Without comparison, the greatest part of life as a photojournalist is the people you get to spend time with. The profession seldom yields financially rich photographers, but we are compensated beyond belief by the people who enrich our lives by allowing us to spend time with them. And I’m certainly not talking about celebrities.
People in general place high premiums on status symbols like big houses and designer clothes (at least in America they do). Photojournalists place high premiums on things like traveling the world, exploring customs, cultures, trends and issues. And, of course, all those mean photographing people. Over the years, I’ve photographed a number of veterans for a variety of publications and non-profits. Through their various ways, they taught me that the loss of a limb or even the loss of a home is not cause for giving up, but cause for standing up and taking control. You know the saying; get knocked down nine times but get up ten times. That’s the way veterans seem to carry themselves. Whatever obstacle or challenge they meet will be dealt with head-on and if they lose the battle, then they’ll regroup so they can win the war.
The time spent photographing a variety of veterans over the years is invaluable to me. With that in mind, here are a few of those who have enriched my life. Thank you to all the veterans!
A Filipino who served in WWII, Mr Rinen did not receive his medals until nearly 50 years later. There was not a shred of anger from Mr Rinen at the injustice.
Tra-c, an Army veteran, left, and her wife, Maggie. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there as a gay veteran to challenge a inequality in our nation’s laws. But that’s what Tra-c did when she challenged the government’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which excluded survivor benefits in same sex marriages. Tra-c and Maggie are now legally married in all 50 states after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that gay marriage is a constitutional right. And because DOMA was ruled unconstitutional, Maggie will receive all the same rights afforded any other spouse of a veteran.
A participant in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, California put on by the Veterans Administration. Photographed for Sports Illustrated
Veteran and Holocaust Survivor. Photographed at a Holocaust commemoration for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Xoung Lu and Nham Lu, Parents:
Victor Lu was 22 when he was killed in Fallouja, Iraq in November, 2004. He is survived by his family. His father, Xoung Lu, fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War but despaired at his son fighting in Iraq. Photographed for Time Magazine.
James, 23, who served as a Marine in the Iraq War, was homeless and lived at the US Vets facility in Los Angeles where he shared a room with others in the 500 bed facility. A quiet and friendly veteran, James took to his bible and counted his blessings at having found a place to call home off of the streets. Photographed for TIME Magazine.