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Immortalising kiwi veterans

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014
Jack McMaster
Anna Loren
HOW'S THAT: Photographer Chris Traill shows World War II veteran Jack McMaster his portrait.

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Photographer Chris Traill is on a nationwide quest to honour our "oldies".

The Auckland resident is spearheading a project to photograph all of the World War II veterans still living in New Zealand today.

There are about 3000 returned servicemen and women, mostly in their 90s, throughout the country.

Traill says his choice to focus on the older generation is a simple one.

"I know they're not going to be around much longer and everyone else seems to be doing these cool, trendy things for youth. I thought, ‘everyone's forgetting all these beautiful older people'," he says.

But the ambitious project calls for reinforcements.

And Traill, a member of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers, already has 100 colleagues to help him out.

Each set up a studio at a different branch of the Returned and Services Association on Anzac Day and photographed veterans.

The pictures all use the same, "stock-standard" grey regimental background, Traill says.

"From a creative point of view, they're pretty boring portraits but it's just the fact that we're doing the same thing right throughout the country."

Traill was stationed at the Papatoetoe RSA and has since been been making house calls to photograph any veterans who are unable to get out and about.

So far he has captured about 15 on film, with 10 to go, he says.

"They're really loving this whole project because they're being appreciated.

"Some are very humble and they feel embarrassed to be posing, but they also feel very proud."

Traill plans to gift the finished project to the RSA, Te Papa and the National Portrait Gallery.

Each veteran will also receive a free print of their photo.

Royal New Zealand RSA chief executive David Moger says the project has resulted in a "very special" collection of national significance.

It will make an "immense" contribution to the national archives for the 100-year commemorations of World War I next year, he says.

"The act of taking the photographs is showing our vets that they are remembered and that the sacrifices they made for the freedom of us all are still honoured."

Any World War II veterans who have not yet been photographed are invited to contact Chris Traill on 021 299 1957.

PHOTOGRAPHS 'VERY VERY SPECIAL'

Jack McMaster is among the veterans that Traill has photographed.

The 91-year-old Papatoetoe resident was born in Northern Ireland and joined the Royal Navy at the age of 18 ''to get away'', he says.

''It was just for something to do, I suppose. Everyone was doing it. We didn't have conscription in those days, so you had to find some excuse.''

McMaster served mainly around the Pacific and Burma during World War II, as well as in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

He moved countries after the war and joined the Royal New Zealand Navy.

He served for 15 months during the Korean War and eventually rose to the rank of petty officer.

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Daughter Anna McMaster says it's ''very, very special'' to see her dad's years of service honoured.

''We would never get any photos like this otherwise,'' she says. 

''We used to see him dressed up for the Anzac parades but he hasn't gone in a while and he's 91 now so we might not get another chance.''

- Manukau Courier

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