Photo project reveals veterans’ dual identities

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A college student in Los Angeles is on a mission to tell the stories of thousands of veterans with a provocative new photo project revealing candid and emotional moments with the former soldiers.

Photographs from Devin Mitchell’s “Veteran Vision Project” will be on display at the IDS Center’s Crystal Court April 27–28, presented by Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter as part of its annual MAYDAY! Peace conference.

For his photo illustrations, Mitchell takes two photos of the soldier — one in his or her uniform and the other in their civilian clothes alone or with friends and family. He then Photoshops the images together to create a unique statement about their two identities.

Mitchell, 27, said his goal is to give the veterans a chance to express themselves and reflect on their time in the military. Since he started the project in 2014, he has photographed 180 veterans from diverse backgrounds. Another 2,000 veterans have contacted him requesting to be part of the project, he said.

His goal is to include 10,000 soldiers in the “Veteran Vision Project.”

He said the projects spotlight “the double life that a lot of (veterans) live. . . this is an opportunity for these people to speak, without having to say something.”

Mitchell said he leaves it to the veterans to determine how they want to be portrayed. Some people are joyful, embracing their children and loved ones; others look more despondent.

The photographer is also raising money via Kickstarter for volume one of Veteran Vision Project photo book he hopes to have out early 2016.

Besides giving veterans an outlet for expression, he hopes future generations will be able to glean insights about the soldiers.

“I hope it can be a timeless artifact of information for generations to come,” he said.

Mitchell will be at the IDS Center’s Crystal Court noon, Tuesday, April 28, to discuss his photo project and then he will travel to St. Peter to give a keynote presentation at the Gustavus conference.

“Devin Mitchell’s provocative and emotionally moving photographs of America’s veterans illuminate the values that Gustavus stands for — community, excellence, faith, justice and service,” said Rebecca Bergman, president of Gustavus. “We are honored and delighted to bring Devin’s stunning imagery — and the powerful yet unspoken stories behind those images — to Minnesota for the very first time.”