Professor Paul Wenham-Clarke, who is Course Leader for MA Photography at Arts University Bournemouth, has documented the people contributing to the UK’s vaccination programme in a brand-new series of images, Badge of Honour.
The award-winning professional photographer worked collaboratively with his wife, fellow photographer Anita Clark, and the duo initially found it hard to find willing participants for the project. However, as the vaccine rollout progressed, more participants decided to take part, and the series started to capture a wide scope of volunteers from across society; including a paramedic, teacher, bookkeeper and retail assistant.
Also among those photographed is 16-year-old Quinn Leslie, a sixth form student living with long-term lung condition bronchiectasis. Quinn’s decision to take the vaccine was in part a conscious effort to protect the lives of strangers.
Quinn said: “Think about others - by having it [the vaccine], you are also helping others, especially those that cannot have it. I’ve had no exams, no prom and I’ve not seen my friends, but I’ve been lucky, as some have had it so much worse.”
Meanwhile, for retired Parachute Regiment veteran Len Clark, the vaccine offered reflection over the trials of the past year and the opportunity to revisit memories of the challenging days of world war two.
Len said: "I’ve lived through the Blitz. In 1942 when I was nine, our home in the East End of London was blown up and I was evacuated to Hungerford in Berkshire. Back then, there was comradeship and a real feeling of community; whereas today we are forced to separate because of the virus - that has made today seem much harder."
He added: “I feel proud to have been one of the first to get the jab. I might be old, but I was showing the way. We are lucky to have such a great set of scientists and NHS workers pulling together and saving the country from this hideous bug.”
Professor Wenham-Clarke has previously exhibited his work at The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A Museum, and on BBC2’s The Culture Show. He said: “As a photographer, I’ve been trying to record Covid, but it’s been very difficult to get anyone to agree to having their picture taken.
“My wife Anita is a photographer, so we work as a team, and she was instrumental in finding the people for us to photograph. I think there is a fear of infection, but probably the biggest worry is that most of us need a good a haircut and have put on a few pounds!
“Once the vaccine started to be rolled out, I really noticed a difference. The mood lifted, and people are now a lot more positive. We took the pictures outside, in people’s gardens, and we kept our distance. It was quite a funny site to see, a photography studio in the middle of someone’s lawn!”
Professor Wenham-Clarke's Badge of Honour portrait series has most recently featured in Metro.