New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently partnered with Raritan High School in Hazlet, New Jersey for the Veterans Portrait Project (VVP), a nonprofit organization and ongoing photography project that honors the women and men who have served their country in the armed forces.
NYFA Photography instructor John Tona guided digital photography students at the high school as they captured portraits of over a dozen veterans from across New Jersey, as well as any of the students’ family members from across the US who have served.
On set was Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor Recipient and Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program, who greeted the student photographers and veteran subjects, as well as joining them for a portrait. Each veteran participated in an individual portrait session.
Additionally, the participating veterans and Colonel Jacobs were interviewed by AP Language students who used the statements to compose a tribute to commemorate their service. Both the portraits and written tributes were showcased in a dedicated exhibit at the school on Memorial Day.
“There are few Americans with experiences as diverse, startling, and life-altering as our military veterans,” said Jacobs. “The Veterans Portrait Project brings these experiences into emotionally-laden view, and in the process, the Project captures the creative skill of those who have served us. The New York Film Academy is proud to be a part of this spectacular effort.”
“It was an amazing experience,” remarked Tona, who worked closely with the students and their veteran subjects. “It’s always great to work with young students, eager to learn photography. What I think made this even more special was our subjects. Meeting with and hearing some of the stories from the veterans and their families from all major conflicts going back to World War II was a unique experience—not only did the students of Raritan High School receive photography lessons, but it was a lesson in our nation’s history as well. I am glad I could be a part of it.”
Also in attendance during the event were Hazlet Mayor Scott Aagre, Raritan High School Principal Dr. Andrew Piotrowski, and Monmouth County Freeholder Sue Kiley.
The Veterans Portrait Project was launched by Stacy Pearsall, a decorated combat photographer who has completed three tours in Iraq and photographed approximately 6,000 US veterans. The project provides photography students with an opportunity to advance their studio lighting and portrait photography skills, while also giving them the chance to thank America’s heroes through their art.
“The Raritan High School Veterans Portrait Project’s purpose is to provide students the opportunity and privilege of interacting with local military veterans while advancing their interviewing, writing, and portrait photography skills,” declared Teresa Gennarelli, Fine Arts Educator at Raritan High School. “The event fosters a knowledge of—and a respect for—the sacrifices our veterans have made for all of us, and bestows a small honor on our heroes.”
New York Film Academy and Chair of the NYFA Veteran Advancement Program Colonel Jack Jacobs thanks the students, faculty, and staff of Raritan High School and Ms. Stacy Pearsall for including NYFA in this impactful activity and for their dedication to those who have served in this nation’s military.
Check out some of the student portrait work below: