It’s almost time to don my combat boots again! Devin Mitchell, creator of the Veteran Vision Project and fellow Arizona State University student, is coming to my home tomorrow to create a one-of-a-kind image blending my past and my present life.
The stories I wish to share are not fully set into stone. I’m torn between a couple concepts (all of which are important in their own ways) but I’m trying to see my messages from the audience’s perspectives. Everyone exposed to this image will be affected in some way and there is no way to gauge how the combined story will be interpreted by strangers and my own family (parents, aunts and uncles, and dearest friends). There are valuable lessons to pass on and statements to be made. All of Devin’s photographs, I’m realizing, are memoirs in themselves, with or without the entanglement of words. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here to be part of that time capsule Devin is creating of our nation’s veterans (and active service members).
Yesterday I finished reading Patricia Hampl’s I Could Tell Your Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory and I was struck by the author’s acknowledgement memoirs give us the space to unburden ourselves but also–at times–invades the privacy of others, most importantly those that sometimes do not want their secrets shared.
As humans, it’s impossible to share our stories without also in some way sharing details about the people in our lives–loved ones, enemies, and so forth. It’s not my place to say I have the authority to share some secrets, but there are some stories I don’t want to be lost in history, particularly my family history and the collective history of the Marine Corps, which means publicly acknowledging others who do not know me. The message will be blatant to those people and their privacy may be interrupted but I cannot say with 100% this interruption will occur.
In an age of many things “going viral” I am ok with the fact if the photograph Devin takes becomes popular. He does spectacular work to unfold and redevelop the conversation as it pertains to our nation’s veterans. His work presents the veteran (and active duty) community and their family members in a more theatrical/realistic/justice promoting light than what mainstream media typically is willing to invest of their time and effort. I am barely touching the surface of what Devin is able to do based on the rapport he develops with his participants, but he is nothing short of amazing. What I don’t wish to see (and hope does not occur) is media badgering of someone I wish to reach out to using this photograph (and by extension, other persons closely associated with this individual).
Please know I am making plenty of intentional choices in what’s photographed (and excluded) from my photo shoot. Not all the decisions will be mine as well. Devin is the photographer and understands things I don’t when it comes to how everything will come together. I fully trust his judgement and skill set; he has done well in the past to honor our veterans so I trust him with my story. Another important distinction for the audience is my husband’s expressed decision to not be photographed. This is his choice and no statement must be made regarding his personal preference. Lastly, my artifacts are very personal. If anyone hears nasty comments about what I’ve chosen to share or others’ perceptions of me, please do not share these sentiments with me. I know well enough not everyone in this world likes me as an individual or that they will like how I present my experiences.