Anzac Day Apparitions

This photograph by William Hall Raine (public domain) is from the dedication of the National War Memorial Carillon taken on Anzac Day, 25 April 1932. What strikes me about this image, apart from how open the area was back then, is how many Forces personnel and civilian are present. The scale is epic, and the Carillon stands in tribute to those that sacrificed their lives so that others in their generation and in those that followed could live free.

Fast forward 86 years from this event, and Pukeahu National War Memorial has been open for 3 years, taking in the Carillon and its wider surroundings as part of the centenary commemorations of the 100th anniversary of World War I. I walk past or through this War Memorial most days that I am in the office. And sometimes, I pass through the area at night, where the area looks and feels quite different.

One of the things you may notice - and a constant challenge to various authorities I imagine - is the skateboarders who use the smooth surfaces and angled features as a make-shift large area skate park too. But what I was struck by on this particular night, was the way that my camera captured the texture of the Indian stone representing the Australian part of the memorial, against the fleeting and almost ethereal fleeting images of the skaters in motion. The light reflecting from the monument and the polished surface of the ground stones also add to this other-worldly, ghostly glow.

I got to thinking about who was standing on the ground before. Back in 1932, uniformed soldiers would have been facing and saluting the Carillon, back in 1932, and this tradition continues today. And they were most likely to be young men and women the same age, or even younger, than the men skating around this memorial at night now.

Although some people may frown when they see this space used in this way, for me it provokes a conversation about how use our spaces, continuing to honour those that have come before us, and also embracing the very freedoms that they fought so hard for us to protect. Though skating through a war memorial may seem like a trivial matter, I wonder whether the sound of the skate wheels clacking over the flagstones, or clicking up into the air and then landing and whirring away aren't precisely the sounds that demonstrate the freedoms that we enjoy now.

For me, the temporary, incomplete images of these young men rolling through this otherwise solemn landscape is a reminder of those that sacrificed so much, so that these men would not need to be sent to war. How we use these freedoms is up to us, and expressed in many ways. Let us remember and embrace them all.

Images captured by Sarb Johal with a Fujifilm X-T1, 2018.