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The Visions of Warriors picture show affiche

At the Menlo Park Sectionalization of the VA Palo Alto Health Care Arrangement in California, veterans learn photography as a way of coping with trauma. Mark Pinto watches birds out in nature and renders them in blue with his onetime-fashioned cyanotypes. Ari Sonnenberg takes self-portraits in black and white. Homerina “Marina” Bond photographs blooming flowers–symbols of her recovery. “[In that location are] tiny piffling embers of hope cached within the artwork,” Priscilla “Peni” Bethel says. “Every class I attend helps me towards the day those embers volition flare-up into flames.”

The Veteran Photo Recovery Project was founded by Susan Quaglietti, a nurse practitioner at the VA Menlo Park, and she runs the program with assist from a squad of experts: Jeff Stadler, an art therapist, Ryan Gardner, a clinical social worker, and Kristen McDonald, a clinical psychologist. Together, they work with veterans living with mental disorders. In addition to more traditional, evidence-based treatments, each veteran who chooses to participate creates a portfolio of six images as part of their recovery.

Later on reading near their work, the Los Angeles-based film producer Ming Lai searched for ways to get in bear on with the minds behind The Veteran Photo Recovery Project. In the end, he sent what he calls “an old-fashioned letter,” addressed to the VA Menlo Park, with Quaglietti’s name on information technology. “Miraculously, she received my letter at this massive campus, and she graciously said yes,” Lai remembers. Three and a half years later, on Veteran’due south Twenty-four hour period, the people who brought The Veteran Photo Recovery Project to life will share their stories in
Visions of Warriors
by Humanist Films.

The photographers included in the moving-picture show are veterans of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. Each of their stories is dissimilar. Some take been diagnosed with postal service-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others accept been diagnosed with war machine sexual trauma as a issue of assaults that took identify within the armed forces. Some struggle with depression or bipolar disorder. At least one retired from the military with moral injury.

All of the veterans included in
Visions of Warriors
accept reached the point in their recovery where they are able to hash out the details of their trauma and their treatment. They agreed to be function of the film, Lai tells me, for a simple reason: “They wanted to help other veterans.” The director and his team traveled to the San Jose area multiple times to meet with the veterans and document their daily lives.

For the veterans and others working through PTSD, photography tin work in a number of ways. Holding a camera tin force them to “be nowadays” in the moment. As Stadler explains in the film, the deed of photographing ane’due south surroundings gives a feeling of control back to the person behind the lens, and it besides helps to alleviate some of the anxiety and hypervigilance that comes with PTSD and related disorders. Capturing the world, the art therapist suggests, fosters an appreciation of information technology.

Mark Pinto, who now makes poignant staged narrative fine-art photographs with G.I. Joe dolls, credits photography with opening his eyes and anchoring him in reality. “I’m seeing everything,” the veteran says at i moment in the film, looking out from his viewfinder. He puts information technology but: “Art is creative. State of war is destructive.”

The photographs are likewise used in group discussions as an aid for understanding and processing the journey towards recovery. Some veterans, for example, might be able to confront difficult subjects more easily with images than with words.

Gardner and Quaglietti both told Lai near the importance of protecting and caring for himself throughout the process. “Information technology’southward extremely hard to listen to someone tell yous almost how he had to impale someone or how she was raped or how he tried to commit suicide,” the producer admits. “In making the picture show, especially during the editing stage, you constantly have to re-feel these strong emotions.”

But while witnessing some of the damage inflicted by human cruelty, Lai also felt his faith in our chapters for good–for empathy, forcefulness, and grace–grow. Remembering the offset time she did art therapy, veteran Gail Matthews told him, “For the offset time in nearly twenty years, I was smile.” More than one time, a veteran used the word “promise” when talking with him well-nigh the future. “Although the veterans are so humble to not think of themselves as heroes,” Lai insists, “This is a heroic act.”

1 veteran included in the motion picture, Ramon Ontiveros, dresses as Santa Claus to bring vacation cheer to other veterans at events and gatherings. “With a kind face and long white beard,” Lai says, “He tells them not to give up.” Some other veteran, Ari Sonnenberg, whose words are woven throughout the motion-picture show, was separated from his wife when the film was in development. Since then, he’south reunited with her. He has a playful, affectionate canis familiaris, who is also included in the moving-picture show.

And in addition to the moments of joy he constitute with the veterans themselves, Lai also coped with the more painful aspects of his subject matter by doing exactly what his subjects did. “I went out and did photography, using all of the concepts that the Veteran Photo Recovery Project had taught,” he remembers. “During my nearly stressful times, I plant it to be very helpful.”

Visions of Warriors
will be released on Veteran’southward Day, Nov 11th, 2017 on Amazon Video Directly, Apple tree iTunes, Google Play, and Vimeo on Demand. Visit the
Visions of Warriors
website to larn more or to host a screening.
Visions of Warriors
is produced past Humanist Films.

Susan Quaglietti, Nurse Practitioner and Founder, Veteran Photo Recovery Project.

Ari Sonnenberg, U.S. Army, Veteran.

Ming Lai, Producer/Writer/Director with Gail Matthews, U.S. Air Forcefulness, Veteran.

Marking Pinto, U.S. Marine Corps, Veteran.

Homerina “Marina” Bond, U.South. Marine Corps, Veteran.

Priscilla “Peni” Bethel, U.S. Army, Veteran.

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