486 Bomb Group

Perfect timing….my family decides to come over in the middle of the end of term two. So all the papers and projects that are due have to be put on hold as we go to Sudbury, England for my Grandfather’s WWII reunion for the 486th Bomb Group. No stress.

Because many of the men are in their 80’s and this was most likely going to be their last return to Sudbury where they were stationed, I felt it was a worthy excuse to add extra stress to my rapidly approaching deadlines. This trip meant a lot to my grandfather and it was really nice to be able to share it with him, which I would not have been able to do had I not been conveniently studying in London this year.

I used the trip as an excuse to practice with medium format as a reportage tool and for portraits. The reportage was slow…and some of my focusing was off….and the portraits would have been better if I used a tripod….but I really enjoyed using a new camera (many thanks to Ed Thompson who let me borrow his 6×6) and I discovered I like the square format, and I like the waist level view finder….important to know as I am on the hunt for my perfect medium format camera.

Here are a few….



It was my first British festival….I loved the obsessions people had….like minature tractors of course.


I discovered dogs are hard to photograph with a medium format camera….but easier with fat bulldogs.


My wonderful grandparents Bob and Sally Harper.

My favorite veteran to photograph.

For this portrait I learned not to assume….I assumed they were a couple….so I had them hold hands in the front for one pose…they were a little awkward getting into the pose and admitted they probably didn’t hold hands like that often, which made sense when I learned at dinner they were father and daughter…..opps.

One of the best aspects of the weekend was meeting the children who grew up in Sudbury and who spent time at the air field helping the soldiers and watching the planes fly to and from their missions in Germany. They came to share their memories with the veterans. The lady on the right was one of those children. She told us about a plane she built herself and how she believes it flew more missions than any of the planes these men flew.

image of beauty

This is a view from the Greenway, a section of the canal a few blocks away from Three Mills Mooring. People still think of the canal as a place to deposit their trash and unwanted belongings. This is a sight that will be hidden once the canal improvements for the 2012 Olympics are made and the canal is no longer tidal.

tropical fish

The narrow boats at Three Mills Mooring sit on the mud twice a day. This gives Brian and his son Darren at least four good hunting hours for the worms, that they sell for tropical fish food. Darren says cloudy days are ideal because the worms rise close to the surface so they don’t have to dig as deep. The boaters say they will miss hearing Brian and Darren swear at each other outside their windows as they rush to finish before the water rises again.

wet feet

Darren says worm work is hardest on your arms and back. Today he has a hole in his waders and his legs are cold and wet. After the canal improvements they will have to try and find somewhere else to hunt but they will keep coming here until the very end. Darren, 28, likes the work and hopes to keep doing it as long as there are places to hunt.

coming out for air

The boaters realized after looking for new moorings to move to, that they have a pretty good deal at Three Mills, because they are tucked away from sight by other people, they are allowed to do as they please with the mooring. Many people grow plants and store extra belongings that don’t fit, in their 7ft wide by 70 ft long, boats on the mooring or on the roof. One of the reasons Luke Fraiser and his family asked to stay, because with two young children, they have a lot more stuff than most boaters and moving would be hard. They have almost out-grown their boat as it is. Luke, who is in-charge of his two boys while his wife Laura works, is often found taking a break through his port-hole.

boat boredom

A cold and cloudy Saturday on the Fraiser boat has Albie, 6, restless. There are no other children on the mooring or anywhere close by so he and his younger brother Josh, 4, have to be creative in order to entertain themselves. Luke and Laura have loved living on their narrow boat at Three Mills for the past 6 years but they are out-growing their home and with the inflated housing market in London, they cannot afford to live anywhere else.

learn to swim

Dick Vincent watches from his boat as Luke comforts his son Josh, 4, after a mid-mooring racing collision with older brother Albie, 6. For Albie and Josh’s entire lives, the mooring has been lined with other boats, leaving little opportunity for the boys to fall into the water or the mud. Soon all of the boats but three will be gone, there will be fewer eyes to help watch during future mooring races and the mud will be gone. Luckily the boys are older now and are learning how to swim.

for the birds

Fred and Ester, the swans, live under the bridge at the end of the Three Mills mooring. They visit whenever they see people around, in hopes there might be some free handouts. They nest under the bridge each year and introduce their babies to the community. Brian, the worm man, helped Ester when she had her leg stuck in trash underwater and the tide was rising up around her. Their bridge is included in the plans for construction.

last call

Another perk to living at Three Mills is the extra outdoor space they have acquired over the years. At one end of the mooring, there is a patch of land that a few community memebers turned into a garden and a picnic area for barbeques. During the summer nights, it is rare to find the outdoor communal space without people sitting, talking and eventually dancing by a fire. This is the last night they are all together before the big move.

on hold

“Coal Liz” Striker, 32, took over the business in September and has been traveling up and down London’s canals selling coal for seven days a week ever since. She looks forward to the canal improvements so her customers at Three Mills can call her when they need coal and she can deliver what they need to their boats instead of having to wait around for them to drive to a near-by location.

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