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Photographer captures portraits of vets and things they carried home from war

Photographer Jennifer Karady collaborated with American veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create staged narrative photographs that address the difficulties of returning to civilian life. Video produced by Sarah Zientarski, shot by Matthew Brunn and edited by Tina Brunn of WTVS, Detroit Public Television

Andrew Floyd served in the Army in Iraq. He says it took years to face certain aspects of his experience once he returned home.

“It shook up my sense of self because I felt that I owed it to those that I served with to remain engaged and at the same time doing so conflicted with the emotions that I was feeling,” said Floyd. “When I came back, there was a distance between some of those whom I considered friends, where we perhaps were each grieving in our own ways.”

Later, while studying at the University of Michigan, he learned about Jennifer Karady, a photographer working with veterans to create what she calls “staged narrative photographs” about the psychological effects of war.

Karady spent eight years traveling the country to create “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan,” working with a variety of veterans, some of whom were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She pairs each image with some text or an audio file of the veteran describing his or her experience.

Karady's work is exhibited at University of Michigan's Institute for the Humanities Gallery until Nov 12

Karady’s work is exhibited at University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities Gallery until Nov 12

“The making of each photograph involves collaboration between myself and the veteran,” said Karady. “We are looking to identify a moment from war that’s come home with the person into the civilian world. So we talk about both that memory from war and also the way that memory manifests itself in the present … what it feels like for the veteran to come home and sometimes experience two different realities at once.”

Floyd began working with Karady on his own narrative photograph. He says that with time and through his work with the photographer, he’s come to a better place.

“I’ve had the opportunity to really think about those things, reconnect with some of the people that I served with, talk about some of the experiences that we had.”

Karady wants her project to also reach the civilian world.

“My hope for this project is that civilians might be able to get a glimpse into a soldier’s mind and into these specific memories and so they’ll be able to empathize and have better understanding.”

The exhibition, “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan“, is on display at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities’ Slusser Gallery until Nov. 12.

Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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