SideWalk Ghosts / My Homage to The Men and Women of JPAC

I’m flying back from my Hawaiian journey. October 9th, 2011, exactly one month since the beginning of 365. Sitting in flight, reviewing the impact this trip has had on me, as well as my days working with JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command), I find myself meditative once again.

The week fresh in my mind, I feel it a responsibility to share my new findings with you. The entry may be long, possibly with no photos. So, I’ll do my best to make it interesting and insightful.

My ego is checked at the door, my intent is to not focus on myself, but rather to thumbnail the depth of those I have associated with this week.

Definitely, I am expressing my feelings on the experience, how else can I write an honest account of my emotions. I invite you to internalize my writings as you may, and as you do, please give consideration to the source, the honorable men and women of JCAP.

After five days of instructing them, I walk away a better human being. Not exactly what I pre-envisioned my personal outcome would be from my prepared workshop. One point I can truly state, “my artistic outlook has matured, and I pray that the JPAC team is feeling the same.”

If you are a regular reader of my blog, maybe you are getting a better sense for who I am as an artist, or maybe not. For those of you here for the first time, welcome.

But, whatever the case, I’m taking the chance to let you into my mind. My rantings are ever evolving. Some in-depth, others brief. I do however insure you of one thing, they are heartfelt.

My challenge to you is to do the same. Evolve, find your creative point of view and let it drive you forward. Listen to your life experience, it is the internal dialogue that directs you to see the world in a very personal way, and a powerful tool to self-expression.

Creativity is a journey, a mission of sorts. And for me, one that has been fired up by the week past.

Yes, “365,” and even “The Seven Project.” are jump starts to a fresh perspective I’m developing, and true, after 30 years I am finally discovering my creative self.

But, in humility, and if all things happen for a reason? It would be a great disservice to not acknowledge what I have gained through spending time with my new JPAC family.

Perhaps this is an uncomfortable read for you, perhaps not. I leave it in your hands to examine it in its fullest, or not. If it is too many words and not enough photos; easy breezy, simple skip over it. There will be many more 365 and other entries to come. And if by chance it strikes a nerve, please pass it on, After all, “we are all in this thing together.”

Character is the word that radiates in my mind when thinking of the individuals of JPAC. Who is the wiser, the teacher or the student? Many things lead me to believe I may have gotten the better deal. Time to get out of my head and share a random sampling of stories.

To protect the privacy of the individual, I will not give names or show photographs. I may in the future, but due to sensitive nature and licensing of the said photographs. I am not at leisure to publish the images. But the message stands strong.

Picture a unit of personalities, some passionate, others not. Charge them to think as a group with no option to choose who they will be working with or where they will go ( and many time they go to very difficult places).

Imagine being deployed with one weeks notice, alone, to destinations like Laos, where you are caught by life threatening flash flood, or day one of the tsunami aftermath in Japan, or sent deep in the jungles of Cambodia. Ask yourself to be self-sufficient for 45 to 60 days, working solo, at times in highly dangerous situations. Carry 50 plus pounds of equipment for miles, while constantly being pressed to see creatively and show compassion for the task at hand: Finding, documenting and bringing home the deceased and remains of those lost in action or killed by disaster. Tasks one might think not for the faint hearted, right?

In my preparation for JPAC I have been briefed and my objective is clear, “bring a workshop designed to train both technique, creative thinking and story telling.”

What I am not prepared for is the talent of the division. Work is shown to me, world-class imagery, unseen by the public. I meet a variety of image makers with one assigned goal, to make photographs and document life.

I critique scenes and hear stories that bring tears to my eyes. Exquisite, beautifully executed images like a photo of a child’s toy. The kind of image that wins heavy acknowledgement in publications the quality of Communication Arts.

As I’m giving my feedback to this image, the creator, tells me, “it’s a tribute to a tsunami victim.” With compassionate pause, she goes on, “four minutes before I took the photo, I assisted in recovering its deceased owner, a 4-year-old girl.” I critique her second image, an equally compelling image of a vintage photo sitting on a cracked surface. It’s a portrait of the child victims mother as a baby. I’m told, “another tribute to the girls parents, also lost in the tragedy” I’m telling you, I’ll never take what I do for granted again.”

Another photographer, brings me seemingly impossible photographs, an overhead view of jet fighter aircraft over Iraq. Produced at standards better than that of the highest priced auto shooters. His reasoning, “I love photography, I shoot anything.” The same man, shows me other images. He can shoot anything with signature style. I am not exaggerating, works better than masters the likes of Jay Miesel. With no desire for fame, no quest for riches, just a need to be a good father and able to spend his life making pictures.

It is absolutely impossible for me to wholly author what I experience this week. The stories I’ve shared are the smallest sampling to the dedication, compassion and commitment of JPAC.

My flight is getting ready to land now, I wish to write more.

My take away: Art for pure artistic intent is everlasting. Photos do change lives, and the time I have spent in Hawaii is changing my creative outlook.

For one week I hear of no self gain, no indulgent boasting, only desire to capture imagery. How can that not be motivating?

I’ve observed, acts of service and unity, regardless of vision or ability. A unit working mostly as a one. Sure there were a few wandering sheep, but non were sacrificed.

Sure, I counseled the group through moments of frustration with the work of others, ans was part in sharing times of great success. Non-the-less, I witness a onemanship that is inspiring, leading me to reexamine my perspectives on how I handle artistic competition.

JPAC, keep growing good friends! Thanks for inspiring us all!

By the way, WHY? WHAT IF? (inside joke)