In January 2010 Lavery started making a series of portraits in Royal Wootton Bassett of the people who come to honour the fallen soldiers.
Bereaved relatives,elderly war veterans and service personnel, shop keepers and other citizens who almost every week put their lives on pause for a few moments to watch as funeral cars drive slowly through the town.
Due to its proximity to RAF Lyneham, the hearses carrying soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq must pass through the ancient market town of Wootton Bassett on their way to ‘Journey’s End’. Local people now bear the weight of the nation’s grief and the increasingly regular procession of coffins.On repatriation days the atmosphere is so charged it makes your hair bristle, the moment the church bell begins to toll the silence is absolute… For a slice of time the town has become a place of pilgrimage.
The people lining the streets on these days shows us a condensed picture of how the rest of Britain must feel. An hour or two before the streets become too crowded Lavery seeks out a quiet space where he can set up his large plate camera, tripod and dark cloth. An empty shop, the back room of one the many public houses along the high street, occasionally a friendly barbers and sometimes the use of the upper floor of the old building which sits on pillars, once the Town Hall.
Lavery has tried to capture the simple, essential human character of the sitters that interested him as types and as individuals, thrown together in these portraits in a random way, creating a slice of humankind. Groups don’t speak much but have a greater understanding and consideration for each other at this moment than we could imagine, two human beings, two sparks of life, whilst outside all around us is death.What do I know of him, what does he know of me, before this we wouldn’t have had a single thought in common and here we are standing in this space, aware of each others existence and so close to one another we can’t even talk about it, a moment in time..
Ann Bevis of The Royal British Legion says,
“The men and women who are repatriated will never know the joy of a home coming parade this is the closest thing to it that we can give them and if we did not stop to honour them it would be a damming indictment of our society”.