Waukegan to host photo exhibition saluting military

Urban Edge Gallery, Waukegan, Ryan Spencer Reed
Photographer Ryan Spencer Reed with one of his many photos to be on display in Waukegan. This particular one is especially moving. It features a soldier who was watching his baby being born via Skype. (Tina Johansson)

“Those Who Serve,” a series of pictures depicting soldiers at training and then at war in Afghanistan, will be shown at an exhibition, Sept. 11 through Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the Urban Edge Gallery in downtown Waukegan.

The pictures are by Ryan Spencer Reed, an award-winning photo-journalist, who was embedded with the 506th Infantry Regiment with which he spent a year starting in the spring of 2013 when the soldiers went on training at Fort Campbell, Ky., and then deployed to Afghanistan. The exhibition is being sponsored by the Waukegan Arts Council.

“The Waukegan Arts Council is proud to mount this exhibition of Ryan Spencer Reed’s powerful photographs telling the story of the experiences of young soldiers when we send them to war on behalf of our country,” said Lori Nerheim, council chairwoman.

The exhibition, she said, will be the centerpiece of the 2015 ArtWise Community Cultural Arts series featuring performing arts, writer’s and film presentations.
Reed, 36, of Ludington, Mich., who came from a family with a tradition of military service, was given special access to the soldiers in part because his cousin was a company commander of the regiment. His grandfather was a World War II bomber pilot.

“I was initially drawn in by how little I understood of a soldier’s life despite having a close relative in the military,” Reed wrote on one of the volumes of the collection of his photos.

Such access enabled him to portrait military life, especially in the war zones, in an intimate way because he lived and worked along and among the soldiers.

One heart-thumbing picture he took shows a sergeant viewing the birth of his first child over Skype in Afghanistan with the doctor holding the infant son for him to see. Another records the treating of a wounded comrade by medics on the battleground. Others show various aspects of military life-all of them heart-warming. Of the hundreds of men, some never returned home – a cruel reality of war.

“I was disturbed by how few Americans understood the wars being fought in our name,” said Reed who attended Woodland Middle School in Grayslake. He received his B.A. in physics from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., intending to study medicine. He took photography as a hobby and became a photo-journalist because “pictures shape the world.”

The exhibition undoubtedly will help people in Lake County better understand the dedication and sacrifices of the soldiers called on to serve our country.

“I believe people will walk away feeling deeply moved and with a much better understanding of our shared humanity through the prism of art,” said Nerheim.

Urban Edge Gallery, Waukegan, Ryan Spencer Reed
Reed discusses the photos selected for his upcoming exhibition. (Tina Johansson)
Urban Edge Gallery, Waukegan
A poster about the exhibition which will be displayed at the Urban Edge Gallery from September 11 through Veterans Day November 11.

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