A Soldier's Anthology
Back in 2007, I sat at my dining room table with my good friend and fellow artist Karen Reisdorf. As I finished telling her all about my grandfather's work as an aerial photographer in World War 2, and how I had always wanted to do some sort of art project based on his photos, she replied that she had similar ideas and wanted to create some work based on her dad's Vietnam experience. We were both exploring polaroid transfers at the time, and it became obvious that a joint exhibit was the way to go. We were awarded a grant to compete the project A Soldier's Anthology: Family Images from World War 2 and Vietnam. This project was a joy to create, and in 2008 our local newspaper named our exhibit one of the top ten arts and cultural events of the year in Genesee County. My portion of this exhibit is now part of the permanent collection and on view at Artisanworks in Rochester NY. Here are just a few images from the series:
I grew up surrounded by my grandfather’s stories of his past. Many of these stories took place in the time he spent serving with the US Army in World War II, stationed in the Pacific as an aerial photographer. Despite the conflict and death that was intrinsic to his war experience, he described his time serving as, “The best years of my life.” This exhibit explores those “best years”.
By the time he enlisted in the war at the age of 30 he was already quite a competent photographer, and over the years he had amassed boxes and stacks of photos that illustrate the experiences of his life. Most of the photos stayed in the boxes and were rarely looked through. Stories were told about many of his pictures, but the pictures themselves were often only described and never seen.
The images in this series are just a select few of hundreds and hundreds of pictures in his collection from the second Great War. Some of the pieces illustrate familiar stories that I was raised with: meeting Roy Cahill, taking the Skip Bomb photo that was printed in the Saturday Evening Post, encountering the tribal natives in New Guinea. Others focus on silent yet specific moments of time in day-to-day life. Some images in this series piece together stories that were never told, but that I uncovered by sifting through the boxes of photos and doing research, such as the disappearance of both Joe Barry and Emerson Fie in August 1943.
I have chosen to show these images as Polaroid transfers because the process of creating the transfers symbolizes the transfer of stories from generation to generation. Being fed these stories as a child shaped my perspective on the world at large. At a young age, they spoke to me of travel and adventure, of meeting new people and taking risks, of fighting for good against a clear enemy. Revisiting these images as an artist, I begin to question what makes “the best years”. Each image captures a brief moment in time, yet it is these brief moments that tend to have life-altering effects. That is, in part, why I have chosen to transfer them from a cardboard box to place of merit on the wall.