Sunday, November 11, 2012

In honor of those who have served...

In order to give voice to the stories around me, I make photographs. One of my great loves is making portraits, giving voice to individuals, places, and life experience through visual stories. In honor of those who have or are currently serving our country, I will be collecting portraits to share and maybe with some luck, later to show publicly, tomorrow 11/12.  From 10am until 2pm, in SCC's College Center gymnasium, I will be set up with my portable studio and student assistants to make photographs of Veterans and military service members.  I intend to lend my skills as an artist, to add light, and awareness to those that have served their fellow man and whom deserve recognition, respect, gratitude, and beyond all else, our service in return. All past and present service members are welcome to participate.

Model releases will be provided and required for anyone interested in participating. Anyone who is willing to sit for my camera and sign my release will receive a digital file of their portrait. If participants would like to share their story in the written word in return, it would be a most welcome reply to my email/letter (although totally optional and not required).

A few semesters ago I had my first really up-close encounter with young veterans. Young folks that could have easily been my friends, or my husband, or my siblings. One of them had such immobilizing PTSD, substance abuse issues, and paranoia that he proceeded to misconstrue everything my previously innocuous intro to photography class could possibly ever be about. Although sadly, he was potentially a risk to my safety and the safety of my students, his story was one of opportunity and was ultimately epiphanic for me. It was here that I began to truly awakened to the residual emotional, physical, and social effects, if only at the surface level, of what our loyal service members might be facing on our behalves. My inability to fully understand or provide mechanisms for catharsis or growth in this situation with this individual was deeply disturbing and equally heart-inspiring.

During that same class I became fast friends with another student who also was a young veteran. He had recently returned from his own tours of service. He shared with me many thoughts especially in light of this classmate's aforementioned meltdown. Without his discussions I might have otherwise not had the tools to understand what had happened and what was so pervasive all around me. He shared with me in words, and in images, his humanity and his compassion. As seasons change so does the face of PTSD,  and that spring, after he had left my class, he had a particularly uneasy time. Dealing with the fast-forward and rewind of the human mind as it auto-pilots it's way through the lives that we inhabit and consume is a merciless process, particularly so when life & death holds us as visual,visceral hostages. We talked, and he talked, and I listened, and he talked some more--that was all I knew to do. We had a weekly pattern of discussions some more casual and some much more delicate. One morning he arrived at my office and he told me to hold out my hand. Curiously, and somewhat anxiously, I did. I had developed such a strong sense of respect for this person that I knew in my heart that this could only be a gesture of friendship. Into my hand he dropped the smoothest, most worn bullet I had ever set eyes on. It was the embodiment of all of the worries and the fears, the sorrows and the limitless capacity for the human mind to canabalize itself... And to the contrary it was the symbol of this bullet that with it  one might literally and metaphorically save oneself from torture or compromise, whatever form that might be. I didn't fully get it at the time, I probably will continue to make realizations as I grow in time, but as I reflect it all becomes so much more crystallized.

I am honored to put that bullet in a safe place so that my dear friend might someday see more light, less sadness, more love and gratitude, and less fear. May his heart, and those of other folks known and unknown, be just a little bit lighter and a little more open every moment of every day. May our compassion for one another and our humanity prevail, despite all else.

These portraits are in honor of you my friend.


  1. I was glad to have been a small part of this year's event. It was very emotional and I felt a great sense of pride that our community has produced such an effort. And the attendance was very good, which meant a lot. The people we met and talked with during the shoots was priceless. Each person and his or her story....what can you say....I know it means so much to all of us, my father served in WWII, behind enemy lines for over nine months on his missions. He continued to serve in the military police unit of his reserve unit for 20 years as a Master Sargent. He is no longer around to share his stories, but I remember them well. And as each of these events come around, I am taken back to the times when my father shared his memories. God bless to all that have served.