The Start of a New Journey
Why had I not thought of doing this sooner? It's such a great idea! Why did I not think of this when there were so many more WWII veterans still with us? Even though my dad was not a WWII veteran—he was a Korean War 187th Airborne paratrooper veteran and passed away in 2011—I know he would have been proud of it. I think of these things often. And then I remind myself of where I've come from, my background, family life changes, my growth and emergence as a photographer after having a career as a graphic designer and art director, and God's blessings and direction for my life. I realize that I could not have been in a position to do this project fifteen years ago, or ten years ago, or even two years ago. I could have tried, perhaps, but it would have been a poor attempt. Now is my time. I can make it look the way I envision it, and I can get it out to more people to see it. And I think people appreciate it more now, because so few of these veterans remain. I'm still learning and will improve on the portraits as I go along. But, oh the journey! And the stories! And these heroes!
The first portrait here, of 99-year-old Colonel Carl Cooper, was made at his home in a Birmingham suburb about 15 miles from me. In the uniform he retired in and looking like a proud, decorated career Marine that he is, he captured my heart by his humbleness and kindness to me. I have a new friend. And thus this journey began.
This project, my WWII Portraits of Honor project, isn't an original idea. I have discovered other photographers doing this who are much farther along than I and am glad they are doing this, too, in their own way. The number of veterans are dwindling and we need to get their stories documented. A few of us cannot reach them all. I would like to give a huge shout-out to my friend, photographer Glyn Dewis in the U.K. He is the one who inspired me through his work on his 1940s project and ultimately his beautiful portraits of British WWII veterans. He has a wonderful website called 3945 Portraits (the 3945 signify the span of years of WWII, 1939-1945). Thank you for what you do, Glyn.
So, the journey has begun! I have traveled so far to many points north and south in Alabama, and to Pensacola, Florida photographing over three dozen WWII veterans. I look forward to going to many more states with a goal of reaching at least 100 veterans within a year. I hope you'll follow me along the journey!
Keywords: greatest generation, Jeffrey Rease Photography, portrait project, portraits, portraits of honor, veterans, world war II, ww2, WWII Portraits of Honor, WWII veterans
This is my Great Uncle and I am very honored to be in this family. Thank you to all who served.
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