U.S. Veterans: The Healing Art of Photography 1943-1955
Opening Reception: April 1, 2014. 6-8 pm
15 White Street, NY www.sohogallery.com
Panel Discussion, April 24, 6pm at the SoHoPhoto Gallery
A panel discussion on photography as a proven therapeutic approach to healing, fro WWII to today. Panelists will include a member of Rusk Institute’s Rehabilitation Division, a prominent war photographer, and an art therspist. Moderated by Miriam Leuchter, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Photography and American Photo.
RSVP: Josephine Herrick Project 212-213-4946 or email@example.com
“I see a lot more than I would just looking at something.”
This statement from a veteran-student of the JHP, Mr. Anthony Soto, simplifies yet embodies the mission of the Josephine Herrick Project. I spent a week with the JHP in order to see how beneficial some time behind, or in front of, a camera can be for veterans. I was given a glimpse into the world of Josephine Herrick and veterans that revealed the origins and future of the JHP. This experience working with a variety of images and visiting the St. Albans VA gave me, a weeklong volunteer/intern/student, an opportunity to be involved with a deep and intriguing organization that is close to my heart.
The beginning of my project and week included sorting through hundreds of photographs from the 1940s, the early days of the JHP. These depicted the veterans from World War II being taught photography at the St. Albans VA by the women of the V.S.P. (Volunteer Service Photographers), a.k.a. Josephine Herrick and her friends. Darkrooms designed to be portable are featured heavily in these photographs; the men too injured to venture around the hospital were thus able to have the same artful experience. As the years progress, the photographs change from ones documenting the soldiers’ lessons with the women teachers to their own art. Their models at first were each other, so that the end products could be sent to the veterans’ loved ones. My favorite images, however, are the ones where a pinup model would visit the hospital.
Photographs from the St. Albans VA were the most common that I came across, as it was the first hospital to accept the VSP in 1942. These men with a variety of health concerns proved that beyond the veteran or disabled or any other label, there was also a creative side. Contests began in the early 1950s for these individuals, where any one of their photographs could be submitted for the annual prize. One soldier was given first place for an image of a Korean orphan during the Korean War. He stands on crutches with Josephine Herrick herself in a photograph depicting his win and his artistic contribution. Others look to nature or loved ones, a theme still present in the JHP veteran’s programs.
One such program was brought back to St. Albans last spring by the JHP. These men are not the young veterans we see on the news from Iraq and Afghanistan, but the ones from Vietnam and still even WWII. Given wheelchairs for mobility and cameras as an eye, these men were able to capture their lives at the St. Albans VA similarly to those from the 1940s. Images of hawks outside of windows, or the hands of a fellow vet holding one of the newer Canon digital SLR models show a simple but apt eye for the photography world. These men no longer need portable darkrooms; instead a printer is brought after the annual Holiday Party, and family members are able to immediately take away that prized image of a loved one.
Photo: Maureen McNeil, Executive Director and Katie Despeaux
These opportunities bring a newfound curiosity to these men. This whole project “gives them something they can think about,” as fellow vet Mr. Soto told Maureen and me during our St. Albans’ visit. The drive to learn something new and do something better gives the veterans a hobby in the hospital, particularly in the summer months. But just the simple printing out of a photograph brings joy to these individuals, as Mr. Soto emulated: “And the photographs, like, wow, I did that?” With a push to continue and expand the program at St. Albans with exhibits and a certificate program, it was easy to see that even 72 years later Josephine Herrick’s influence still reigned strongly.
These humble origins as a community service provider, however, set the foundations for the growing influence the JHP would have on the New York City community. Under the name of V.S.P., these women extended their reaches to the other VAs in NYC and eventually to rehabilitation clinics, children hospitals, Autistic children, and blind individuals. During my week at the office, it was clear that there’s a desire to further these programs to a variety of different groups. While still maintaining the existing programs, one goal is to extend the camera’s reach to female populations, including veterans. The camera is an easy way to engage a group of people who may feel left out or misunderstood, which the JHP understands inherently.
JHP student, intern, photo book creator, Akeem Bonaparte
I was able to firsthand see these influences from my meeting at St. Albans and an interview with current JHP star, Akeem Bonaparte, who published his own JHP project in a book this past year. The importance of this project extends beyond providing an interesting skill or hobby to individuals, but to giving a sense of hope, purpose, or belongingness. One week provided a glimpse into this blossoming world and yet it’s something that will stay with me and inspire me to continue working with veterans, just as Josephine Herrick intended.
About the Author
Katie Despeaux is a senior at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. She found out about the JHProject while on the Humans of New York blog. She ia a Clinical Psychology (and French) major with an Art/Art History minor. She is passionate about the veteran population. Her future goals include studying clinical psychology on a doctorate level and to one day work at a VA hospital. Photography has also been one of her passions since I she was 14 years old. Katie spent a week with us at JHP as a volunteer intern immersing herself in our archives, visiting veterans in our current programs and learning how the “power of photography” makes and amazing difference to their lives.
JHP recently wrapped up an 8 week long Veteran photography program at a Bronx VA. The course operated out of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, and was taught by volunteer photographer Nousha Salimi. Nousha worked closely with 15 veterans from late August up until October. The program culminated in a final exhibit of our students’ work on Thursday, Novemer 8th.
This free program run by JHP helps our veterans learn to express themselves and heal through photography. Of the program, Benjamin, a disabled veteran, said, “Now when I am depressed I just go outside and take pictures and it just helps me relax.” Another student said, “It gives us veterans a purpose. Something to look forward to other than doctors’ appointments.”
Photo by Anna, a veteran from the program.
Throughout the 8 weeks, Nousha taught lessons on the basics of photography, covering from depth of field to black and white photography, and everything in between. One veteran named Jose said, “When I began I was lost in figuring my way with a camera. Now I am confident that I can take the type of pictures I desire.” Dallas said, “The Nikon is my gateway to a passion known as photography.”
Nothing makes us happier than hearing from our participants that a program enhanced their lives. Our mission is to spread inspiration and creativity throughout the community. We hope to give our veterans a creative voice and help them to mend emotionally while they are mending physically.
Photo by Anna, a veteran from the program.
Of taking pictures of his fellow participants, Hector said, “It’s very hard to capture the true nobility of these great people.” We could not agree more. We are so thankful to our brave veterans who courageously fight for our country.
Although our Bronx VA program has ended, we plan to start another in the spring to reach those on the waiting list. And we are presently running other programs running out of the St. Alban’s VA, the East Flatbush Community School, and children’s program at the Block Institute. Plus, a new program out of the Brooklyn VA will begin in this week. On the international front, we are also partnering with the Cartwheel Initiative, a NYC based non-profit that conducts coordinated workshops in animation, photography, and music, that inspire youth to find their voices and tell stories about their communities. This after school program was created for children living in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of conflict and the tsunami disaster.
About our photographer: Nousha Salimi
I was born in 1976 Tehran, Iran, I grew up in France till my mid teens, then moved back to Iran. There, I finished my studies and graduated with a BA in photography in 1998 from University of Art and Architecture of Tehran. I moved to Dubai, UAE in 2001 where I began to work as a freelance photographer for various agencies covering events and stories in the middle east and internationally. I am currently based in Brooklyn and work as a freelance photographer. I have been an onset photographer for Pepsi and Toyota (TV film work commercials). I have also worked for ArabianEye photo agency, Eye on Earth Summit (Dubai), Polaris Images, and Gulf Photo Plus teaching digital photography workshops. I am a volunteer at UNICEF, Dessine L’Espoir (HIV prevention campaign in Romania), WFP (world food program) UAE, Al Noor (center for kids with special needs) UAE, and TCV (Tibetan Children Villages) in Dharamsala, India. I am fluent in English, French, Farsi, and basic Arabic.
Troops in Southwest Asia receive upgrade kits from Operation Helmet.(Courtesy Operation Helmet)
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in armed service. At the Joephine Herrick Project, we have a special affinity to this date. Our organization was founded 72 year ago by Josephine Herrick. Herrick’s life changed completely with the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. She became a lead instructor at the War Service Photography, training photographers to document news events and educate the public on blackouts. She also organized a booth at the local canteen to photograph young men going off to war, and sent the photos with a personal note to their loved ones in an effort to keep families connected.
When wounded soldiers began returning to NY hospitals, Dr. Howard Rusk of the Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine approached Herrick about using photography as a tool for healing. This challenge required a heroic effort to organize temporary dark rooms, photographic equipment and chemicals in the hospital setting. She trained female colleagues to work with her and started Volunteer Service Photographers, complete with uniforms and badges, creating darkrooms out of beds and sheets, and pushing equipment on rollers from room to room.
Today the Josephine Herrick Project is a nonprofit that enlists photographic community volunteers to educate students who have not had the opportunity to learn the communicative power of photography. Through partnerships with local organizations, JHProject’s completely free programs inspire children, teens, adults, seniors and veterans with the visual language of photography, enhancing their abilities to transform communities through artistic vision.
To help us reach more veterans to teach them how the “power of photography” can help them express themselves and transform their lives, please donte now: http://jhproject.org/donate-2/
We have also listed 11 other ideas to give back to our wonderful Veterans on Veterans Day!
Article from Parade Magazine – November 9, 2013
Upgrade a soldier’s helmet
For $35, you can provide a service member cushioning helmet pads to help protect against traumatic brain injury.operation-helmet.org
Foster a companion animal
Pets for Vets pairs shelter dogs with veterans in an effort to ease the emotional wounds of war. Volunteers are needed to offer foster care for rescues, as are professional trainers to prepare the dogs for their new roles. pets-for-vets.com
Help throw a baby shower
Celebrate an expectant mom whose husband is deployed or injured by sending a gift or volunteering in person at a party hosted by Operation Shower. operationshower.org
Mail a care package
Look up specific requests for reading material, DVDs, games, and relief supplies from service members in all five branches of the military; pack the items with a letter of thanks and ship them off. booksforsoldiers.com
Tune in to Tim McGraw
As part of his initiative with Chase and Operation Homefront to provide mortgage-free homes for vets and service members in need, the country star is performing a concert tonight for military families, to air on the Pentagon channel and on his website (8:45 p.m. ET). timmcgraw.com
Support a Mission Continues fellow
The Mission Continues fellowship program allows post-9/11 veterans to continue serving at home by volunteering for 26 weeks with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross. Your donation can help vets finds ways to channel their skills as they transition back to the civilian world. Missioncontinues.org
Share your points
Transfer your hotel rewards points to Fisher House Foundation’s “Hotels for Heroes” program, which provides accommodations to the families of military service members who are undergoing medical treatment. Fisherhouse.org
Offer a vet a ride
Join the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network and you can drive veterans to and from their appointments for services. Volunteer.va.gov
Donate gifts for kids in Iraq and Afghanistan
Operation Give collects toys and school and art supplies that our troops can then distribute to to local children in the areas where they are serving. Operationgive.org
Share your expertise
Sign up to teach a class or be a mentor to wounded veterans interested in exploring business opportunities after they leave the hospital. 100entproject.org
Send a holiday card
To date, amillionthanks.org has delivered more than six million letters to service members and veterans. This holiday season, express your appreciation for our troops with a festive card containing a personal message or prayer, postmarked by December 1. amillionthanks.org
U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at a Veterans’ Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11, 2012. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Rehabilitation Through Photography started over 70 years ago to help returning veterans from World War II recuperate and heal using photography. We want to take a moment to thank all our veterans for their service. Rehabilitation Through Photography is going back to our roots and recently started a new veterans program at the VA Hospital in Brooklyn. We will be announcing new veteran programs this year. In the spirit of the day, I would like to share this article from Huffington Post. Read more
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
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.