War veterans offer great perspective on many issues. It should come as no surprise that photojournalists regularly are photographing vets.
On the Fourth of July, I met with a Vietnam vet who had PTSD. The fireworks booming all around the city caused extreme stress.
Situational awareness was critical when making his portrait. I didn’t want to do something to make things worse. Before setting up lights, I asked to make sure that he was ok with it. I didn’t know if the bright flashes in the dark room would bother him. I also made sure my camera was not on motor drive. My camera, the Canon 1DX, shoots 12 frames per second. I could imagine that being an issue.
He was comfortable with what I was doing so I went ahead and started positioning him and the light to make my portrait.
Photographers have a lot of responsibility. We can change the mood with how we compose and light things. This leaves the ethical onus on our shoulders to tell stories accurately. I did my best to capture his story.
More recently, I was tasked with photographing a veteran who was in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. This photo was going to run with a story about him on the 75th anniversary of the attack.
This is the third time in the last five years that my paper has written and photographed this man for a story about Pearl Harbor. First was for a 70th anniversary story. Then a WWII story. And now this. I wanted to do something different from what previous photographers had done (which were both nice frames).
He hasn’t changed much. His house hasn’t changed much. I made a few portraits and then switched modes to work on a video. I made the below frame when he was talking to our reporter. He was more relaxed and I felt his expression was less forced.
I had an hour or more of raw video to sift through. Ultimately, I edited down to his experiences as a bombardier navigator in the U.S. Army Air Force.
Read more about Allen Pang: ‘I’m still here’: Rockford Air Force veteran recalls attack on Pearl Harbor, service in World War II