Photographing the men and women of the New Zealand Army in action is not just a skill but an art.

Corporal (CPL) Sean Spivey has been awarded a Chief of Army Commendation for his work in proactively and expertly showcasing the Army in his photography.

CPL Spivey, a Photography Specialist in the Royal New Zealand Air Force is no stranger to the Army, he enlisted into the Army in 2008 and spent 12 years posted to 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment as a sniper.

In 2017 he was granted the opportunity to complete a course of study through the Kippenberger Scheme to pursue his passion of photography. On completion of his study in 2019 he completed a tour of duty to Defence Public Affairs. In early 2020 he subsequently service changed to the Air Force and was permanently posted to Burnham Military Camp as a Photography Specialist.

When presenting the commendation to CPL Spivey, Chief of Army, Major General (MAJGEN) John Boswell said “You had quite a magnificent career in the New Zealand Army, and I was incredibly disappointed when I heard that you were leaving the Army. I was absolutely amazed when I heard that you were going into the Air Force”. 

“In all honesty though, given what you have done since you have left the service of the Army in terms of your education, pursuing your passion and the absolute professional manner in which you are providing a service at the highest level for the Defence Force at large, I can live with you leaving the Army, because you are very, very good at what you do,” said MAJGEN Boswell.

CPL Spivey said that the award means everything to him and was totally unexpected.

“To receive a Chief of Army Commendation for a job I am lucky to have means a lot to me and my family.

“I am very fortunate to be a full-time photographer. Chief of Army approved me to study under the Kippenberger scheme, so for me that time was about working as hard as I could for all those people who helped me along my journey,” said CPL Spivey.

CPL Spivey’s commendation noted his ability to proactively seek opportunities to promote our soldiers and portray Defence capabilities as second to none.

“He draws heavily on his experience as a soldier, commander, and safety supervisor and this knowledge affords him relative freedom when in the field or on exercise with soldiers. He has the ability to gain the trust and credibility to move alongside soldiers to capture raw, unvarnished images of New Zealand Army soldiers,” the citation read.

CPL Spivey said having Army connections and qualifications has helped a lot in going straight from the infantry to a Defence photographer.

“The major benefit of my time in the Army is when I am in the field with them, I already know the way they operate and being able to anticipate what will be coming during an assault or other routines, and the best place for me to be to capture the right image.

“I also know how hard our soldiers work, and I try to show that in my work,” CPL Spivey said.

MAJGEN Boswell said “We as an organisation continue to benefit from who you are, the services you provide, the products you produce - they are magnificent”.

“You are in every sense of the word an absolute artist, don’t stop doing what you are doing, because it is seriously impressive and the NZDF seriously appreciate it,” he said.  

CPL Spivey’s citation noted his diligence and passion for art, in combination with his unrelenting professionalism, attention to detail and dedication to combat soldiers has meant he has become an ambassador for Army, its values and mana. The images he produces generate pride within the organisation and respect externally.

While CPL Spivey does miss aspects of the Army, and that the highlight of his career was becoming a badged sniper, he is looking forward to developing his skills further as a photographer and said “as great as it feels, it’s only the start”.

Published in Army News - Issue 519(external link)

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