Award-Winning British Army Photographer Corporal Tanuku Tells

12-year Parachute Regiment soldier now award-winning British Army photographer.
04 Feb 2021 13:05
Award-Winning British Army Photographer Corporal Tanuku Tells
Corporal Nacanieli Tanuku. Award-winning photographer.

Parachuting into battle was part of Corporal Nacanieli Tanuku’s life – at least for 12 years as part of the Parachute Regiment, the airborne infantry regiment of the British Army.

Even before joining the Queen’s Army in 2007, life here was also a battle for survival. Growing up was tough as he was the eldest of three boys. His parents had separated when they were small. Most of his childhood was spent in his mother’s village in Nabulini, Wainibuka in Tailevu.

Looking back, Corporal Tanuku said those life experiences moulded him to take care of his brothers and help others who were less fortunate. His youngest brother, Dr Solomone Tanuku was featured in the Fiji Sun as a ‘hero Doctor’ while in charge of the Navua Hospital isolation centre during Fiji’s early COVID-19 days, last year.

Now the 37-year-old Bau man is thriving in what he describes as his ‘dream job.’ He is part of the British Army Media Communications team. While he remains in the frontline of Army exercises humanitarian aid, parades, Royal visits and battles – only this time he is armed with his camera.

Corporal Tanuku recently won 1st place for his work in the Professional Portfolio category during the Army Film and Photographic Competition.

As part of his training, the Scotland-based photographer completed a nine-month course at the Defence School of Photography, RAF Cosford.

Talk about your transition to the Army Media Communications team.

After 12 years of serving with the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment I decided to follow my love for photography.

Basically, I bought a camera towards the end of my 12 years and just started taking pictures of the guys when we are out on exercises or any major functions. Which ended up me being the battalion photographer (unofficially) on top of my normal day job – but I enjoyed it.

How did your love for photography begin?

It started in Fiji before I joined the Army.

After graduating from the Fiji Institute of Technology – (School of Arts) I worked with a company called Samba Limited down at Victoria Plaza which is a Media/ Journalist/ Product Photography business run by Dominic Sansom who is still a very good friend of mine to this day.

My first ever time to pick up and use a DSLR camera was with these guys and I immediately fell in love with it.

What about family? Their role in your career and personal development?

I could never thank my family enough for their continuous support. My dad sadly passed away in 2012 right after I got back from Afghanistan and he was always one of my biggest fans which I sadly still miss to this day.

My mum lives in Fiji with my three younger siblings Sefo, Esala and Solomone Tanuku. I have a little boy, Thomas Laufilitoga Tanuku (12) who lives in Fiji with his mum. He always brightens me up every time I ring him.

Tell us about growing up here – what were your aspirations at the time? 

Most of my childhood memories were in my koro ni vasu (Nabulini) after my parents separated at a very young age. We had to go live with my Uncle in the village as mum had to work in the city to support us plus having three young cheeky boys was a handful as a single parent.

We attended Nailega District School right up to Class Six then I moved to the city for secondary education and attended Jai Narayan College (then Indian College).

Then at Form Three, I wanted to be with my brother Sefo who was attending a Christian boarding school near my mum’s village (Navesau Adventist High School).

The Motto for the school, ‘TO MAKE MAN WHOLE’ and it did just that for me.

I learned to look after myself at a very young age from making my bed in the morning, washing my own clothes, ironing them, worked on the farms after school and developed a deeper connection with God and it’s a place and moment in life that I will forever cherish.

Navesau Adventist was only up to Form Four at that time so I had to come back to the city to finish my tertiary education. So, I attended Gospel High School from Form Five to Six before I joined the Fiji Institute of Technology.

What are some things that stand out for you while growing up here?

Perhaps life lessons that have carried you through to today.

Growing up was tough being the eldest out of a broken family but it moulded me to always care for my brothers and for others who are less fortunate.

Always appreciate and be grateful for the little things that you have for as long as you have love around you, you have everything.

And always stay positive no matter what life throws at you, strive to achieve your dreams with personal dedication and commitment at whatever cost and with God as your moral compass you can never go wrong.

I want to dedicate this Award to the most amazing woman in my life, my mum who taught me a lot about life, for always being my rock and a shoulder to lean on and for always reminding me to put God first in every situation.

And also, to my family for their love and continuous support.

  • This Saturday, we will feature the images taken by Corporal Tanuku that won him the award. Titled ‘Dark Places’, the idea behind the photographs was to portray the experiences and emotions that British Army soldiers go through in their job.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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