Photo of Maureen McNeil, JHP Executive Director and Brooklyn VA Participant Felicia Foster   Photo @RickGerrity

By Maureen McNeil – Memorial Day Weekend 2014

As we celebrate veterans as heroic young people who risked their lives for their country, today of all days, we must also commit to helping the more than 2.9 million disabled veterans from wars over the last seven decades.

In 1944 Josephine Herrick was tapped by Dr. Howard Rusk, father of rehabilitation medicine, to organized programs, equipment and train women to teach the art and technology of photography to wounded WWII soldiers in NYC hospitals.  Today, that legacy of photography and service lives on at JHP. It is no secret that helping others makes humans feel good.

Professional photographer Camille Tokerud specializes in lifestyle photography www.camilletokerud.com  but over the last two years she has volunteered to teach portrait and still life photography to more than 50 veterans at the Brooklyn VA Hospital. One of her students, Mai Jun Li, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran wrote:

Photo by Mai Jun Li, Brooklyn VA Program Particpant

“My dog tag is important to me. It was there with me witnessing things good and bad.

Taking photos of my ID is making me feel grateful. When I try to remember the past, my dog tag has been on me for years. It means a lot to me. I hold onto it like it’s saving my life.”


The Josephine Herrick Project photography program at the Bronx VA taught by professional photographer Nousha Salimi www.noushasalimi.com has a waiting list.


Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Sidney Clark said: “It was a spiritual growth for someone like myself. Nousha treated us with kid gloves.”


Veteran Benjamin Marrero said of the class: “Now when I’m depressed I just go outside and take pictures and it helps me relax.”


Veteran and photographer Scott Nidermaier www.nidermaierpicutres.com teaches an ongoing  JHP photography program every Monday afternoon for two years at St. Albans VA in Queens, including the oldest in-patient veterans, and some who are in hospice. Scott said: “Sometimes just  the opportunity for my students to pick up a Canon Rebel, hold it in their hands, is a huge accomplishment.”


For wheelchair bound Viet Nam veteran Anthony Sodo, photography has transformed his life.  He recently captured an image of a hawk on the hospital grounds. He said: “I have three different cameras now and take pictures for all the Wounded Warrior events. I keep busy. I see a lot more than I would, even looking at the photos I see more than looking at the shot.”

Archival image exhibited at the Soho Photo Gallery in April 2014


In April this year the Josephine Herrick Project exhibited of 26 archival images at Soho Photo Gallery www.sohophoto.com . Viewers witnessed the camera as a transformative tool. Young men in plaster body casts, wheel chairs and legs in traction practiced the new hands-on skill, tried out the makeshift darkroom—a sheet over the bed— and shared the photographs of family, nature and animals with their community of family and friends. Today we continue to witness the same healing power in self-expression. Karen Riedel from Rusk Rehabilitation recently participated in a panel discussion about the healing power of photography along with photojournalists Nina Berman www.ninaberman.com and Ron Haviv www.ronhaviv.com  art therapist Beryl Brenner from the Brooklyn VA Hospital, and veteran Sheridan Dean. The event was moderated by editor of Popular Photography and American Photo Miriam Leuchter.

Last year St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights hosted a JHP veteran exhibit. A current veteran portrait exhibit opened at Unique Photo in Fairfield, New Jersey this past week. Requests for veteran programs come in from around the country every week. Commit today to helping veterans in need who live in your community, or make a donation on the Josephine Herrick Project website at www.jhproject.com


Memorial Day: Honor the Fallen, Remember the Living






Today is Memorial Day!  I’d Like to remember that RTP was founded in 1941 by Josephine Herick with the mission to help our wounded soldiers using photography as a unique form of therapy.  In 1942, volunteers were commissioned by the U.S. military to teach photography skills at over 50 locations around the country. Portable darkrooms were also designed so that bed-bound patients could also partake in the photography sessions a well as learn to develop and print the photos they had taken.

RTP continues totransform lives through the power of photography and will be announcing a new Veteran’s Program shortly 

I read a a great article today by Dave Helfert, Professor of Political Communicationa at John Hopkins University who reminds us to “take just a minute to honor those who fought in our wars and lived. For many, their battles are far from over.”

Thank you to all who have served our country!

Jackie Augustine, President, RTP Board of Directors


Memorial Day: Honor the Fallen, Remember the Living

By Dave Helfert – Professor of Political Communication, Johns Hopkins University – www.huffingtonpost.com

In 1868, the nation set aside the last Monday in May to remember and honor those who had died in her battles. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, and people placed wreaths and bouquets on the graves of the fallen from the Civil War.

One hundred forty-four years later — seven declared or undeclared wars and dozens of incursions, clashes and confrontations since Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse — it’s still fitting and proper to honor the fallen. But it is every bit as fitting and proper to honor those who have been scarred, visibly or invisibly, by combat. Many combat wounds don’t show, and yet the invisible scars can be every bit as painful, every bit as debilitating, last as long and hurt as deeply as any physical injury.

Today it’s called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It’s been around as long as war itself. Greek soldiers in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. experienced it on the battlefield and after they’d returned home. In our own country’s history, thousands and thousands of Civil War veterans suffered from “soldier’s heart.” In WWI, WWII and Korea, it was called shell shock or combat fatigue. During the Vietnam War, the military didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong. So lots of retuning vets went undiagnosed and were just considered weird or screwed up when they came home.

PTSD wasn’t acknowledged and listed in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, the authoritative medical classification list published by the World Health Organization to code diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or diseases, did not list PTSD until 1992.

And now we have new generations of Americans who have witnessed the abject horror of war and its effect on even the strongest human spirit. They understand the brain-numbing reality of living every hour of every day knowing you could be killed or maimed at almost any time. They understand that to survive in war, you have to be able to kill other people and make incredible deals with yourself to make it okay. They understand that you have to demonize the enemy, even minimize their humanity and turn them into less than people because that makes it easier to kill them. They may have experienced the shock and white-hot anger at losing a buddy. And they assuredly understand that, when snipers have your unit pinned down, or IEDs are detonating, or when you’re in the middle of a firefight, all the speeches about building a democracy or keeping the world safe from terrorism are bilious BS. They understand that, in war, the world doesn’t extend beyond them and their immediate comrades.

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