When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio in the 1970s, every image of war and American soldiers I had came from my father, who served in Vietnam as a Medic. His time in the army was not something he went into detail about, but I would catch glimpse of it now and then when he would be reminded of a story from that time of his life.
Several years later after my father passed away, I found myself drawn to the images of our current conflict in the Middle East. In 2006, I applied to be embedded with the US military in as a freelance photographer. My main objective was to capture the day-to-day lives of the soldiers and to gain first-hand knowledge of what they were going through. In a strange way I also was hoping to learn a bit more about my father and how his military experience shaped who he was.
Since then, I have visited Afghanistan three times. The first time I was invited to photograph the 10th Mountain Division at a tiny firebase called Kamdesh. Kamdesh is in northeast Afghanistan, five miles from the Pakistan border. There, the troops patrol the mountains on foot in search of the Taliban. I returned to Afghanistan a few months later, this time to a small firebase called the Korengal Outpost in the Korengal Valley, along frequently targeted supply line between Pakistan and Kabul. This past spring (April 2009) I returned for a third time, now to South- Eastern province of Paktika, the epicenter of the newly escalated conflict.
During all of my embeds, I slept in the same bunker as the troops, ate the same MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and accompanied small squads on foot patrols through the rugged terrain. The average age of the soldiers was about 21. I found that most of them didn’t care or talk about politics, but would rather update their “Facebook” page or watch the latest music video. After all, not long ago they were on their high school football teams and worrying about their grades. One solder I met said: “I joined the Army so I could go to college but all I’ve done is get shot at.”
Today as our nation’s interest dramatically shifts from Iraq to Afghanistan and other areas of conflict, the conversations are mostly around politics, strategy and money. But regardless of one’s views, the sons, daughters, mothers and fathers that are fighting there deserve to have their stories told. That is my goal with these images.
Before my trips, my relationship with my father had given me a unique understanding of soldiers and the hardships they face in the decisions they make. Though I was able to leave Afghanistan without a scratch in my body armor, with each trip I returned home with an even deeper respect and empathy for the men and women I spent time with. My hope is that when looking at my photographs, the viewer feels the same.
survivors of priest abuse
Project for NJ Monthly Magazine. For this story, I had to capture images of adults that were abused by priests when they were kids. This important story is about about a law that's up for a vote in NJ that changes the statue of limitations on when someone can file a claim against an abuser. I photographed three different men ages 55, 56 and 69 who still feel the effects of this childhood abuse. They shared their vivid memories with me, and I am in awe of their bravery.
In the small commuter town of Maplewood, NJ , where I live with my wife and nine year old daughter the kids and grown ups take Halloween very seriously.
Every year our tightly knit community comes out to show off their creativity, looking forward to the night as if it were a theater opening ..
I decided to start doing free portraits of the children who come to our house for trick or treat as a way to give something back to the neighborhood that I am a part of. I set up a simple backdrop with one light and only spend a few minutes with each child and family so I can get to everyone. This year the crowd was so big I had to make a separate line for photos.
Although I am a professional photographer and have done portrait work and picture stories my whole career I never really considered these images to be a personal project ….. Until this year.
While looking at all the images from the previous six Halloweens I realized that I have seen most of these kids grow up on my porch year after year. Now our house is a destination point and people who have moved out of the neighborhood still come back to have their picture made… When I look at these images together I now realize that what started as a simple gift to my community has turned into something much bigger.
There is such pride and intensity on these children’s faces. They may be wearing face paint and costumes, but their hearts shine through in their eyes.
For this creative self-portrait project, Tuscan Elementary schools 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Boryeskne asked students to write a short essay about their favorite parts of themselves. She encouraged them to dig deep, to not only describe their legs, hands, smiles, eyes, and other physical parts, but to explain how it helped make them so unique. Once the essays were finished, the students worked with photographer Chad Hunt to illustrate their idea through a photographic portrait. The results are a fun and playful look at the sweet, confidant, and self-reflective minds of third graders.
The bonds I formed during my embeds are immeasurable. I have become an accidental member of a motley club. We stay in touch through social media and when the cosmos align, I journey to visit their new homes. We talk about the crazy things we saw overseas, share pictures of our kids, and I take portraits of them in their new life. They are transforming in remarkable ways.
More than the length of their hair or the raw new tats they wear like badges of honor, these once vibrant young people are now scared, tired and hallow.
As some 30,000 troops try to find their way home in the coming years, it is a vitally important subject that deserves historical record.
I call this new series on Afghanistan vets “Ghosting Home”, As they try to occupy the spaces where they once lived. Through their eyes I often reflect on those of my own father, a Vietnam vet and single dad who tried to raise my sister and I as best he could while haunted by combat.