For the past ten years, Jennifer Karady has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and address their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. After an extensive interview process with the veteran and his/her family, Karady collaborates with the veteran to restage a chosen moment from war within the safe space of their everyday environment, often surrounded by family and friends.
The collision between or collapse of the soldier's world and the civilian world evokes the psychology of life after war, and the challenges that adjustment to the home front entails. The process of making the photograph is intended to be helpful for the veteran subject, and is conceptually inspired by cognitive behavioral therapy.
The careful, collaborative and multi-layered process of making each photograph takes between one and four months, and involves several extensive interviews (recorded), collaborative conceptualization, location scouting, producing a sketch, discussion/approval from veteran, propping, makeup, costuming, rehearsal of physical action, training local assistants, set construction, casting extras, artificial lighting,special effects and the photo shoot. The process of making the photograph culminates in a highly choreographed installation/event. There is no digital manipulation whatsoever in order to ensure the truthfulness of the staged moment and the authenticity of the veteran subject's participation.
Each large-scale color photograph is accompanied by a recounting of the veteran's story in his/her own words that has been transcribed and edited from the interviews. So far, Karady has produced twenty-one photographs in the series with veterans in Nebraska, New Hampshire, upstate New York, New York City, Michigan, California, Florida and Virginia and she hopes in the end to complete a series of twenty-five photographs.
Working more like a painter than a photographer, Karady's work differs from other staged narrative photographers in that she works with real people to dramatize their stories through both literal depiction and metaphorical and allegorical means.
Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan is intended to be published in book form, as well as to be exhibited in both fine art and public venues in order to reach two different audiences: the American public and veterans.
Support for Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan has been provided by the Compton Foundation, The Palm Springs Art Museum, The Institute of Humanities at The University of Michigan, The Penny Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, Getty Images, SF Camerawork, CEPA Gallery, The Puffin Foundation, Swords to Plowshares, The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Blue Mountain Center, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. and individual donors.
It is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, through their Fiscal Sponsorship Program.
Contributions on behalf of Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan can be made payable to the New York Foundation for the Arts, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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