Since the beginning of 2019 photographer Glyn Dewis has been making portraits for WW2 veterans and their families in the hope that they will keep their memories alive and to educate the younger generation about the sacrifices they made.
Glyn believes his project to capture as many WW2 veterans as possible is a small price to pay, adding:
"Putting in the time, effort and miles is a small ask when you consider what our veterans did for us, I’ll do whatever it takes to photograph as many as I can."
Glyn has already managed to photograph 26 World War Two veterans and does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
One of his most striking images that has gone viral on social media is of Tom Schaffer, who served with 9th Battalion The Parachute Regiment during Battle of the Bulge.
Glyn spent many years not speaking with his family due to a minor dispute that 'got out of hand'.
However, after a conversation with one of the veterans, it sparked emotions that made Glyn rethink his feelings towards loved ones in his family and he finally decided to reconnect. Glyn said:
"If I was to say what has had the most impact on me, I would say it was meeting and spending time with veteran Reg Charles who told me that when he was a young man, he made a conscious effort to forgive and not hold grudges as he didn’t want to grow up into a miserable, bitter old man.
"This had a huge impact on me. So much so, that it directly motivated me to reconnect with my family whom I’d not seen for many years. I was presenting at The Photography Show, NEC in Birmingham and after I came off stage, I drove to my mum’s home and knocked on the door.
"She opened the door and we just hugged and hugged. I now have my family back in my life and this is all because of Reg."
His idea to start photographing veterans came about after watching a film about one of his favourite TV series. Glyn said:
"I first got the idea to create a series of World War Two based portraits after watching the new Dad’s Army film. Having always loved those characters and been interested in the history, I realised it would be great to photograph real-life veterans, so their relatives would have beautiful keepsakes to remember them by in years to come.
"A friend got me in touch with the Oxfordshire Home Guard Living History Group and from there I started this series."
Continuing about his reason for taking on such a huge project, Glyn said he wishes more people would take his approach, adding:
"I am a big believer that there is such a thing as a ‘free lunch’ and that if we have a skill, whatever it be, then we should use it for good and not always with the focus on what we can gain from it.
"This is how the project started and how it now continues to grow; not something I expected or planned, but to me it just shows the good that comes from taking the focus off yourself and doing something for the right reasons.
"I want veterans and their families to have classic portraits they can treasure and will remain in their families for many years to come."
There are plans in place for the public to come and view Glyn's work starting in October 2019. He said:
"Firstly I would say the most important thing is that from this project, our veterans receive more publicity and recognition for the sacrifices they made.
"Education is also a key part of this project because to me it seems that children aren’t taught this important part of history as children in say France or Holland are, so that is why we are involving infant schools in the exhibition and that education is a big part of it."
He wishes to be able to take as many photgraphs as possible and asks that 'folks who know of a WW2 veteran' wishing to take part in the project, to please get in touch through the official website at 3945portraits.com. Adding:
"Being completely honest I’m completely absorbed with this project but if we are to be blunt about things, then clearly this project is on a time limit because with each day that passes, sadly we are losing our World War 2 Veterans.
"I am doing and will do whatever it takes to photograph as many as is possible.
"When the time comes to move on, I know already that I intend to continue photographing veterans, but those from more recent conflicts such as the Falklands and Afghanistan.
"Also, I know how much of an escape that photography can be and this could maybe really help veterans to develop a skill and an interest. So, maybe look at how I can take the educational side of what I do and use it to help others."
The journey for Glyn has been one of making new frienships. He said:
"It means so much but really when I do go visit a veteran and take a portrait, the photography almost becomes secondary for my reason being there. So many times I visit veterans that seem so glad of the company and the chat; sometimes it is a real wrench to leave.
"Honestly, it really does feel like I’ve made so many new friends from doing this and what a great bunch of friends to have.
"I have so many tea stops around the country and make a point of going back to see folks with no agenda other than to catch up.
"This is all because of photography, but is way bigger than photography."
Originally from Burntwood in Staffordshire, Glyn moved away when he was around 16 years of age and has now been married for more than 20 years. He said:
"I am so incredibly lucky to have a wife that fully supports everything I am doing with the Veterans and also understands how my work being a photographer and educator means I travel a lot.
"When home though we do like to get away from it all and tend to regularly book time away in our favourite places.
"Later this year we are relocating and will be moving to our new home all on its own where we’ll be surrounded by countryside so that I’m sure will keep me busy doing stuff."
The 3945 Portraits Exhibition starts on Saturday 19th October 2019 and runs until Sunday 5th January 2020.
It is being held at The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, details will be on the project website here.