Sorry if this bio is a bit long, but it’s hard to squeeze 71 years into a few paragraphs. The military part of it is also somewhat atypical, and so requires some explanation.

I’m a lowly amateur photographer who likes to use toy-like cameras and Polaroid, but I mostly use digital now because it’s too expensive to be old school. Not counting childhood experimentation, I actually started taking pictures with some level of serious intent in the late 1960’s, when I was 16, armed with a big Polaroid Model 160. It used the original black and white peel-apart roll film. By the mid-70’s, I had taught myself to develop 35mm film, and I was burning and dodging black and white prints during late night sessions in my studio apartment, on weekends when not at sea with the navy. After a while, I moved on to slide film, developing my own Ektachromes and mailing the Kodachromes. Unfortunately, most of that early experimentation was lost a long time ago, except for a few fading prints without the negatives, some vintage Polaroids, as well as a few Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides.

In the real world of making a living, I joined the Canadian Forces as an ROTP officer cadet while already attending university and I was commissioned after graduating in 1974. I subsequently served my commitment as a naval officer in the regular Canadian Forces, after which I became a federal public servant, eventually heading a Secretary of State division embedded within National Defence. A dozen years later, I left the public service for the private sector and worked primarily as a freelance contractor and subcontractor in naval technical and operational documentation.

Around the same time, after a decade-long break in service, I joined the local army reserve service battalion, technically transferring from the Supplementary List to the Primary Reserves. While it started out as a bit of semi-serious fun in my spare time, this meant I had to remuster, which I did over a few summers and in between freelance civilian work. Before I knew it, I was fully qualified as an army transport officer up to and including the Militia Command and Staff Course, which made me Lieutenant Colonel promotable and put me next in line on the succession list to command the battalion. Unfortunately, this never materialized because reorganization led to my unit being disbanded in favour of a new air defence battery. Approaching forty by this time and having no desire to retrain once again, I turned down a solid offer to work for a major defence contractor in Halifax, and I decided to return to my hometown Ottawa for the better health care I might eventually need for the mild chronic kidney disease I had been nurturing for a few years.

Having done this and having no expectations whatever about continuing in the reserves, I was working on a large contract as part of the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel project when out of the blue, I was offered a full-time call-out to organize the logistics for the upcoming 1997 Central Area reserve concentration. Well, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity, and so I subcontracted my work out to another ex-military veteran, and I once again put on my uniform to work as G3 Log (Plans) in 33 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters, in the old Military Stores building behind the historic Cartier Square Drill Hall in downtown Ottawa.

I was kept on to organize the following summer’s concentration in Petawawa, this time as G4 Plans. During that time, I also acted as G4 Transport and ultimately G4, and I was recalled from leave during the great Eastern Ontario Ice Storm of 1998 for Operation Recuperation, initially to be senior duty operations officer at Brigade HQ, but was quickly reassigned to replace a regular officer as the regimental liaison officer embedded with the civilian Emergency Measures Organization headquarters in the most severely affected area.

Unfortunately, that proved to be my closing act in the military, as my kidney disease had quickly progressed and I was unable to serve the 12th year that would have earned me the CD decoration. So, 11 years and no cigar (4 regular and 7 reserve, several of which on full-time call-out).

During my reserve service, I was unable to volunteer for duty in the former Yugoslavia peacemaking operations at the time due to my medical restriction, but at least I stood in at home for regular force officers who could. Altogether, in addition to my initial four years in the Maritime Surface and Sub-surface branch of the Navy, I had time to fulfill several minor functions in the Army Reserves, including battalion adjutant, officer commanding a transport company, serving on division and brigade G3 and G4 staffs, filling in as a logistics operations officer on regular force field exercises with 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group… that sort of thing. I was also member of an area officer selection board, directing staff on junior officer staff training courses, battalion shooting team captain, military spokesperson for the news media, PMC of a garrison officers mess, and I even served as aide-de-camp to a provincial Lieutenant-Governor for a time.

And that’s not counting my work as a public servant, having been part of Canada’s participation in the NATO standardization agreement programme in the 1980s. As such, I was a member of working groups in Canada, and I travelled to NATO conferences in Paris, London and Brussels as a civilian with naval Commander administrative status. No big deal, and certainly of little significance compared to those who served in harm’s way, but contrary to what my present circumstances might suggest, I wasn’t exactly a bum either.

I’ve always preferred just taking pictures though. I can do whatever is required, but I do tend to favour spontaneity and for my own pictures, I like the snapshot aesthetic… just the thing to infuriate YouTube photographers and denizens of photography forums to no end.

Pierre Lachaine

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