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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Combat Camera Team - Afghanistan

As most of you that read my blog know, I am currently serving a six month tour of Afghanistan, as the photographer within the Combat Camera Team.

The team comprises of three people. I am the photographer, along with Mark Nesbit who is the video cameraman, and the other Mark who is our team leader.

Both Mark N and I are professional Army Photographers, that through the powers of deduction, got chosen to be on Op Herrick 15. After several weeks of training, and lots of new kit being issued, we were ready for the off! The journey here was an epic one, which had us delayed at almost every point of the journey, thankyou RAF! ha

Having already been to Afghan 3 times in the last 18months, I thought I would be sorted. I know the layout of camp so i could show the others, who have not been here before, where everything is . How wrong was I!! This place has changed massively since my last trip. By this place I mean Camp Bastion. Everything has extended, offices moved and even new roads created. This was apparent even in the dark, from the bus window, as we start our journey from aircraft to terminal.

We are based out of Camp Bastion for the entire six months, however, we wont be seeing much of it. We just live and work here when not out on the ground.

This is my accommodation. Basic, but cosy. I quite like it. Could be a lot worse!

Within our first few days, we had been given a handover from the previous team, before embarking on our mandatory 'arrival' training package, which spans over a five day period for us.

The Media Operations Centre that we work from is somewhat of a Travelodge. We have journalists passing through constantly all year round, as well as the odd celebrity. Just after we arrived, Ross Kemp came out to do some filming for a new documentary on the frontline of Afghanistan. Not a bad bloke, and he has done some pretty amazing stuff out here.

Ross Kemp and I outside the office - by Mark Nesbit

Afghan, for a photographer, is like a giant playground. Obviously there are some pretty scary places out here, and not everyone you meet is a genuinely nice person, but the imagery you can get here, you can't get anywhere else in the world.

Throughout our first six weeks here, we have covered a wide variety of stories. We have had some good jobs, some bad. We have had the odd row, and even an occasional tantrum! But thats what we do.

I honestly think, I have one of the best jobs in the Army. I can generate my own work, and even take loads of portraits in my own time, something I like doing. This also helps to keep the 'groundhog day' effect at bay.

This place can get boring sometimes. I only have to walk five metres from my bunk, to my desk, and sometimes, despite living in such a large camp, you just feel the need to escape!

Photography for me is not just a job, it's a hobby and a passion. I carry my camera almost everywhere and wait for something to happen in front of me, hoping to get a great shot. Others happen on my doorstep, as the office has inherited a ginger Afghan cat. Luckily for us, the team that originally adopted this stray, had it fully vaccinated, so Shawqat is now a member of the team. She is great for catching rats, and this morning even brought us a half eaten bird. A bit like my cats at home!

Shawqat asleep on the sofa. Such a hard life eh?

Another 'adopted' cat. This one lives at the dog section believe it or not. 

So anyway, enough rambling, back to the team. 

As I said, we are a team of three. We have all come from various backgrounds, but work out here for the same goal. While Mark and I are gathering our material, we have our team leader, Mark, beavering away booking our next flights, organising our next jobs, but also providing us with protection when we are tunnelled into the viewfinder. Basically, Mark gets run ragged doing all our admin while we are editing and doing other tasks.

Both Mark N and I, trained for eight months at the Defence School of Photography, to become professional photographers. Between us, we have seen and done some pretty amazing stuff. We have seen our photographs published in both regional and national press. We have worked with Royalty and Celebrities alike. Damn our job is good!!

So the Combat Camera Team. What do we do?

Well, we are here to provide a media effect. We produce high quality imagery and video for the regional and national press, as well as provide written words and audio. Any form of media, be it paper print or social sites like facebook, we have stuff on it. We are here to not only record the progression in Afghanistan, but to also get still and moving imagery that due to security and safety reasons, cannot be gained by civilian journalists themselves. Did I mention that we have an amazing job!!??

Mark & Mark doing a bit of patrol training

The three amigos! I won't tell you our 'Team Name' haha

A portrait of me - by Mark Nesbit

Another of me - by Mark Nesbit

So what lies ahead for the CCT? Sadly I cant say too much.

We are getting very busy indeed. We have more work requests than we have time in which to do them. 

I am excited about a little upcoming project that will start this week. A photojournalist mate of mine, Martin Middlebrook, who wrote an article about me last year for Turning Pro Magazine, is coming to work with us for a while. Martin is currently up in Kabul where he himself is working for six months. No doubt this won't be the last time we see each other! We have lots planned, which will be good for him to experience prior to writing his article. The piece will be about us as a team. What we do, how we do it etc! You get the idea! It should be a great few weeks ahead.

Anyway, I think that's enough babbling from me for now!

Until next time



  1. A wonderful insight to what you do and a fantastic way to visulise and try to understand the conditions for our troops. Good luck.
    Lorayne x

  2. Cheers Lorayne. More to come over the next 5 months dont worry! lol

  3. Hi Steve, really interesting to read your blog - and as Lorayne said - a really good insight into your daily life out in Afghan.

    Keep up the great work and more importantly, keep safe.

    Judi x

  4. Cheers Judi. Hope you are well.