Canadian Forces Artist Program
In the summer of 2019, I went to Latvia as part of the Canadian Forces Artist Program (CFAP) to observe Operation REASSURANCE, a Canadian Armed Forces mission established in 2014. The mission was formed in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea and is part of NATO's collective deterrence and defence measures in Eastern Europe.
The photographs in this series were taken in and around Camp Ādaži, a Western Alliance military base and training range in Latvia, where I stayed with the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group. Some of the photographs were taken in Estonia during outreach activities. At the time, the eFP Battle Group was comprised of troops from Canada, Spain, Albania, Montenegro, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Latvia.
At Camp Ādaži, I observed training exercises, outreach events, and competitions. I was only permitted to take photographs of the (primarily male) soldiers when CAF Imagery Technicians (IT) and ITs from other countries were photographing activities. As I shadowed the ITs and spent time with members of the PR team, I became interested in the role of social media and how it shapes the public image of the CAF and the eFP Battle Group. The title of the series responds to a 2023 Canadian Armed Forces recruiting campaign. I was also interested in the history of the CFAP and the role of the 'war artist' today.
Since entering the CFAP, I began researching the work of Canada's first official female war artist, Molly Lamb Bobak, with a focus on her wartime diary. Alongside the photographs, I developed a war dairy in the form of a sketchbook, which combines images and written reflections from my experiences with the CFAP, along with research on the treatment and status of women in the Department of National Defence and the CAF.
Four photographs from the series and the sketchbook are part of the Group 9 CFAP exhibition at the Canadian War Museum from November 3, 2023 - March 17, 2024. Thank you to Calgary Arts Development for a grant in support of this work.