LA-based fitness photographer Michael Stokes is putting a different spin on how wounded veterans are depicted. He’s raising money on Kickstarter for a book called “Always Loyal” that features stunning photos of 14 U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War, Gulf War, and War in Afghanistan.
Stokes told The Huffington Post that an interaction about two years ago with a veteran wounded in Afghanistan inspired the idea for his new book
“I met this veteran, Alex Minsky, and talked to him about different approaches to a portrait session,” said Stokes. “I had already studied as many amputee photos that I could find. I noticed that most of them emphasized the lost limb, and that the mood was often sorrowful. That was not the vibe I was getting from him, so I decided to simply photograph him as if he were not an amputee, photograph him exactly the same way I would any of my fitness models.”
The result? Minsky found fame as a model, and a new passion was born for Stokes. The photographer has so far raised more than $260,000 on Kickstarter for his two books, well above the goal of $48,250. One, called “Exhibition,” features fitness models as well as veterans, while “Always Loyal” — titled after the English translation of the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis” — features 14 vets.
“Some people will say to me ’Oh, this is really helpful to [the veterans’] self-esteem,’ or, ’You’re making them feel like men again,’” Stokes told MTV. “…The response I have to that is that these guys have come to me very healed and ready to take the world on. I’m not giving them back their confidence. They already have it.”