Interview with Giles Penfound
August 10 2010 08:45
Being Chief Press Photographer of the British Army
Giles Penfound has worked as a professional photographer since 1993 and was Chief Press Photographer for the British Army until leaving in 2007 at the end of his 22 year military career. Whilst serving as a professional photographer within the Army he worked on many foreign assignments documenting war and conflict from Bosnia and Northern Ireland to Iraq. Building on the remarkable training provided by the Army, Giles went onto study for a Degree in Photography gaining a first. As a trusted and respected photographer he was given exclusive access to photograph HRH Princes William and Harry for their portraits. Giles has exhibited his work and given lectures at many venues including the National Portrait Gallery. After leaving the army in 2007 he established his own photographic business concentrating on documentary and commercial photography, working on major projects for the National Maritime Museum and British Museum as well as a host of other clients.
1. What was the deciding factor that made you want to be a photographer and why?
This is easy, I was initially introduced to photography by my father who was a journalist and photographer and had therefore always grown up around cameras and photography. I was always aware of the power of the image and from an early age realised that I liked making images. My real moment of epiphany came when I saw for the first time an image by Henri Cartier Bresson of two Greek Ladies walking under two ancient caryatids, this set a fire within me not to copy the great man but capture my world as I saw it through the lens of a camera.
2. How did you become the Chief Press photographer for the British army?
Whilst serving in Belgium as the Chief photographer to SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) I was promoted to Warrant Officer and posted to the army’s media HQ. My past experiences in Bosnia and Northern Ireland were also a major factor.
3. What has been the most difficult career choice you have had to make?
Not to become a press or photojournalist on leaving the army. My heart and talent said I should do it but my love and responsibility to my wife and children was greater.
4. What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Realising that at heart I am a documentary photographer, unafraid to make the images that tell a truth from my perspective, this happened on the 16th April 1993 when I made my first image of War shortly after the Ahimici Massacre in Vitez Bosnia.
5. What is your favourite thing about being a photographer?
Having a massive degree of freedom and being especially creative.
6. What is the one thing about your job that makes you angry?
I try not to get angry, it’s such a wasteful emotion but I do get frustrated with myself for not being driven enough!
7. Describe your job in three words:
Creative, Passionate, Soulful
8. Who was your role model when you were younger?
Henri Cartier Bresson and Don McCullin
9. If someone was to write your biography, what do you think the title should be?
A love affair with Leica
10. What is your most annoying trait?
11. If you could travel back in time to one moment in your life, what would you change?
Nothing, not that it has been perfect but each bad action has led to a good outcome.
12. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone and what was the conversation about?
My mum – about her moving house
13. What is the one thing you could not live without?
My family – My wife Nicola and daughters Ellie and Maddie. After that, photography and my Leica’s.
14. And now for some quick picks:
Film or Digital
War or Peace
Vintage or Modern
Work or Play
Giles now lives in Berkshire and using his knowledge and reportage skills, he has quickly become one of the best wedding photographers around. If you would like to see more of his work visit his website gilespenfound.co.uk
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