Veteran Vision: When It's Done, This Is What the War Looks Like
Despite sundry flimsy efforts to halt, slow or deal with them - by Congress, courts, an ill-equipped V.A. - suicides of veterans broken by their service in our last two unconscionable wars continue at the staggering rate of 22 a day, or one almost every hour. The Veteran Vision Project seeks both to help them heal and to spread awareness about the challenges they face once home through a stunning double photo series - one as soldier, one as civilian - aimed at revealing "their truest selves."
The project was created by student and photographer Devin Mitchell, who argues the very fact of a military uniform "can mask the complexity of the men and women who wear it" - a complexity that emerges dramatically from many of the double photos with jarring contrasts. Citing common veteran struggles - with PTSD, drugs and alcohol, broken marriages, guilt, grief, shame, anger, a sense after seeing and doing so much that the center cannot hold - he hopes the photos work as therapy for the subjects: "It makes visible what they feel."
Working with several veteran friends/advisers, he backpacks around the country to find veterans and then spends time talking with them, sometimes painfully, at their kitchen tables. Because he takes his time and because of his subject matter, the subsequent photo shoots often feel like "an intimate experience." He lets each person choose their own props, poses, costumes and people to accompany them in their civilian photos. Some seem content, hugging their kids and miles away from the trim rigid figures in uniform that look back at them. Others, palpably suffering, choose to include meds, guns and other symbols of their daily struggles.
Eventually, Mitchell wants to create a book of the photos, with profits to go to humanitarian aid projects. To cover its costs he started a Kickstarter campaign that's already raised almost $40,000, or double what he set out to raise. The book, he hopes, could "give the veterans a voice." Given what else they've lost, often unwittingly, in the name of senseless carnage, it seems a modest goal.