Because of the support of so many generous individuals and groups, we have exceeded the published goal of $14K and and the stretch goal of $20K.
I want to express my deepest appreciation for everyone who has contributed to making this campaign a success. From the monetary backers to the sponsors in voice, you are helping me to raise the level of debate, and you are staking another claim for the power of independent reporting. You are also expressing your desire to accompany me on this journey. Each and every one of you have my appreciation beyond words.
For those compelled to give to support my work beyond the completion of this campaign, a “donate” option is available on my website: http://ryanspencerreed.com/
With all the uncertainties, one thing is for sure, this experience will change us all. That is, for me at least, the point. To be shaped by the world in hopes of shaping it in some small way. To have some questions answered and to gain a host of new ones. Thank you for sharing your valuable time and consideration with my work. There will be more to come.
Because of you, I may march forward with less worry and financial risk. Because of you, I am both further emboldened and humbled at the same time. Because of you, WE will have this journey.
Ryan Spencer Reed
As an embedded documentary photographer, I will accompany the modern incarnation of the “Band of Brothers” during their final deployment to Afghanistan. The famed unit was immortalized by their heroic actions during World War II and, more recently, by the epic HBO series produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The 506 Infantry Regiment of the Greatest Generation now exists under the command of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Their motto is 'Currahee,' a Cherokee word meaning 'Stands Alone'. In many ways this is befitting of what we will be asking the Afghans to do upon our departure and what the Soldiers of the 4th Brigade will be working toward as they will likely be the last unit to deploy to Afghanistan with a combat mission of Operation Enduring Freedom. My effort will chronicle the story of these Soldiers’ lives as they conclude the longest running war in US history.
What makes this project unique is my connection to the 4th Brigade by the virtue of the relationship to my cousin, who is an officer in the unit. I have the opportunity to add an intimate perspective to the conversation about the war in Afghanistan as it has developed over the past ten years, how we are leaving the country and its people, and what it takes to serve one’s nation. My cousin and I grew up together and have always been very close. We both strive to be of service as world citizens. During his military years, however, we have not been able to remain connected in the way we could before. Consequently, I had little insight into his life as a Soldier until I began to follow their training regiment over a year ago.
Many photographers and journalists have embedded with the US military in Afghanistan over the last twelve years. Others still have covered Afghanistan from a multitude of perspectives for as long as I have been alive. What make this opportunity significant and, in my estimation, worth the risks and the cost, is my relationship to the unit by proxy of my cousin and the possibility to witness an entire deployment.
The opportunity for journalists to have that kind of access, to see it from a more personal, more intimate, perspective, is rare. I recognize there is very little distance for me with this story; however, I am motivated by the difficult and the unique opportunity to tell it from the inside. The opportunity to embed with the unit for as long as possible during their tour will provide the basis to earn the respect of the members of the unit and a more complete picture of a Soldier’s life. That in turn will allow me the ability to share those experiences with you, the public.
I will faithfully render the events that unfold during deployment in still photography, audio and video, as I have done over the previous year while accompanying the 4th Bridage’s training evolutions in preparation for war. The mission of the deployment is described by the U.S. Army as, “Combined Joint Task Force-101, will operate in Regional Command - East, an area roughly the size of Virginia, which includes 14 provinces and 7.5 million Afghans... ‘Success in Afghanistan is now measured by what our Afghan partners can do rather than what we, as a coalition do,’ said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., commanding general of 1st Inf. Div. and CJTF-1”# (Source: www.army.mil/article/98506/ - 101st Airborne Division assumes command in Afghanistan, March 14, 2013)
Upon returning to the US, I will share the experiences and images of this deployment with the public as a book, photographic exhibit, multimedia piece and most likely, a documentary film. Your support will make this journey a possibility. Additional support, beyond my goal, will serve to add capacity with additional equipment enabling me to capture higher quality content specifically in the realm of audio and video production. Thank you for sharing your valuable time and consideration in support of this endeavor.
My goals for this project are to create a complete picture of a Soldier’s life as they represent less than one percent of the population of our nation. On a personal level, I wish to explore the differences between my own life and that of my cousin’s; I believe this pursuit may assist in closing the gap of understanding between those who serve and civilian populations.
The public’s access to my work throughout the deployment is another important goal, which I plan to accomplish in a number of ways. First and foremost, a subscription based, limited edition, printed periodical will be released throughout the year, and will be composed of my photographs and writings sent home from in-country. It will be distributed roughly every three months during and following the deployment, totaling at least four volumes. I want there to exist something tangible from the project and record its evolution.
I will communicate through the Family Readiness Group (FRG), which supports Soldiers’ families through private Facebook pages and other means of helping when a family member is deployed. Whenever possible, I will share updates and images with the FRG and my Kickstarter supporters.
A commander in the unit has requested my collaboration in producing a kind of day in the life book for the Band of Brothers. I am thrilled to have a tangible way to give back and will keep my supporters posted on the availability of such an item.
And of course there will be social networking.
In the end, I see this in book and traveling exhibition form and the editorial markets will round out my distribution plans for now.
I look forward to the opportunity to share this journey with you. Thank you for sharing your valuable time and consideration.
Risks and challenges
The goals I have set forth are realistic and tangible due to the positive relationship established with the U.S. Army. Over the past twelve months, and with the support of the Public Affairs Office, I have been documenting various training operations at Fort Campbell, Fort Polk and Fort Knox. I have had the unique opportunity to participate in three-weeks of training along side the unit at the Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center. That in itself was an extraordinary opportunity to see the intentionality of the training, to see how the Army prepares, and how the unit assumes its duties. These pre-deployment artifacts will be included in the final project, providing breadth and depth to the scope of the project.
I have approached the training operations as an investment in my preparedness for what I could encounter in Afghanistan. During these times, I wore full gear, including a body armor and Kevlar helmet, as I would do in country. I have had a chance to get a glimpse of how the unit will operate together and respond to their duties under duress. These experiences have allowed the Soldiers to be more accepting of my presence. Since they have experienced me working at numerous training events over the past year, the unit as a whole has adopted a supportive stance to my being there. The first few times I attended, I was generally viewed as a guest of the officers and the Soldiers would rarely talk with me out of respect for the chain of command. This relationship has evolved. Now, they ask me questions about the project and are curious about what will be done with photos. Many have shared personal stories and insights into their lives and I look forward to learning more.
I am currently nearing the completion of the embed process and other formalities as I prepare for this spring’s deployment. I will rely on the Army for food, security, and transportation while in country. These are accommodations made available to members of the press on a routine basis to allow maximum visibility into U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.
I am not contracted with the Army or the Department of Defense; therefore, I will maintain all editorial control of the project with full retention of rights. I have no advertisers to explain myself to - only the public. My intentions are to be honest in my experiences with the unit: to uphold their honor while abiding by the code of ethics of a practicing journalist. To date, I have not experienced those aims in conflict; however, I recognize the challenges of being close to a subject and telling its story. It is inevitable in any story to have some tension here, however, with a goal of translating this experience to the public, it I believe that having as much information and access possible will result in a stronger and more compelling body of work.
I have traditionally deployed Leica M bodies and lenses to capture my imagery, which is a significant investment and what I feel to be the perfect tool for this project. It is a durable and unassuming system that will now afford me the ability to capture high definition video, in addition to digital and film stills across one platform of lenses. This equipment has always forced me close to my subjects, which brings its risks and rewards. Its simplicity also has a way of getting out of my way while simultaneously demanding my best allowing my voice to come through my work with consistency.
Insurance for my equipment and myself is a daunting but necessary expense. The military insists that I carry heath coverage, but conflict zone riders are extremely costly. I need a laptop and redundant storage solutions to edit, archive, and protect my work and be able to share it with regularity. I'll need to have to have some spending money for protein bars and energy drinks to keep my body functioning and to buy stamps in order to mail all those postcards you'll be expecting. This is where you enter the picture...over ten years into my career and I have yet again pushed all my chips into the middle of the table to make a wager on a story worth following...I'm asking you to join me this time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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