“Through a Soldier’s Eye,” a video slide show of photographs made by veterans, will be exhibited on the second floor of Hodges Library throughout the week of November 12-16.
Last year, art professor Baldwin Lee began collecting photographs made by active duty military and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. He established a website, www.soldierseye.com, to which soldiers could upload their photos. As Lee notes on the website, “What may, in the eyes of a soldier, seem to be nothing more than snapshots of unimportant events and places can often be astonishing images when seen by an audience with no knowledge of what it is like to be a soldier. Taken by insiders, these pictures provide a clearer and more accurate description of life in combat as opposed to the clichéd photographs made by outsiders for the media.”
The idea for the project originated when one of Lee’s students, Trent Frazor, asked for help making prints from digital photographs he had made while serving in Iraq. “The photographs he made in Iraq were totally unanticipated, not because they showed the horrific side of combat, but rather they showed a grace and dignity of everyday life as a Marine in Iraq,” Lee says. “When the genre of war photographs is cited, there is the automatic assumption that the photographs will describe dread and terror of battle. Instead, Trent’s photographs described an aspect of life in the military that is largely unknown and unseen by the public. His photographs showed how his world was enlarged and changed by the experiences to which he had been subjected. If photographs such as these can be seen by a broad audience, not only will the understanding of the life of a soldier be increased but also our appreciation for what they have done.”
Lee is sharing the soldiers’ photographs through exhibitions, web publication, and possibly a book. The project was sponsored by the University of Tennessee School of Art, the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy, and the Center for the Study of War and Society.
Lee’s commitment to the project stems partly from his appreciation of his father’s war experiences. “Due to private reasons, among which is modesty, many soldiers do not ascribe a great deal of value to the pictures they have made. My father, a veteran of World War II, served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He was an army engineer who took part in the Normandy landing on D-Day and also in the Battle of Okinawa. As is the case with many who have served, he underplayed his participation in the military. He thought that it was what he was supposed to do.”
Baldwin Lee is a photographer who received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master’s degree from Yale University. His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of the City of New York, Haverford College, University of Michigan Art Museum and University of Kentucky Art Museum. He has taught in UT’s School of Art since 1982.
The community is invited to drop by the Hodges Library to experience Iraq and Afghanistan through the eyes of our veterans.