This summer the Bokeh Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona showcased a touching exhibit titled Stories of Their Sacrifices: PTSD which featured the photography work of Christopher O’Shana and Scott Johnson.
O’Shana and Johnson met at Phoenix College and felt compelled to create a gallery of photos that showcased the bond between Service Dogs and individuals living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or brain injuries. The subjects and their canines were found either online, by personal connections, or through an organization called Solider’s Best Friend (SBF) which is committed to matching shelter and/or rescue dogs with veterans. The program not only assists veterans in transitioning back to civilian life, but also helps to control pet overpopulation by finding dogs loving homes.
We were lucky enough to get in touch with the the photographers to find about where the inspiration came from for this project. O’Shana told us, that as a 20 year veteran, he felt that this would be a good way to give back. Johnson, on the other hand, was inspired by an old photo he received of his grandfather kneeling with a dog in between his legs before beginning his army duties during World War Two. Johnson felt that the image captured how important the dog was to him and he wanted current day veterans to have a similar image that would last for generations and would allow them to remember the bond that they shared with their dogs.
Christopher O’Shana and Scott Johnson have been working on this project for over 2 years and have photographed approximately 100 teams collectively.
The team has been working on this project for over 2 years and has photographed approximately 100 teams collectively. They told me that they hoped that this gallery of photos would help the public gain a better understanding of how PTSD impacts both veterans and their families and also help SBF continue to receive funding so that they can keep connecting Service Dogs and veterans together to improve lives.
Although many stories were shared by veterans with the photographers, Johnson mentioned that one of the veterans he photographed was not able to leave his home prior to being partnered with an SBF dog. In fact his situation was so desperate that family and friends had to bring him food and visit him to ensure that he received proper nutrition and daily interaction. After receiving his dog from SBF he is now able to visit public places because his service dog helps to create a comfortable barrier between himself and the public and also assists in waking him from his night terrors.
When it comes to the future of the project, both explained that this is a project that will never end. They believe that each photo has its own powerful story to tell and that the honesty and emotions portrayed in the photographs were something that needed to be captured. It is amazing how work like this truly exemplify the powerful messages that can be shared by connecting art and personal experiences. If you would like to view more of the touching photographs taken by this photography team click here.
Carolyn Stark September 1, 2015
This is a great project. However, many people, including myself have PTSD and are not veterans. It’s hard for us to get recognized or to get service dogs. Please don’t forget us!