we have a very long line of military linage and I wanted to continue the tradition. The other reason was, I wanted to do my bit. We are extremely lucky to be born in such an amazing country, and so I just wanted to contribute by not taking it for granted.
What started your interest in photography? For me, it started off simply as a hobby, being an adventure seeking 17 year old who had more testosterone then brain cells, I spent every spare moment with my mates climbing up things just to jump off them. Photography, really started off as way to capture what we were doing and the crazy situations we constantly found ourselves in. It wasn’t until i joined the army that I developed an interest in the creative aspect of photography and the ability to tell a story through a frame, I would take my camera out on exercises and patrols which ended up with me being given the role as Battalion Photographer.
What is your fondest memory from your early training? I had a lot of amazing experiences in my early training, however in regards to photography there is one thing I will never forget. I was put on a short photographic course when I became the battalion photographer, the report card I got said “my creativity is getting in the way of taking technically sound photographs” it always makes me laugh. Commercial photography is all about creativity, to me the technical aspect of photography is important but it should take a back seat to the creative, the camera is simply the tool, it’s creativity that makes a great shot.
How did you get your break into becoming a commercial photographer? Helmet Cam was how I got noticed. The Defence PR guys spotted me during an urban warfare exercise up in Townsville, for several days we were training how to clear buildings. I decided to strap my home handy cam to my helmet to record a first person experience of urban combat, the Defence PR guys approached me afterwards and one thing led to another and I was offered a full time position as a photo journalist.
How has your time in the military influenced the way you look at photography? The military has been a very unique training ground, the opportunities that were afforded to me were really second to none. Most photographers graduate some sort of course then find a job as an entry level photographer in a local paper shooting social events. My first assignment was travelling solo through remote areas of East Timor to pictorially document the battalions operations and its peace making role. I was also very fortunate to have a brilliant commanding officer that gave me the freedom to shoot what I want, and develop my own style. One area that the army has influenced my photography is work ethic, making sure that the shoot is planned and executed properly, realistically you only get one chance to get the shot, so you have to do whatever it takes to ensure you are prepared.
Do you ever miss the Army? Although I got to travel and see some amazing places and experience things very few people get to, I really don’t miss the Army as a career. When I joined at the age of 18, I always knew that it was for a limited time, it was always my plan to leave when it was time to settle down, get married and start a family. There are certain elements I do miss like camaraderie and the opportunities it afforded me, not having to worry about business administration issues, those were a big plus. What I really do enjoy about the commercial photography world is the creativity and diverse nature of my work, one day I am deep underground or in a helicopter and the next I could be travelling to a remote island in the Torres Straits and meeting amazing people.
Train A, traveling 70 kph, leaves Westford heading toward Eastford, 260 Km’s away. At the same time Train B, traveling 60 kph, leaves Eastford heading toward Westford. When do the two trains meet? ha ha, I hate these questions, It reminds me of grade 9 maths class. I would not have a clue, all I am concerned about now is being on the spot when they collide and making sure my aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all perfect to capture the explosion.
Below we have put together a selection of military images from around the globe.
Click a thumbnail to advance through the slide-show.