Military Life

Meet the British Army's newest Command Master Photographer

WO1 Rupert Frere's 25-year career has seen him go from EOD to SLR

An award-winning British Army photographer and videographer, whose career has seen him capture both the brutal reality of war on the frontline and the often touching, human side of those who serve has been promoted to "Command Master Photographer" - a unique and prestigious role.

Whether you are in the armed forces or not, there is a chance that Warrant Officer Class One Rupert Frere has taken images or filmed footage you have seen.

His work has varied from gritty images from the frontline in Afghanistan to vibrant photographs of Her Majesty The Queen during Trooping the Colour and service personnel joyfully enjoying Pride parades to marking poignant moments on Remembrance Day.

Soldiers board a chinook helicopter in the desert in Afghanistan in 2009 WO1 Rupert Frere Picture Crown Copyright)
WO1 Rupert Frere captures the moment soldiers board a chinook helicopter in Afghanistan in 2009 (Picture: Crown Copyright).

WO1 Frere's career has spanned a quarter of a century and since 2007 has been focused on documenting the military in the UK and abroad for an international audience.

Now, he is at the top of his trade. His new role involves him looking after 42 Army photographers, networking and restructuring the trade. However, he cannot help himself and finds himself behind the camera at any given opportunity. He knows that he is lucky to have become Master Photographer, saying: 

"It's a bit of a shock because I didn't expect to get it to be honest because there was another two people and I'm coming to the end of my time, so I thought that was me, going to be out next year but they've kindly put me on an extension and put me up as Master Photographer, so I'm really pleased about that. 

"It's an amazing opportunity. For me, it's a chance to be at the top. Not many people get their name on that board which says Master Photographer so I'm lucky to have got to where I am." 

Trooping The Colour Royal Family HM The Queen Photographer WO1 Rupert Frere Picture Crown Copyright
WO1 Rupert Frere captured the moment the Royal Family watched a flypast in 2016 to mark HM The Queen's 90th birthday (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The photographer's previous British Army role was with Explosive Ordnance Disposal, a job that involves serving personnel locating and safely disposing of IEDs and manufactured munitions. Because of this switch from what some might consider a dangerous role to a 'safer' job, many people told him he had made the right decision.

However, as he explains to Liz Mullen, BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster, the exact opposite was true: 

"Any time there's a job on the frontline which needs to be covered … then it's us that they send out with them, so we were very much out on the frontline in Afghanistan. 

"It was good as well because we patrolled with different units every time so one day we could be working with 13 Air Assault in Sangin and then the next week I could be attached to 3 PARA." 

The serving soldier is incredibly proud of the work he did in Afghanistan and embraces his experience of taking photos and filming footage while on tour. A lot of his work ended up being used by media outlets around the world, on the front pages of national newspapers and book covers.

To some, the idea of a high-pressure, creative job seen by millions around the world might seem stressful but to WO1 Frere, it's the exact opposite, saying: 

"I think it's something which not many people get to experience in their life and I'm happy and proud of what I did. 

"I find promotion boards and day to day life of trying to work out how to use Microsoft Windows more stressful than I did going on patrol in Afghan, to be honest." 

British Army Celebrates Pride In London Credit: Sgt Rupert Frere RLC MoD Crown
This photo taken by WO1 Rupert Frere shows British Army personnel at a Pride event in London in 2017 (Picture: Crown Copyright)

After winning the British Army Photographic Competition in 2015, Sky Arts saw his portfolio and invited him to take part in the pilot TV series, 'Master Of Photography'. He and other photographers from all over Europe spent three months living and working in Rome, Itay and their work was judged by world-renowned photographers.

WO1 Frere came second in the competition, or "first loser" as he calls it. His appearance and success on the show proved he could skillfully take on new types of photography as each week the contestants were tasked with capturing very different types of images. 

The photography expert is not keeping all this experience and knowledge to himself. WO1 Frere has run immersive photography courses for charities like the Soldiers’ Arts Academy and BFBS Creative, ensuring that his skills are passed on to veterans who have a desire to develop their own careers.

Cover photo: WO1 Rupert Frere, Command Master Photographer (Picture: Crown Copyright).