Witness the journey home from war. You’ve never seen anything like this. In photographs, words and life-sized self-portraits, 37 combat veterans show us the profound and deeply personal impact of war. Over the past nine months, the veterans in the Odyssey Workshops made photographs. They crafted meaning from memory, loss, love and war. In the exhibit they share the meaning they found and the questions that remain. – Brendan Bannon
The exhibit is on view through Saturday, December 28, 2019. CEPA’s galleries are always FREE and open to the public. Hours are: Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 5:00pm, Saturday, Noon – 4:00pm. Below are images from the 4 galleries and atrium of the exhibit. The magnitude of images are obvious and to really experience their power, a visit in person is necessary.
(The text accompanying each set of photos below was written by curator, Brendan Bannon, unless noted, and available in printed form at CEPA.)
The Twin Towers fell 18 years ago. A generation of American warriors rose in response. These life-sized self-portraits made by veterans stand side by side as they did in combat. Side by side, they echo the towers that fell.
These light infused images are the impressions of human bodies.
They are deep with personal symbolism. They remind us that soldiers lay their bodies on the line every day.
FLUX GALLERY, 1st Floor
This gallery explores the themes of the soldier’s return in a short but bold poem of images. Each of the participants in the Odyssey Workshops is represented in this gallery. Their voices combine to exclaim a powerful vision of life.
PASSAGEWAY GALLERY, 2nd floor
This is the Odyssey, the soldier’s journey home from war. It is a small symphony of images.
This installation is an attempt to share each photographer’s story within the wider story of a soldier’s return from war. It starts at the beginning. It starts with the ideas of love and home. The soldiers commit to a new journey that begins with a love for something so deep they are willing to risk their lives for it. That story is interrupted by war and redefined by war’s consequences. We see images for deployment combined with images about deployment.
The next series of photos explore the odyssey: what happens when the veteran returns home. Veterans face unexpected challenges when they come back. The soldiers come home having endured the most profound experiences of their lives. They are changed in ways that aren’t clear to themselves or their loved ones. Some fight addictions, some become isolated, they try to cope. Lives are changed by trauma and its aftershocks.
The next series of photos begin to describe what veterans come home to. They come back to the land, the places, the ideals that they fought for. They come back to families they left behind and the new families they form. During this return they face a reckoning. The impact of what they’ve been through starts to manifest and a new murky set of battle lines are drawn.
In the final photos, the veterans describe their strength, their coping, their new ideas on service at home and the connections to people and places that matter to them.
PASSAGEWAY GALLERY, 3rd Floor
During the Odyssey Workshops, the veterans were asked to create journals. Keeping a journal allows a person the opportunity to have a place to go and record thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. The journals that were kept during the workshop began with an autobiography in ten photos which were glued down by hand and described in writing.
The journals became part of the photographic practice. On its pages, veterans organized their thoughts and kept a record of the photographs made during the journey through the Odyssey Workshops.
Trauma can have a tremendous effect on memory, causing lapses and sometimes shifts in what we remember. Events that cause a great deal of emotional response often become the most prevalent and “unforgettable” of their lives.
Occasionally, the response to trauma leaks into our lives when some of those intense emotions and memories are integrated into how we think and feel about normal everyday tasks. A journal can work much like the way memory works. It allows a person to look back at a previous event and recount certain details about it. With those cues, such as a photograph or written text, it can initiate a reaction of emotions.
These journals have given many of these veterans the time and place to reflect on their photographs and their emotions. This conversation between current and past feelings about the same memory is a powerful tool to process emotions and memories. – Julian Chinana
UNDERGROUND GALLERY, Lower Level
The Things We Carried
The military issues equipment to its service men and women based on what it determines to be the basic necessities to stay alive and to complete their mission. Along with this equipment, other items are carried for comfort, superstition, religion, and other personal reasons. Each person decides what items to carry and what to leave behind.
The things we carry to war give us some insight into the mindset and personalities of the warriors that carry them. Each item is selected based on its physical weight and importance. As we carry these items through the trials and tribulations of war, each item also carries with it an emotional weight, such as a photograph of a loved one or a bible, which gives hope and solace. We have carried many things, with both tremendous physical and emotional weight into war. However, the things we carried out of war, often figurative and unseen, may be the heaviest.
Many of us continue to carry the sounds, the smells, and the decisions of war. We carry the memories of the friends who did not make it home. We carry the loss. And, we carry the pain. The items in this gallery are just a small selection of the things we have carried and a glimpse of the things we continue to carry. – Julian Chinana