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Inspiration

Deployed – An Inside Look at a Soldier’s Life in Afghanistan

By Chris Nachtwey on July 3rd 2014

Many people will enjoy parades, barbecues, and fireworks on this Fourth of July weekend here in the United States. All too often, though, we can forget the personal sacrifices servicemen and women give to our country. Sacrifices that allow you to eat hot dogs and play horseshoes during your Fourth of July BBQ.

REWIND: LIFE AS A WAR AND CONFLICT PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE U.S. AIR FORCE

The ultimate service to our country is to join one of the service branches. In what seems to be a time of continuous conflict over seas, many times our servicemen and women are deployed to foreign lands. We as a society are left to see what life is like via the media on television, and not get a real taste of what being deployed is really like.

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When I was thinking about what I wanted to write for my article around the Fourth of July, I thought about writing a tutorial on how to shoot fireworks, or how to photograph your local parade. Instead, I wanted to showcase what life as a deployed service member was really like.

Josh Quint found his love for photography while in high school after enrolling in a photography class, and when he was 17 decided to join the Army to serve his country and help pay for his college. In 2012, he was called up for deployment to Ghazni Province, Afghanistan and his fiancé’s cousin gave him a digital camera before he left. Josh used that camera to capture his time as a deployed Combat Military Police Officer and was kind enough to let me interview him about his experience and share his images.

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What gear did you use to capture your images?

A Canon EOS 20D with a basic 18-55mm Lens. That was pretty much all I needed. I also, used a GoPro Hero 2, hooked to my night vision mount on my helmet. 

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What are the challenges of photographing images during deployment?

There’s no doubt that there are many challenges to photographing in a combat zone. A huge challenge was protecting and keeping my equipment clean. I only had brought one camera with me and that was all I had. The Army is big on what’s called Preventative maintenance checks and Services (PMCS). Basically, it’s a precheck that all of your equipment is clean and ready to go before you use it. I would stay up past my missions and clean my M4, I would stay up even later to make sure that my camera was good to go and ready to shoot.

The other huge challenge was finding time to take the photos. I was there to be a soldier, do my job and make sure all the guys to my right and left came home. That was primary. Secondary was capturing my deployment in the way that I saw it.

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What type of images did you try to capture when on deployment, and why?

On deployment I tried to do my best to capture exactly what I was experiencing. Before deployment I used to drown myself in CNN so I could see what I was getting into before I got there. The media mostly had stories about how horrible it was. My goal was to show my family exactly what I had experienced, so that they knew there was some good coming out of it. 

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You are still active in the Connecticut Army National Guard, but are also a photographer in Connecticut. Can you talk about the transition from being a serviceman to photographer?

After I came home and learned that people like my pictures. I honestly thought “hey, maybe I’m good enough actually make money off my photography.” Without anything but the fundamentals, I decided to pick up a part-time job at a studio in Enfield Connecticut. There I met my business partner, and together we started HQ Photography and we specialize in weddings and portraiture. 

It may sound a little funky, but I find myself wishing that I were back in the thick of it. Commonly referred to by other Veterans as “the suck.” You sleep on a cot, in a tent, you go on missions, you fly in helicopters, and people try to blow you up. It’s exhilarating!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Any advice for fellow servicemen and women who would like to transition to being a full-time photographer?

Find something you love and pursue it. It’s not impossible, it has a low start up cost and there are plenty of free photography courses for veterans. 

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A big thank you to to all the service men and women on this Fourth of July weekend from all of us at SLR Lounge. We’re all truly thankful for your personal sacrifice and service to this great country we call home!

You can see more of Josh’s deployment images  here.

CREDITS: Photographs by Josh Quint have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    So beautifully put together!

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  2. Paul Blacklock

    Nice Powerful Images.

    Thanks to all of our Soldiers for their bravery and sacrifices to defend our country!

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  3. Dick Raymond

    Absolutely a wonderful article with fantastic Images!

    A Special Thanks to Every Single Military Person for their Sacrifices and Duty to our country! We don’t say it enough! Thank You!

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  4. Rebecca Beatty

    Love this article soooo much!

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  5. Josh Quint

    @Alben Do you live in the U.S? IF So what state? Each state has some type of non-profit organization for veterans and some of them have recently added art to the mix!

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    • Alben Osaki

      Thanks for the reply! I’ll definitely have to look into it! I’m currently in Hawaii.

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  7. Josh Quint

    Thanks Greg! While shooting wasn’t the easiest part a year later i realize how important it was to capture those moments.

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    • Alben Osaki

      Great images! I wish I had gotten more interested in photography while I was still serving. Can you name some of the free courses for veterans you mentioned in the interview?

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  8. Tyler Friesen

    Great images! Another example that you dont need a ton of gear or the latest greatest equipment.

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  9. Greg Faulkner

    Great photography, good luck to you Josh

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  10. Michael Chapman

    Great story … some nice shots … and perfect for the Fourth of July weekend. Good job!

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