Dorothy Hughes, Chelsea Pensioner

Nestled alongside the black cab, red bus and Beefeater guard in London’s directory of iconic sights is surely the red coated Chelsea Pensioner, whom can often be seen gracing televised events, collecting money for their own charity and others.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea, which homes the 300 plus inhabitants, was created hundreds of years ago to give respite and care to retired war veterans that no longer had a dependent spouse or family as a mark of respect for their contribution to our country. Out of those 300 current inhabitants, there are but a handful of women who were finally accepted into the home in 2009. One of the first two to arrive was Dorothy Hughes whom I photographed earlier this month.

It was my first time inside the barracks and it did not disappoint. The buildings are incredible both outside and in. We arrived at Dorothy’s dorm to find a glamorous red-lipped, twinkly eyed lady, proudly showing us her living quarters. Each inhabitant has their own small en suite bedroom with a tiny study which can be opened up to passers by unlocking a hatch.

The dorms are all integrated, no separation between the men and women, and although apparently there were a few disgruntled glares when she first arrived, Dorothy is fully included in the scene these days. Whilst we were shooting, there was constant jovial banter from the steady stream of veterans passing us by, gentle ribbing about her being photographed and not them, and good natured camaraderie.

It was one of those places where you could have shot anywhere and it looked amazing, I could have stayed there all day and she was such a fantastic subject, she really made it easy for me.

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