When photojournalist Erin Trieb traveled to Afghanistan to embed with U.S. troops, she wasn’t expecting to find her calling. Over the course of three years, from 2009-2012, she traveled three times to Afghanistan, most extensively with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division based in Ft. Drum, N.Y.
When Trieb and the troops returned from the battle zone, however, things were different – the world was colored by PTSD. The psychological impact of war on service members became painfully apparent for Trieb, who says that she came back facing similar struggles as servicemembers. The Austin-native launched the Homecoming Project as a way to document the struggles of her friends coping. She describes this project as an “awareness campaign to create a platform for veterans and their families to speak out about PTSD and military suicide.” She said that she was looking for a way to work the conflict out within herself and that the project grew out of shared experiences and personal connections to the veterans. For Trieb, photography in the media is one of the main outlets for shaping public awareness.
On Saturday night, The Homecoming Project will be opening an exhibition “In War’s Wake: The Aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan” at the Dougherty Arts Center's Butridge Gallery. The show, curated by Trieb, Pentagram’s D.J. Stout, and Texas Monthly’s Leslie Baldwin, along with veterans Andrew Wade Nunn and Joseph Bullard includes work by some 30 photojournalists and 10 photographers who are veterans. Ashley Gilbertson – one of several powerhouse photojournalists featured in the exhibition – will present an artist talk, followed by a panel discussion about PTSD and suicide prevention. As part of the project, Trieb has partnered with StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative, a national oral history project that aims to interview nearly 1,500 veterans. These interviews are being conducted this week in the DAC.
Trieb says that Austin is a great city for this sort of project because Austin has a culture of helping veterans in novel ways. Programs such as “Heroes Night Out” provide free family-centered functions, Hope for Heroes provides counseling and integrative medicine, to give a few examples. Still, there is a long way to go before the public comes to grips with the extent harsh reality of veteran PTSD, and the powerful photographs in this project are a step in the right direction.
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