Railway Man: Exhibition goes behind the scenes

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A fascinating photographic insight into the making of the major new film, The Railway Man, will go on display at the Granary Gallery this week.

Tracking Forgiveness: A photographic journey of The Railway Man, features production shots and behind the scenes photos taken by stills photographer Jaap Buitendijk during the filming, which took place in Berwick, Edinburgh, Queensland and Thailand in 2012.

The film tells the story of late Berwick resident Eric Lomax, who was one of thousands of Allied prisoners of war forced to work on the construction of the notorious Death Railway in Thailand during World War Two.

Now a major feature film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, The Railway Man is based on Lomax’s memoir.

The film, released nationally on January 10, finally went into production following a series of meetings over many years between Lomax and his wife Patti, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson who adapted the film.

Featuring production shots and behind-the-scenes photos, along with personal wartime possessions belonging to Eric Lomax, kindly on loan from Patti, the opening of the exhibition coincides with a week’s screenings of the new film at The Maltings.

Photographer Jaap Buitendijk has captured the filming process of many a major production. But The Railway Man held a particular poignancy for him, as his father’s family was interned in a Dutch Indonesian Japanese Prisoner of War camp. 

Now living in Edinburgh and Windsor with wife Emma and daughter Saskia, Jaap grew up in Holland and travelled extensively as a teenager, moving to Britain in 1990. It was during his travels that he first picked up a camera and began to grow his passion for photography. He later studied documentary photography at Newport School of Art, where he explored the apparent contradiction of using documentary skills to record an artificial reality; films.

Since then Jaap has established himself as an experienced stills photographer, with a reputation for looking beyond the obvious. At home on sets of major productions such as Gladiator, Harry Potter and World War Z, as well as smaller projects such as 12 Years a Slave, Rush and The Constant Gardener, his work shows versatility and commitment to the still photography of cinema and the fascinating opportunity to capture the mechanics of film making itself.

While Jaap’s father’s family was interned in a Dutch Indonesian Japanese Prisoner of War camp, his uncle worked on the railway line itself. Jaap’s childhood was dominated by his father’s on-going struggle to come to terms with the horrors he witnessed in the camp as a young boy.

His mother spent many years running a campaign to elicit an apology from the Japanese Zen masters who allowed such atrocities to take place under their watch, and finally persuaded them to publicly apologise for their tacit role in the camps, and the war in general. Now Jaap has taken his skill in photography and used it to approach the subject pictorially in an attempt to understand and forgive the behaviour which has left its mark on so many.

Tracking Forgiveness: A photographic journey of The Railway Man, is open from January 4 to March 2. The exhibition is free and open every Wednesday to Sunday, from 11am-5pm at The Granary Gallery (second floor of Berwick YHA, Dewar’s Lane).