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An Important Military Journey

Nicholas Price's The Honor guard in the Library of CongressTaking on a monumental military project with the United States Air Force was an honour indeed, first to be given the go-ahead from on top and then have documentary style access allowed me to step off in a way. A military base is close to another world once you pass through the main gates and leave the ‘other’ one behind. A new set of rules took over and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with the latest recruits right up the ladder to those approaching thirty years of service and in multifarious roles.     
   As always the entire mission was shot on black and white film, for this undertaking I used 35mm rather than my favourite 6x6, in action scenarios it made life easier to have three cameras with various lenses loaded with the equivalent of 108 frames rather than a maximum of 36 with three of my five square formats cameras, work in the gritty desert dust also precluded too many film changes. Generally I spent a couple of weeks shooting and then took off a few days to process the films and print the contact sheets in my, at the time, small darkroom. Once every four weeks I stopped for a few days to print some 11x14’s, which allowed me to illustrate the way in which my work and subject was developing. As expected black and white photographs made a difference; they took away the often monotonous background clutter and allowed the viewer to focus on the importance of the person in the shot.

   Question Mark by Nicholas Price.  A group of U.S. Air force men and women line up to receive ammunition for a training exercise before deployment. I made an effort to ensure that no matter how advanced, unusual or diverse the subject material, a member of the Air Force featured in every photograph. Naturally there was always something happening although I started from the ground up and worked up to the more involved subjects, occasionally I had to handle multifaceted exercises like Red Flag where the allied nations united in a combat mission. Others were closely linked to the detailed training in advance of deployment to the front line, at the time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    After a few months the outsider with the cameras and bags of film and equipment was a regular feature and at the end of my mission I walked away with around 35,000 film photographs. I am often asked about the toughest part of the undertaking. Afterburner by Nicholas Price captures the power of an F-15 fighter jet as an airman -- seen underneath the afterburner - tests its engine.Was it the desert heat, long hours, painstaking lab time or perhaps the challenges of a non-conformist in a strict security environment? Well the answer often surprises most people, the security never bothered me I had no desire to impinge on rules put in place for essential and commonsense reasons, I am used to long creative hours, often more than 18 per day and I have lived in deserts on and off for twenty years, the toughest part was culling 60 photographs for the Air Force’s 6oth anniversary and representing each of the missions and squadrons I had spent time with, this was the collection that spent 6 months at the Air Force museum and ended up in the permanent collection of the United State Library of Congress, an incredibly proud moment.

 Nicholas A. Price Copyright ©2018

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About the author:
Nicholas A. Price is a true renaissance man being a full-time writer, master fine art photographer and visual artist of more than 30 years.
His articles have been published in several books and also featured in presentations, lectures and interviews at the Guggenheim Heritage Museum, KNPR, Boston Globe, USA Today and the Las Vegas Review Journal.
His art and photography are featured in many important institutions including the Library of Congress.
You can also follow Nicholas on his twitter accounts: @finefilmphotos and @nicholasaprice

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