March 25, 2015

Military Photo Awards: Taking Some Ownership on Domestic Violence

The way militarism and awards (especially for photography) have become ubiquitous in our society, I’ve been fascinated with 2014 Military Photographer of the Year awards. (Philip Perdue already wrote this post on the contest last weekend, and you might see more from me.)

Surveying the winners, there are overarching themes that are hard to miss. One is the heavy emphasis on women. Another is how much the photos project broad, “extra-military” tones. Specifically, it’s like the intention of the contest was to introduce us to the military as a domestic culture. Whether the subject matter is connected to warfare or not, the photos are richly referential to military spirit or military life, this one impressively so. (The photo appears in the “Illustrative Photography” category, in which the photo is created “to illustrate a pre-conceived theme.”)

Though the caption (below) quotes a national statistic for reported abuse episodes, it’s not clear that the reference is military-specific. If you Google the source, the Family Advocacy Program, however, you learn it’s a military organization dedicated to education, prevention and treatment of abuse or neglect. One glance is enough, though, to appreciate the photo as tacit acknowledgement of the military’s rampant sexual harassment problems, as well as the recognition of the many vets and enlisted soldiers with a history of, or propensity for violence.

To the extent the winning photos read like a military version of “The Family of Man,” it’s noteworthy the services chose to recognize this scene as part of theirs.

(photo: Rusty Frank/U.S. Air Force. caption: ILLUSTRATIVE, 3RD PLACE | An illustration showing the effects of domestic violence. According to the Family Advocacy Program, more than 18,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2013.)

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Michael Shaw
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