Patriot Plaza introduces photography as art to honor veterans in a national cemetery

Patriot Plaza introduces photography as art to honor veterans in a national cemetery

Posted on June 07, 2013 by Ann Wykell

Witness To Mission, a collection of 49 examples of photojournalism from the 1860s through today will be installed along the north side of Patriot Plaza. This will be the first time the medium of photography is used for art within a national cemetery.

There are several links between The Patterson Foundation and the field of journalism and photojournalism. The Foundation was established by Dorothy Patterson, the widow of Jim Patterson. He was the last direct descendant of a family of newspaper and media pioneers. He was a West Point graduate and was a military photographer during WWII. His father founded the New York Daily News and his great, great grandfather was Joseph Medill, a journalism pioneer in

the 19th century.

Joseph Medill co-founded the Chicago Tribune in 1855 with the intent of using it to help elect Abraham Lincoln, a strategy that was successful. Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the founding of the national cemetery system and the concept of an agency to help veterans.

There are other reasons to use photography to tell the stories of the American military experience. Each generation since WWI has been exposed to more and more photographic images. Most of what we learn about the military, particularly conflicts overseas, has been through photographs, and later, moving images in film and video.

Photographic images are a national archive of memory and history. For viewers today and generations in the future, these images will continue to have meaning because they capture real people in moments of historic action. Viewing American servicepersons doing their jobs throughout history communicates powerfully the historic legacy of service and sacrifice of American veterans.

Of course, it is impossible to tell the whole story of the American military experience in only 49 pictures. We are fortunate to have our photojournalism guru Kenny Irby, help with the task of selecting the strongest images. Kenny is director of Photojournalism at the Poynter Institute. Larry Kirkland, the lead artist for Patriot Plaza, designed the exhibit arrangement of 22 marble plinths, provided extensive photo research and helped to make selections. The photographs will be digitally recreated using porcelain enamel on steel panels. In this format they will never fade or deteriorate. They will continue to tell their stories for generations.

The photojournalism images of Witness to Mission are arranged facing each other or back-to-back to suggest the stories behind the images. In one pair of pictures, the image of the attack on Pearl Harbor captures the horror and destruction of that event. The second picture shows a Pearl Harbor vet at the 60th anniversary reunion of Pearl Harbor, tossing tribute flowers intothe water in memory of his fallen comrades.

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