Corporal Sean Spivey (inset) inspired by the great war photographers wanted to show people behind the scenes of the NZ Army

Sniper to snapper

by Mike Isle

Army sniper turned photographer Sean Spivey is the first recipient of the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA) scholarship. Awarded to a final year Bachelor of Design (Photography) student at Ara Institute. The scholarship recipient is the Ara student photography tutors believe most likely to become a professional commercial photographer in the future.

Sean has already ticked that box. Trained by the NZ Army as a sniper and now serving as a corporal at Burnham Military Camp, he started taking photos of the New Zealand Defence Force Infantry eight years ago and, realising that he wanted to take photos full time, made a case for the army to enrol him at Ara.

In that, he was successful. Sean was granted two-years’ study leave by the army, and now he is determined to use his photography skills to repay them.

“I thought I could do more as a photographer for the army than I could as a grunt,” he said. “When I was crawling around in the dirt, I thought someone should be photographing this. It is such an important job. We work so hard. It is really important that the general public sees the behind-the-scenes hard work that goes into it for New Zealand.”

Sean was originally inspired by the great war photographers. “That’s where it all started — seeing those images and knowing I could be that person.”

However, his inside knowledge of NZDF gives him a distinct advantage. “Because I went through the infantry ranks, I can provide a fresh look, and a new point of view, and get right in there amongst it all, without compromising safety.” The military life made Sean a disciplined student at Ara. Now a graduate of the degree, Sean has a bright future ahead and is keen to travel the world, armed with his camera snapping shots of the military in action: “Wherever the guys go, a photographer will need to go with them, anywhere they are deployed.”

AIPA executive director Aaron K awarded the scholarship to Sean last week at Lightworkx Studio. Sean now has three months of mentoring with an AIPA member, camera equipment and access to the AIPA Assistant Training Workshop.