Photographer focuses on veterans

Lt-Col Jon Lynn Moffat (deceased)

Lt-Col Jon Lynn Moffat (deceased)

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

When a hobby merges with passion and determination, it becomes a mission.

For Chief Petty Officer Second Class John Penner that hobby is photography and that mission is capturing the faces of veterans, young and old.

He captures their essence, their personality by staging them against a dark background with minimal lighting. This creates an intended prestige, an acknowledgement of his or her service to Canada. 

Chief Penner’s growing collection of images are for his Veterans Portrait Project, which he hopes to take on the road at some point as a travelling exhibit.

“I think people need to see that veterans are people, that is the concise way I can boil it down,” said CPO2 Penner, 51. “There is a lack of this visibility in Canada, whereas in the United States people are much more nationalistic and have more national pride and support for their military. In Canada when we aren’t at war, and especially outside of military cities, this sentiment is not as strong.”

He began his Veteran’s Portrait Project seven years ago and has photographed approximately 300 men and women. His next phase is to choose 40 or 50 portraits and print and mount them in large scale format. Cost is holding him back as it could amount to over $8,000.

The inspiration for his project came following the death of his mother. He realized there were hundreds of pictures of him, his father, and his brothers, but sadly only one of her, as she was the family photographer.

When a friend, recently retired from the military, complained he didn’t have photos of himself in uniform to pass down to his grandkids, Chief Penner had a revelation.

“I always tell people you aren’t taking pictures for yourself but for your family. I guess that’s really the story of how this began.”

CPO2 Penner began his career in the Royal Canadian Navy 32 years ago as a Naval Electronics Sensor Operator serving in multiple Canadian warships on both coasts.

While he advanced his career as a sailor, he was always on the hunt for the “perfect shot” outside of work, something he’s been doing since age 12 when he bought a Kodak 126 camera at a garage sale.

Within a year or two he had his own wet-dry dark room and became consumed with capturing the beauty of life on the sunshine coast in Powell River.

When not working on his Veterans Portrait Project, he can be found capturing Wounded Warrior Run BC, Boomer’s Legacy and HeroWork projects.

For more information about CPO2 Penner and his work, visit his website

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