We all have moments in our lives when something familiar is seen as if for first time. More than ever with the web, the deception of being better informed and more visually literate falls short of more than a temporary impact. So when tacit, physical experience reaches into your life, it leaves quite a mark. I had one of these moments three weeks ago, where for the first time in my life I felt the true gravity of the First World War.
But I felt it in a beautiful and subtle way. On the 1st of July this year, young men appeared in silence throughout the UK, amongst crowds and traffic, on ferries and harbour fronts. Marching in single file, they appeared like a caravan of brotherly camaraderie in the early morning in Belfast, in Salisbury, in Bangor and shared the same light and rain in Manchester, and Plymouth and London and Shetland as the day wore on. I joined the men in Glasgow and followed the sharp tattoo of their boots throughout the city. I documented their silent gatherings and interactions with the new world, and the watchful eyes that followed them away again. Every slow and grim step a reminder of the losses in the Battle of the Somme one hundred years ago. Volunteers made up the ranks and uniforms were created in replica of the units and regiments the men once belonged to. Co-ordinated in Scotland by NTS, it was an ambitious public art project to commemorate the centenary of something very sore in our collective identity, but the gentleness of their appearance had the real gravity as if it had just ended.