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Matinee: Stacy Pearsall's Veterans Portrait Project Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

11 November 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 213th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Stacy Pearsall's Veterans Portrait Project.

At the age of 17, Stacy Pearsall became an Air Force combat photographer and by the time she sustained the injury that ended her military career she had three combat tours under belt, earning the Bronze Star and Air Force Commendation with Valor for combat in Iraq.

She was also one of only two women to win the National Press Photographers Association Military Photographer of the Year competition -- and the only woman to have earned it twice.

When she left the military she had a lot of healing to do and the Veterans Portrait Project was her way of doing it:

The Veterans Portrait Project began as an emotionally cathartic, physically healing tool. I'd committed my life to my country and when I could no longer serve in uniform, the VPP became an extension of my service. My new mission is to share the unique stories of military veterans and honor their service in a unique, creative way. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions and shared via social media, thus ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

There is an official VPP site but we find the presentation at Pearsall's personal site more compelling. Because, well, the black-and-white images, of which there are now over 200 on the site, are larger.

She's actually photographed over 6,000 vets in 27 states. And she isn't stopping until she does the rest of the states.

What Pearsall has created in these portraits is an image of America's armed forces. The faces of the people who wear the uniform.

But it's not just about the portraits, Pearsall says. It's a chance to sit down with another vet and talk, something many of them have not done even with their own spouses.

Which won't surprise anyone who has served in combat.

In this clip broadcast by the PBS NewsHour last night, she tells the story (or two) of vets she has photographed. And while the project itself focuses on the portraits, not the stories, Pearsall does write about them on her blog. Those portraits by themselves, though, tell quite a story.

It's a story flush with pride and dignity. There's even a little humor sprinkled in.

But the project is also the portrait of a surprisingly diverse group of people. Our armed forces are young and old, men and women, every race. Some in ties, some in T-shirts, some in uniform, some with props, most alone but not all. There are even a few K9 heroes.

Pearsall says she wants you to remember those individuals that make up the greater sum that is the military. A sum, she shows, that is greater than its parts.

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