Days in Iraq: Profile of a Private Military Contractor
21st March 2012
In the latest instalment of our series of Blogs focussing on the Blippers themselves, we speak to Mr Chaddy about his "Days in Iraq".
The only side of Iraq that most people are aware of is what they see on the news - stories of car bombs and suicide bombers.
Chadwick is what is termed a PMC or Private Military Contractor. He works for a firm that provides the necessary security and intelligence to enable Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRT) to operate outside conventional military restrictions.
In short, he gives close protection to clients who wish to conduct business in Iraq. This enables them to go about their day-to-day work in a safe environment with as little stress and danger as possible.
Despite the nature of his job, his weapon of choice most usually, is a camera.
Chadwick started taking pictures regularly just two years ago after a friend pointed him in the direction of a cheap Nikon D40 camera.
With inspirational subjects all around him, Chadwick became hooked. Having no formal training or knowledge he purchased photography books from Amazon to continue a study of the art, reading up during quiet periods whilst in Iraq.
"A friend pointed out a deal they had in the local American PX [general goods store they have on most American bases throughout the world] we had on base," says Chadwick. "I took the plunge and it all started there. I was fortunate enough to be working with many photographers and cameramen from the worlds press who were more than happy to pass on their years of experience.
"Of course in those days I was still using the auto functions on the camera. After lots of questions, book purchases and Google searches I managed to move away from there and start to manually manipulate the cameras settings to better capture the image I had in my head and transfer it to the camera.
"I am now on my fourth camera, I started with a Nikon D40 then I purchased a 2nd hand D200. After 6 months this was starting to fail due to use and the extreme heat. I then decided to upgrade to a D300s which I still use. Last year, after lots of pondering, I decided to take the plunge and purchase Nikon's flagship D3s."
He posts his pictures on Blipfoto, archiving daily life for him, his colleagues and those he deals with on a regular basis - from armed forces to every day Iraqis. His stories range from a blind boy who dreams of joining the army, to life in the army barracks.
Having signed up in October 2010, Chadwick now has 365 images, sharing his stories and photography with the worldwide Blipfoto community.
"Whilst my job is far from boring I do enjoy the challenge of capturing something new and interesting on a daily basis," says Chadwick.
"Sadly," he admits, "due to work commitments I do miss days from my journal. I also find it difficult to take images whilst I'm in the UK. I find that people react differently to the camera in England. Sometimes with open hostility.
"My favourite images are the ones on my Blipfolio of the Marsh Arabs. It became obvious at a very early point that I was witnessing something that not many people are ever going to experience.
"The hardest photos I took were of the children who used to visit a clinic my company ran in southern Iraq, to take a photo of these poor children involved a certain amount of intimacy and then to lose all contact with them was at times hard and made me question the validity of taking their photograph."
His job often involves working with various members of the international press, who encouraged Chadwick's amateur photography and this led to him having various photos published throughout the world - from the BBC website to articles in Italy and the US. He also helped in the BBC documentary "Miracle in the Marshes."
Chadwick was most recently at the forefront of the hugely successful Project Compass. The work was documented by Ed Burke at the Guardian in an article he did on the team in 2009.
Despite the US Military withdrawing from Iraq, the USA still has huge commitments and part of this is the training of the Iraqi Military. This is to be done by US civilians and ranges from Marine Diesel repair and servicing to F-16 pilot training.
As all the instructors are civilians and Chadwick's current role is to ensure the safety of these civilians and to help them perform their important jobs rebuilding Iraq.
"I think my lasting memory of Iraq will be of the sand and the heat. It is very hard to comprehend the extreme temperatures of mid summer unless you have experienced them first hand.
"In general, though, I have found the people, when treated with respect, to be very warm and friendly. Being British in Iraq is a huge advantage as we are viewed in a very kind light by the populace.
"I have tried to return to normal life twice but on both occasions found that I missed working in Iraq. This may seem strange to someone who is not from a military background but there is a camaraderie that does not exist in normal civilian life."