Vietnam Veterans Project Update 1.0

Hey there, welcome back.

I wanted to take the opportunity to update you on the status of my personal photography project. Last week, I had the honor of speaking at the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 96. I arrived at 5:55, so about 5 minutes early and was welcomed into the lodge and told that dinner was being served and that the meeting would kick off in about 30 minutes. I politely declined dinner, as I was going to eat with my family, so instead, I took the time to walk around the inside, viewing all the pictures on the walls, the munitions in the glass case and just listening to these Veterans talking to each other. I don’t know if they all served in the same platoon, I doubt it, but you’d never know. They would joke, razz and discuss anything.

If you didn’t know by now, my photography project is focused on Vietnam Veterans and creating touching, unique portraits of them. (For more information on how or why I started this project, check out my dedicated page on the topic.) Despite my passion for the project and kicking it off with photos of my father, I had only contacted the Veterans at Chapter 96 about speaking to them, I hadn’t actually received an okay or knew if any of them would even want to partake in my project, after all, some people just don’t like their picture being taken. I’m happy to report that out of the 10 members of the meeting, seven decided they’d like to participate. One of whom is a woman, which to me, is fantastic. I’m thrilled to be able to show diversity in this project because while they may not have been in the fields of battle, those women saw some horrific sights and were responsible for saving thousands of lives.

I took my time speaking, telling them why I wanted to do this project, recounting childhood memories with my father, discussingĀ the picture of him, holding his gun in Vietnam the first and second time I saw it. I told them how much their service meant to me and how I wanted to do this project as a way of showing my respect and appreciation for what they experienced, regardless of whether they wanted to be there or not.

Then things took a turn, for the better.

One member suggested to Mr. Joe West, the President of the Chapter, that I should speak at the State (Florida) meeting and tell my story and discuss my project. Mr. West said he could absolutely get me on the agenda and would reserve me a room at the event’s hotel so that I could share my project’s details and story with the State members, all 10,000 of them. Yes, 10,000 Vietnam Veterans. Needless to say, if this goes well, I may be very overwhelmed with requests from Veterans all over the State of Florida who wish to have their picture taken. The State meeting is on October 6 and I’m planning my show (to exhibit these photos) in November, so I may not have the time to turn around many requests, if any, from that State meeting. Which is fine by me, as this show is about supporting my local chapter first and foremost. I’ll be covering the cost of the exhibit space myself, but will be charging a $5 fee to enter, of which, 100% goes to the chapter. I may be embarking on a massive photo project that I hope that I can sustain, as this will be all out of pocket. I will NOT be charging for any portrait, as this is my gift to these heroes and I want this opportunity to be accessible to any and all in-country Vietnam Veterans.

As I prepare to photograph my local veterans I’m also having to plan ahead, I need to book space, plan a marketing schedule and figure our printing and framing costs. Now that I have the okay from the Vets, the event planning begins.

Please check back here for more updates and on times and dates of the event and if anything changes. If you have any questions or would like to reach out you can use the contact form on the contact page or email me directly at contact@mikewewerka.com.