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A Closer Look: Veterans Through the Lens of Students and Photographers
Aimee Tomasek, Liz Wuerffel and Students

The midterm project for Valparaiso University’s Art 163, Introduction to Digital Photography, requires students to research a photo collection of historical prominence, write a photo analysis of an image from that collection, and then, drawing upon their research and analysis, make their own series of photographs. This assignment often manifests as a portrait project. It may take the shape of traditional portraiture, which focuses on what a person looks like, or environmental portraiture, which focuses on the relationship between a person and their surroundings.

Takinga photo is the instant you snap the shutter—it entails very little on the part of the photographer. Making a photograph of a person is different. It involves thoughtful questioning and careful listening and looking in order to determine the best way to visually portray a particular subject.

During the 2018 fall semester, students in Art 163 made photographs of military service members and veterans. A selection of thirty-four images produced for the midterm project became an exhibit for “War and the Human Heart,” a wide-ranging, multimedia event happening at locations around the country to mark the centenary of Armistice Day. (The event’s organizer, Jeffrey Gettleman, envisioned a combination of performance and visual art to highlight veterans and to pay homage to the signing of the Armistice—the event that marked the cessation of hostilities in World War I. The exhibit at Valpo accompanied a memorial concert at the Chapel of the Resurrection on November 11).

Some of our students photographed total strangers; we paired each of them with a veteran they had not previously met. Other students requested the opportunity to photograph family members or friends. Regardless of how long the photographer and subject knew each other, the process of looking and listening allowed each student to know, see, and understand their veteran more fully. For some, the act of making this portrait will inevitably deepen their existing relationship.

Aimee Tomasek, associate professor and chair
Liz Wuerffel, associate professor
Valparaiso University Department of Art

 

Mark Lindsay, senior master sergeant, Instructor Flight Engineer, United States Air Force. Ten years active duty and ten years air force reserve. Three years at Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, California. Seventeen years at McCord Air Force Base, Washington. Photo by Carlee Lindsay.

Captain Aaron J. Morley, United States Army Reserve, Battalion S-1, 337th Military Intelligence Battalion. Currently stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Previously at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; and Ali Al Salem Air Force Base, Kuwait. Deployed to Kuwait from 2016-2017. Photo by Sophie Hecht.

Noah Sobocinski, sergeant, United States Marine Corps, 2014-2018. Photo by Chenglin Ye.

Robert Frank Sobocinski, sergeant (E-5), served in the United States Marine Corps from 1962-1968, including in Vietnam. Photo by Noah Sobocinski.

Bob Petrich, United States Army, 1973-1981, Vietnam veteran. Photo by Emily Osowski.

Jeff Isenhart, sergeant, United States Army. Served in Vietnam, Operation Panama, Operation Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, 1973-1978, 1980-1990. Photo by Kristen Haling.

Corporal Michael P. Speckhard, United States Marine Corps, Cherry Point, North Carolina 2013-2017. Photo by Mariana Chavez Romero.

Rebecca Villarreal, United States Army, E4/SPC multi system signal operator, Iraq, 2003. Photo by Tami Widing.

Rob Swanson, sergeant, United States Army National Guard. Stateside 1990-1991; active duty 1989-1995. Jennifer Winquist, specialist, United States Army National Guard. Operation Desert Storm, 1990-1991; active duty 1989-1995. Swanson and Winquist, professors at Valparaiso University, are pictured here with their children, Max and Moya. Photo by Amoreena Roll.

Lewis Fridley, specialist fourth class, United States Army, 258th Military Police Company—Fort Polk, USACAP Johnston Atoll, 1984-1987. Photo by John Fridley.

Dan Pelzel, United States Army, eight years active duty. Dan was deployed multiple times and spent significant time overseas. Photo by Chloe Crain.

Chuck Litzkow served in the United States Army for thirty-five years and now works for the Portage Fire Department. Photo by Ashlynn De Young.

James Tuggle served in the United States Army from 1969-1971. Photo by Ryann Lutz.

Jim Cox served in the United States Army as chief warrant officer and helicopter pilot. He served in Vietnam from 1968-1971. Photo by Amanda Yonushatis.

Melissa Hernandez-Millan holding images of her father, Benjamin (Benny) Hernandez, who served in the United States Army from 1963-1965. Photo by Sofia Cristina Varela-Hernandez.

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