rock solid memory
Some war memorials have become a part of our iconographic landscape, and it seems to me these structures reify a limiting narrative about war. With this in mind, I began visiting war memorials to see how people behaved at those sites. This gallery represents what I saw. If the pictures come to life, it is where the public's response to the memorial is either aligned with or opposed to the intended meaning of the memorial. And of course that meaning is always colored by our collective perception.
same sight picture
I learned about how light can do its exposing work using a digital SLR camera. So, in a way, I started my photography experience from the tech present and began moving backward, to black and white film. There's something about the process of loading film, lifting the camera to my face, aiming through the viewfinder, pressing the shutter and bringing the picture to life in a darkroom that feels familiar and even necessary. The photographs in this gallery represent my growing love of film photography, making pictures and finding the careful discipline to follow your instinct.
Dear Madison is my attempt to throw light on a more complex war experience as opposed to the limited one portrayed in our patriotic narrative. In this project, which I approach ethnographically, I try to arrive at a different truth through the stories of some veterans (myself included) of our current wars. The idea of defending freedom and an American way of life are abstractions; the lived experience of people affected by political violence is concrete. It is the space between these two poles – the envisaged soldier life and the lived experience – that I explore in this documentary project.
I was asked by the Dean of Student Affairs to photograph the opening of UNC's Veterans Center in September 2017. After accepting the commission, I decided to visit the location so I could learn about the space before making pictures on opening day. Once there, I found people hard at work finishing the landscaping, plumbing and heating system. It was then I realized the story of the center was as much about the workers making the space possible as it was about Carolina's veteran population. So, I began visiting there daily to witness the center come to life.
I'm still finding my way in this project. For the last four months, I've been visiting Fort Bragg to speak with soldiers and make pictures at locations as dissonant as barracks areas and weapon ranges. I climbed into mock fuselages where soldiers train to jump from C-130 aircraft. I visited motor parks, food courts, chapels and museums – all contained within a space of six square miles – to gain a sense of how soldiers live and prepare to fight our nation’s wars. It is my hope that these photographs will bring their space alive.