We ended the year in 2013 with a particularly special assignment. There were no celebrities, no exotic locations, no elaborate props or sets – we were instead treated with an experience on the human condition. Spending a week in New Orleans, we met, photographed, and learned the stories of a handful of veterans suffering from PTSD who all seek alternate forms of therapy. The images we shot were real, the stories we heard were even more real, and the connections we made were the most real of all.
This is one of those experiences where the images will tell a lot more than our words possibly can. We’ll do our best to share the story. Keep reading for more…
Truth be told, we landed in New Orleans not quite sure what to expect. Prior to our departure weâ€™d made contact with all of our subjects, explained our process of how we would be taking their portraits and asked them each two questions related to the specific PTSD therapies they were participating in: â€œwhat is your safe place?” and “what is a scene or pursuit that brings you peace?â€ Their answers became our photos.
Former US Navy Seal and Vietnam Veteran Wayne Bergeron answered our questions by sharing with us and our camera chis cherished weekly ritual of getting ice cream and spending the afternoon with his granddaughter.
Our second subject, another Vietnam Veteran, Lionel Parker took us to the seawall on lake Pontchartrain to share his secluded and calming place. Sometimes fishing pole in hand, but more often not, he explained that he makes the trip to the lake to stare out at the water and reflect on his experiences. If he is fishing, it’s not about the catch of the day – it’s about the time spent and the meditative powers of the water.
Fellow Vietnam vet Joseph Dean took us to where he worships, the Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Dean explained to us that through his church (where he sings in the men’s choir) he is able to find peace within himself.
Last but not least, we brought these men (and a few other fellow veterans participating in the program) together, gathering for a group portrait at Jackson Barracks, a National Guard barracks destroyed during hurricane Katrina and since rebuilt with a museum that pays homage to both military history and the recent history of the city. The setting felt more than fitting for a bringing these former soldiers together.
Our ability to translate oneâ€™s story via imagery is a unique gift, one that weâ€™re not always reminded of – there was no better way to end 2013 than to be freshly reminded of the power of photography and the connections it can create.