WWII Memorial Project Retrospective
In 2002, I noticed the WWII Memorial underway (top left). I knew that Ray Kaskey the sculptor had been waiting for twelve years to start the project and that the project was going to be the largest bronze project in history, I asked his permission to photograph the "lost wax" process used to create the sculptures. At the time I planned on spending "no more" than a week photographing for a file I keep on sculptors and their work. Like my Chesapeake photography, it was more of a hobby than a professional goal but I have a long standing interest in construction and artistic process . This would be an opportunity to photograph the process in very large scale and deepen my portfolio of portraits of sculptors and crafts people (see picture top right).
The eagles were being forged and assembled in a foundry in Chester, Pennsylvania. I found out they were going to do a trial installation and moved into a hotel down the road for a couple of weeks. ... and so began my journey with the WWII Memorial. During that period, I was able to photograph the entire lost wax process and the trial installation. Later I visited Ray's Brentwood studio where the twenty four bas reliefs with 255 characters were being carved. Soon after that, I was then asked if I'd like to photograph the installation of the eagles on the Mall. I soon forged a great relationship with the crane operators and made sure they had photographs of themselves with the project in the background. The enormous pride the workers took in the project was inspiring.
While the eagles were on the ground, and the internal structure exposed, many of us wrote our father's names on the internal structure(top). As always one thing lead to another, The installation of the eagles which appeared in Smithsonian as a two page spread and The Washington Post commissioned me to do the photography for a thirty nine page advertorial in the magazine to celebrate the opening of the Memorial. And just before the Memorial was turned over to the Park Service, I was allowed the use of the crane one morning and made this image which became the cover of the second edition of the book (below).
In 2005, I had about 35,000 frames on the WWII Memorial and was asked by Photo Technique to review the Photoshop part of the new Adobe Creative Suite. What could me more serendipitous in that the Creative Suite included a copy of InDesign. When I realized how easy it was to put a book together, I had the first draft done in forty eight hours and the rest of the book took shape quickly. Senator Dole agreed to write the introduction and was very agreeable about my photographing him for that reason. I originally used a US printer but that was a disaster technically so I switched to Asia Pacific with offices in DC and have been selling books ever since.
To get the book done, I mortgaged the house and as the book went to its first printing in 2005 and that's when I I found that the "bookstore" at the Memorial was going to be a "ranger station". GASP.... so what to do with ten thousand books in your studio but throw a couple of boxes in the trunk and get selling. I am currently in every bookstore in Washington, online at Amazon and the books are also available as Ebooks on on Apple and Amazon. At that time, I was at sea as to how I was going to reach my core audience....WWII VETERANS!
Along came these two fellow Earl Morse and Jeff Miller who had decided that since the WWII Memorial was so late in the building, they were going to fly "for free" every WWII veteran they could find. And so began an amazing relationship with the thousands of volunteers who have risen to this task. To date, 130,000 veterans have been flown to Washington, DC to see the Memorial and probably fifty percent of them get my book for free through Honor Flight. The White House News Photographers were good enough to feature the book at the 2006 dinner and Heidi and John Elswick set it up so that two WWII veterans in tuxedos gave two lovely military photographers of the year their awards. What a picture! And what press they have gotten through the WHNPA and NPPA members who have photographed Honor Flights.
As Honor Flight was growing, they needed a television commercial for fund raising and Doug Mills and WTTG volunteered their studio and services and Senator Dole did the spot. He also did an interview for WTTG on the presidential race which was going on at the time.
Honor Flight Volunteering
I do a good bit of volunteer photography and early on advised Honor Flight on public relations and website development. I have even written a couple of posts on photographing at the WWII Memorial". My reputation for insisting on the rights to my photographs is consistent and while I am generous with those rights, I write up a licenses for every use. I have helped Honor Flight raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through my photography and have educated everyone in its fund raising value. The rewards of this kind of work are a fellowship with thousands of people who I have to say are among the finest I have ever met. Most of ny books are given to the WWII veterans when they arrive home and I have heard that they carry it around town and have their buddies sign it. Two fellows from Alabama asked that the book be buried with them.
In 2005, Senator Dole and I had an informal contest about who could greet the most Honor Flights but as there are now 132 Honor Flight hubs across the country each of whom flying their veterans twice a year, we meet there on Saturdays. Eight years ago, probably forty percent of the veterans needed wheelchairs. Today, that percentage is running closer to eighty percent.
Senator Dole and I at the South Entrance to the WWII Memorial.s
Pictured below are some images of veterans and volunteers at the WWII Memorial from the last ten years
Breitling Watches is a contributor to Honor Flight
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg flew 450 veterans and their guardians to DC to celebrate the production of the "Pacific" series for HB
PS: Let me mention here that Richard LoPinto, VP of Nikon provided all the cameras for this project. Nikon supports the WHNPA and I in turn use Nikon. I also want to do a shout out to Elinchrome strobes which provided the battery operated lighting so necessary to working in the confines of the foundry.
PPS I have sold over 130,000 WWII Memorial books and went on to publish DC PHOTO BOOK: An Insider's View" and "TIDEWATER: The Chesapeake Bay in Photographs" which have also sold quite well. I have been photographing veterans visiting the Memorial and in the second edition of the book, added a chapter on Honor Flight and other happenings on the Memorial grounds and so the book has grown in sophistication and size.