Archive for the ‘Public Service’ Category

Our Bravest: A Salute to Veterans

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

 My Photo Session with Disabled Veterans from Our Bravest

Our Bravest Composite FullBehind the camera, my own assumptions and comfort zone can be rattled. In honor of Veterans Day, I offer this story about one of those occasions.


An Unusual Pitch

The project started out as so many do—a pitch over the phone. In early spring of this year, a long-time client, Theresa Fisher of CCA Global in Manchester NH (whom I really like!), rang me up and ran through the typical pitch I’d heard a least a dozen times. But my ears perked when she mentioned a “public service project.” I’ve made a point over the years to seek out public service projects, but my migration from still photography to television has spread me a little thin.

I was already primed to agree when the client sweetened the deal with a few more details. I can’t recall the entire conversation—my ADD/multi-tasking brain can only absorb so much—but a few choice phrases stuck out:

“—Fourth of July weekend—”  “—see the fireworks—” “—in New York City—”  “—put you up in a hotel—”

Theresa knew exactly how to whet my appetite. What self-respecting photographer wouldn’t say yes to this?

However, it was only after an emphatic “YES!” that I came to terms with what I had just agreed to. The realization hit me square in the face. I’d signed on to shoot portraits for an organization called Our Bravest, a non-profit that builds Smart Homes for catastrophically injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In other words, the types of veterans Our Bravest works with include burn victims and double and triple amputees.  I had never heard of Our Bravest.

As I set the phone down, my heart sank.

Exposing My Discomfort

You might be asking why the sinking heart. What was my issue? To be honest, lack of exposure. I’m not from a military family. No contemporary of mine is or has been in the military. I’ve never even met anyone disabled.

My mind raced, envisioning the injuries, the scars, the missing limbs. I’m squeamish to boot. I’m the kind of person who switches channels and looks the other way whenever I see something upsetting. I can’t even get my blood drawn without averting my eyes.  So imagining the day of the shoot, meeting these veterans…it made me – uncomfortable – to say the least!

But what could I do? There was no way I could reject the client’s offer. Theresa (Senior Vice President,Visual Merchandising and Branding) has always been a great supporter of mine. I’d committed myself to the project, and that was that.


Shifting the Focus

On an early Saturday morning in New York City, the day of the shoot for Our Bravest, my assistant Alex Mateo and I set up a studio in a function room in the hotel. I brought Alex because he’d done a tour of duty in the Air Force, and I thought someone on my team should have something in common with today’s subjects from Our Bravest.

When the first man to be photographed appeared, he rolled into the room on a motorized wheelchair. My heart quickened, and my equipment felt heavy and slick in my sweaty palms.

When I’m anxious, I become super efficient. I try to control everything I can, while I can, knowing that at any moment, I could lose any semblance of control I tried to cling to.

As the veteran, a triple amputee, approached, I felt that control slipping away. I hardly knew what to say, but the veteran didn’t need an introduction. As if sensing my nervousness, he introduced himself with an apology. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, slapping the arm of his wheelchair playfully. “This thing only goes about eight miles per hour. So traffic was pretty tough to get through.”

Without warning, I burst out laughing. And so did he. It wasn’t even that funny of a joke, but that wasn’t the point. The point was this man, who had gone through so much, used humor to snap me out of myself.

I had been so caught up in my own uneasiness, I didn’t bother addressing the truth. America’s veterans are us. We’re all the same. I didn’t need Alex to share something in common with them to make the day run smoother. We all share similarities, be it art, family, or a little self-effacing humor.

Any discomfort I had entering the studio dissolved immediately. For the remainder of the shoot, good banter and wit united us, and my empathy for the men and women who sacrifice themselves for this country blossomed. The resilience of the human spirit transformed me, and, thankfully, I will never be the same.


Special thanks to Theresa Fisher at CCA Global, Frank Siller and Paola Tornabene at Our Bravest for this great opportunity, James Eves for his great retouching, and Alex Mateo for his steady support, and Rhen Wilson for his superb editing skills.  


Steve Marsel Studio | Steve Marsel Stock | Steve Marsel Galleries| Boston Corporate Portraits| ICE HOLES on Facebook

All Images on this site are copyrighted material of © Steve Marsel Studio, Inc. & Steve Marsel Studio LLC D/B/A Steve Marsel Studio. Unauthorized Use is Strictly Prohibited. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Steve Marsel Studio . 561 Windsor Street A204, Somerville MA 02143 617.718.7407 | 888.254.6505
Steve Marsel Studio Blog | Contact Us



The Edward W. Brooke Charter School – Changing the Future, One Child at a Time

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Help Us Change the Course of More Students’ Futures  Photography by Boston Photographer Steve Marsel

Today he’s in second grade. But one day he’ll be grading papers.
Donate Now - Click to Donate

Every child deserves a great education. But across the country, schools are failing to educate low-income and minority students. At the Edward W. Brooke Charter School in Boston, our incredible teachers are actually closing the achievement gap.

Brooke scholars:

Ranked #1 in the state on both the 2010 7th grade Math Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the 2010 7th grade English Language Arts MCAS

Ranked #1 in the state on both the 2010 8th grade Math MCAS and the 2010 8th grade English Language Arts MCAS

Ranked #1 in Boston on both the 2010 4th grade Math MCAS and the 2010 4th grade English Language Arts MCAS

Consistently outperform students in wealthy suburbs like Wellesley, Lexington, and Brookline in both reading and math

Attend top high schools and colleges, including Boston Latin, Phillips Andover, and U. Mass-Amherst

Currently, there are more than 1,500 Boston Public School students on our wait list, most of whom lack access to high-quality education options. They need your support.

As you make your end of year contributions, we hope you’ll consider investing in our school. Our operational costs are completely covered by public dollars, so 100 percent of your tax-deductible donation will be used to create more academic opportunities for Boston students, through expanding our school size, and through scholarships to competitive high schools that keep students on the path to college.

We hope you’ll join us in supporting a better education for Boston students. If you’d like to learn more about our amazing teachers and scholars, please call us to set up a tour, or visit our website.


Jon Clark
Co-Director and
Middle School Principal
Kimberly Steadman
Co-Director and
Elementary School Principal

Click here to Donate Now

“Abraham” Photograph ©2010 Steve Marsel, Concept/Copy By Deb Siegel, Design by Paul
Retouching by James Eves, HTML  Design by Lee Busch, Additional HTML coding
by Bill Langenberg

Visit Steve Marsel’s other sites: Steve Marsel Studio, the assignment site and flagship site of the Steve Marsel brand, Steve Marsel Stock, the rights managed digital stock library of Steve Marsel Studio, Steve Marsel Galleries, the private gallery site of the Steve Marsel Studio. Visit one of Boston Photographer Steve Marsel’s other blogs as well: Steve Marsel Studio Blog , the creative blog of the Steve Marsel Studio. Steve Marsel Galleries Blog, Steve Marsel’s blog that discusses the stories behind the photographs, and Steve Marsel Stock Blog, the blog of Steve Marsel’s rights managed digital stock photography library that discusses the stories behind the images on the stock site.