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Wounded Marine Takes Up War Photography ~ Interview with Cpl. Matthew Callahan

By Hanssie on December 10th 2013

After getting injured while deployed in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Cpl. Matthew Callahan was sent to the Wounded Warrior Battalion. While there, he began using a different type of weapon to shoot, a camera.

Matthew’s photographs provide an inside look at the day to day life of a marine. Being a former infantryman, he provides a different prospective and allows him to tell the stories of marine life that civilians don’t usually get to see. Matthew was kind enough to tell SLR Lounge about his experiences in the following interview:


Can you give us a brief introductory of who you are as a photographer and how you got started?

I began on-the-job training with my base Public Affairs office while recovering from a broken leg sustained in 2010. The PAO put a camera in my hands in 2011 and I began shooting for the base publication for several months. I didn’t really have any experience with journalism or photography, but I quickly fell in love with the world of military photojournalism, especially shooting and capturing the military; telling their stories. After recovery, I went back to the infantry for a year and a half, and decided I wanted to reenlist as a Combat Correspondent , which I’m currently training for to attain the military occupational specialty.

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What are some challenges of shooting wartime photography?

All the photos I’ve taken have been in a training environment, much of it in a live-fire setting. Shooting the shooters can be tricky at times because we put safe practice first, and no one’s above safety, as it should be. For me, I have to constantly be aware of my surroundings and where Marines are moving and pointing their muzzles, always positioning myself behind the line of fire or parallel to it. If getting the perfect shot means violating safety procedures, I won’t put myself in a position to take it.

[REWIND: WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath]

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What has been your favorite photo and why?

A portrait titled “Moon Dust.” It was of Lance Cpl. Austin Taylor, a radio operator with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.


We were  wrapping up a live-fire training exercise on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Taylor and I were in the back of the safety Humvee heading back to the mission staging area. Sand  the consistency of flour was billowing in and out of the vehicle, preventing me from swapping out my 70-200mm, which was already crusty with dirt. Taylor was on the radio to await word that the range was put into a “cold” status, meaning no more shooting was to be conducted there. I raised my camera and leaned back as far as I could and snapped a burst of him on the radio phone. I had to stow my gear immediately after to avoid destroying it. Between the dust, the erratic movement of the vehicle and other factors, I got lucky with the shot, and it always puts a smile on my face.


What kind of gear do you shoot with?

I’ve shot mostly with Canon, and bodies have varied between the 30D, 50D, 7D, 60D and more recently with the Canon 5D Mark II. my primary lenses are Canon 16-35mm, Canon 24-70mm, and Canon 70-200mm.

How do you challenge yourself creatively nowadays?

I always geeeek out when I see things shot a certain way that’s striking and unique and scribble it on a mental sticky note to try in the future.

Anything else you wish to add?

Stumbling into this field of work would never have happened without the  support and guidance of Chaplain Steve Jensen at WWBN Det. Hawaii, and the Hawaii public affairs Marines who took a chance and took me under their wings.

You guys all rock.

Matthew also posts images on his Instagram account giving even more insight of the traditions, practices and culture of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Below are a few of his Instagram images:

You can see Matthew’s posts scattered throughout the official U.S. Marine Corps sites, Matthew’s personal Instagram account and Flickr.

CREDITS: All photographs by Matthew Callahan are copyrighted and 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.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tim Fleck

    Great article and wonderful photography! Not to be a troll, but as a Marine, I have to point out a few nit-picky mistakes; There’s a typo where it refers to CPL Callahan’s unit it should read “3rd Marine Regiment”, The word “Marine” is capitalized as it is a title, and the article tag should be “Marine” not “soldier”. Marines insist on the distinction. Sorry, just had to point it out! Semper Fi!

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  2. Whitaker Michael

    THIS IS TOO MOTIVATING!!!! Thanks for the article.

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