Decorated war photojournalist featured in Smithsonian exhibit opening April 7
Exhibit featuring Citadel advisor and mentor, Stacy Pearsall, in national portrait gallery
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Military photojournalist Stacy Pearsall will have her work featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, entitled “The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now,” will examine the psychological impact and consequences of modern warfare on those who serve. Pearsall serves The Citadel as a sitting member of the Advisory Board for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, contributing significantly to success of the college’s fine arts program.
The exhibition was curated by a team of scholars at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, including Senior Historian David Ward who had charge of the selection and display of Pearsall’s work. Ward says that he was struck by the camaraderie evidenced in Pearsall’s photographs.
“War is hell, as the saying goes,” said Ward, “but the experience of armies is not just that of combat but also of the society and connections that exist among the participants; it’s a little world and Pearsall captures that world in much the same way that Winslow Homer did in his sketches of Civil War soldiers in the “down time” between campaigning. As well, the professional experience of Pearsall, as an Air Force photographer who was herself wounded, expands the range of the artists who were included in the Face of Battle.”
Pearsall began her career as an Air Force photographer at the young age of 17. In the years since, she has traveled to over 41 countries and served in three combat tours. She is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and Air Force Commendation with Valor for her combat actions in Iraq. Pearsall is one of only two women to have won the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Military Photographer of the Year competition, and the only woman to have earned it twice.
Recently Pearsall facilitated an agreement between The Citadel and Nikon that provides professional cameras to Citadel cadets each year at no cost to aid in photography education. Pearsall has also exhibited many of her award-winning photographs in Capers Hall, serves as a mentor to fine arts students, and frequently offers guest lectures. In May of 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from The Citadel for her many contributions to the college, to American veterans, and to the U.S. Armed Forces.
“The exhibition of Stacy Pearsall’s photographs in the National Portrait Gallery is one of the highest honors that can be earned by an American artist,” said Bo Moore, Dean of The Citadel School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “This particular exhibit, which documents powerfully for all time the experiences of young women and men who served America in conflicts of the early 21st Century, testifies not only to the power of art to promote understanding and healing but also to the quality of arts education that is being made available to students at The Citadel.”
The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now will feature fifty-six works, fifteen of which were captured by Pearsall during her deployment in Iraq.
“As a military photojournalist, I slept, ate and operated alongside my subjects for months on end, said Pearsall. “This afforded me the luxury of intimacy and time, which broke down the boundaries between them and me. In time, they became more than subjects to me; they were trusted friends. Together we witnessed and experienced the indescribable horrors of war, suffered the loss of comrades and bonded closely in the wake of tragedy. Only then was the true nature of war revealed to me, and the humanity that dwells within us all, exposed.”
The series of fifteen photos Pearsall has chosen to feature in the exhibit portray soldiers partaking in strikingly commonplace activities of daily life—reading a book, playing baseball, brushing their teeth, and watching cartoons, to name a few. Pearsall hopes that the exhibition will place the focus on the identity and experience of ordinary soldiers who fought and continue to fight for our nation.
“I sought to show what happens when the bullets weren’t flying—to capture combat’s physical and emotional toll, illustrate the intimate bonds forged under fire and the personal solitude felt by many despite being surrounded by people. I wanted to demonstrate there’s more to war than bullets, there’s human beings.”
A select few cadets enrolled in fine arts programs at The Citadel will travel to Washington, D.C. for the debut of the exhibit in April. Cadets who participate in The Citadel in D.C. program this summer will receive a lecture and special tour of the exhibit.