“A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image. As we celebrate the millions of service members and their families this Veteran’s day let us remember the unspoken words related to the complexities of serving our great country.
The very first war photographer was an American. While the particular artist’s name has been lost to history, we do know that he was attached to the U.S. forces fighting in the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. And since then we use images to tell the stories often too hard to articulate in the spoken word.
Photographer Devin Mitchell, however, created a touching photo project called “The Veteran Art Project” that examines what lies on the other side of the uniform. Using Photoshop, Mitchell has created images of uniformed servicemen and women whose mirrored reflections reveal who they are – and vice versa.
Mitchell explains, “What viewers get to see is unabashed joy and unrelenting pain. There is pride, diversity, and there are Americans free to be whatever. And while the photos are very different, the format is the same. On one side of the mirror, the veteran is in uniform, on the other is an image the veterans choose themselves.
Too often our attention is captured by the heroic recruiting ‘posters’ and images displaying the glamorous side of the military. These images deflect our attention from the realities of long deployments, loss of life, and increasing cases of PTSD.
In image number 130 Craig Millward, an Army veteran, stands with his wife, Deva. It is a story of love and triumph. In the reflection, Craig is in his uniform leaning over the sink. Deva stands behind him with her hand on his arm, supporting her husband. Unlike most images, Deva, who is not a veteran or active-duty soldier, is in both images.
“We had a lot stacked up against us,” Deva said. The image’s message, she said, is that they “beat the system.” When Millward returned from deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, his reintegration process was difficult. It was hard to find a stable job, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and the two were newlyweds. But Millward said his wife’s conviction helped him become the man he is today. See their Interview on CBS.
Mitchell’s goal is to take 10,000 images of veterans and active duty service members from across the country.
As we celebrate our military service member heroes we need to appreciate the images that not only celebrate our countries freedoms, but the visual remembers of what was lost after the end of the welcome back parade.
I enlisted when at age 27 and it was one of the best decisions of my life. As Marine Corps enlisted I served as a crew chief on UH-1Ns, and then later became an accounting & communications officer. I am honored to be part of such a great community. And yes, I was a Hollywood Marine. 🇺🇸