‘I was at a bad place’: Ex-SAS photographer on the impact of his experiences

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TeaAdam Dobie had honed the art of focusing and shooting while at SAS.

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It was not with the gun – although he did a lot during his time in service – but with the camera, conducting surveillance operations.

Dobby, who is in his 17 . joined the army beforeth Birthday as an engineer, quit after 12 years as a staff sergeant. He later found several jobs related to his field, including in the city, before becoming a security consultant for international media companies.


Traveling with journalists in places of conflict, Dobby began photographing people living through violence and poverty and showing extraordinary courage and resilience in difficult situations.

Photographs of the former soldier are shown admiringly in a gallery in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and in another exhibition, built in conflict, taking place this week in Mayfair, London.

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A portion of the proceeds from the sale of photographs goes to the Special Air Services Regimental Association’s Sentinel program, which provides assistance to former members of the group facing problems.

Dobie himself had faced difficulties in his personal and professional life, and says it was the support of former peers that helped him get through that period and inspired him to organize his photographic project.

“I was in a bad place for a while,” he said. “My marriage was broken and journalism work dried up with Covid and travel constraints.

“I didn’t expect to sign up for Universal Credit at age 49. A few friends from SAS found out and their help in getting me back on track was of great importance.

“I went through therapy which I found very helpful and the support of former colleagues which was very important to get myself back on track.

“I don’t think anyone can break free from their experience and talking about it really helps.”

Dobby, now 50, said: “I also thought of everyone we met on the street going through such painful times and continue to do so.

An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

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An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

“The pictures I took, tried to show their lives and it was really nice to see the reaction of the people who came to see the show in Cheltenham. A lot of people were very kind with their compliments and I’ve sold some of those that Good enough.

“SAS were very encouraging in all respects. Now, I think, there is an understanding in the armed forces that those who need to come forward with such issues can do so without embarrassment.”

Many of Dobby’s photographs are about the plight of the homeless in the chaos of conflict. They were taken against the backdrop of episodes in recent history in Syria, Iraq, Libya – families fleeing fighting; A child carefully carries a doll’s house outside their destroyed home: a woman in a refugee camp with a portrait of her children who survived the massacre, and their faces at the entrance to the sanctuary to the west But were firmly closed.

By his time at SAS, as well as his later work with the media, Dobby’s worldview was shaped somewhat.

Special Forces pride themselves on being less hierarchical and giving members more freedom of thought and action than the rest of the military. Dobby felt that journalism on the frontline also offered an opportunity to analyze and reflect on what was going on.

“I think, both think outside the box and can make up their mind about things as they are on the ground. At SAS I was privileged to be in a select team and I loved the camaraderie”, he remarked.

But at times I felt that we were being used as political tools, and I am really glad that by the time the second Iraq War started, I was out of the military.

Adam Dobie, former SAS turned conflict photographer

“But at times I felt that we were being used as a political tool, and I am really, really happy that by the time the second Iraq war started, I was out of the military”.

“I have been fortunate to be with frontline journalists who have been brave, tough and considerate. I could see some similarities between them and my former colleagues in the military, there are shared experiences, witnesses of distress and violence that are bound to affect you. “

The impact of personal and professional problems on those in the military has recently made news with the suicide of Major General Matt Holmes, whose funeral took place on Wednesday. The former chief of the Royal Marines was separated from his wife, while his role of commandant general was reduced amid claims and counter-claims to internal military politics.

According to friends, Major General Holmes also expressed deep concern about the hasty withdrawal of Westerners from Afghanistan, a country where he had served and where he had many friends.

During the death investigation in Winchester on Tuesday, Hampshire coroner Jason Pegg said Major General Holmes had “concerns about his marriage and his service career”.

Marks remain with those who served in the special forces, both mentally and physically. But they often face the added problem of not being able to talk about their experience on the mission because they were secretive and remain so.

“It’s definitely an issue, people feel like they can’t sit in a group with other people they don’t know and open up about what they’ve gone through. Other people in the armed forces It is much more difficult for them than that”, said the secretary of the SAS Association, a veteran of the regiment.

An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

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An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

“We are not saying that the people in the SAS may be more affected than the military, or the police or the firefighters or really other people in the public. But speaking about what happened is such an important part of addressing this issue. “It’s simply not possible in so many cases. That’s why we set up the Prahari program so that people who need help can meet people of common background”, he explained.

The secretary, who has spent 22 years in the SAS, said that although the stigma of coming forward to seek help is fading away, there are still some people who still shy away from doing so.

“The problem, we think, may be in direct entry officers who join from elsewhere, spend time in the regiment, and then go back and come back as squadron commanders. They probably go ahead with the issues.” may be a little more reticent about coming, because perhaps, they feel they need to prove themselves,” he said, “but hopefully that will change as well.”

Dobby has been asked to speak to pupils and students in schools and colleges and some have asked to display his photographs at Cheltenham Ladies College after the exhibition in the city.

An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

“height=”854″ width=”1280″ srcset=”https://static.independent.co.uk/2021/10/13/19/image017.jpg?width=320&auto=webp&quality=75 320w, https:// /static.independent.co.uk/2021/10/13/19/image017.jpg?width=640&auto=webp&quality=75 640w” layout=”responsive” i-amphtml-layout=”responsive”>

An image from Adam Dobie’s exhibition Made in Conflict

“The work has proved inspiring for both staff and students, and recent events in Afghanistan remind us once again how much we still have to learn about some of the most complex areas in the world, where both men and women Equal rights cannot be taken for granted”, said principal Eve Jardine-Young

“Through his collection of poignant and powerful images, we have the potential to deepen our hold on a humanitarian and geopolitical level. We engage with talks and related discussion sessions for students and interested parties beyond the immediate college community.” Let’s use photography.

Adam Dobie’s exhibition is at John Mitchell Fine Paintings until October 22, 17 Avery Row, Brooke Street, London, W1K 4BF.


Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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