Photographer Lynn Blodgett’s photographs of a man and woman dressed in historically accurate military uniforms, such as this from Word War I,
Photographer Lynn Blodgett's photographs of a man and woman dressed in historically accurate military uniforms, such as this from Word War I, comprise the "Soldier Boy, Soldier Girl" exhibit that will open at the Kimball Art Center on Saturday, Oct. 18. The display will feature 22 photos that represent 11 wars that involved the United States. (Photo by Lynn Blodgett)
While photographer Lynn Blodgett was shooting images for his award-winning book "Finding Grace: The Face of America's Homeless" in 2007, he noticed that many of the men he photographed were veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

"It struck me how many of them were in this situation," Blodgett said during an interview with The Park Record. "I heard, once, that 80 percent of the homeless male population in Los Angeles, are vets. And that's just staggering and it also seems screwed up, because they don't even have the basics of life."

Blodgett, who is also an executive vice president of Xerox Corporation and president of Xerox Services, was disturbed by the apathy he saw.

"I don't think we comprehend how much we really owe these people, and it's not that people are being malicious about it," he said. "It's just that we don't think about it."

So he came up with an exhibit called "Soldier Boy, Soldier Girl" that would bring attention to these vets.

The Kimball Art Center will open the 22-photograph exhibit in the Garage Gallery on Saturday, Oct. 18, where it will remain through Dec. 1.

The exhibit features one male and one female donning the uniforms from 11 of the major wars that involved the nation — the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, both sides of the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq.

"There have been many more conflicts, but to make the number manageable, we narrowed it down to the major conflicts," Blodgett said.

The finished exhibit is a little different than the idea the photographer had two years ago.

"When I first started working on the veterans project, I photographed many people across the country and photographed a broad cross-section including a number of World War II vets," he said. "I also photographed vets that fought in more recent wars and who are currently serving in the military, or have recently retired.

Lynn Blodgett’s "Soldier Boy, Soldier Girl" exhibit features models donning uniforms from wars including World War II, above, and the
Lynn Blodgett's "Soldier Boy, Soldier Girl" exhibit features models donning uniforms from wars including World War II, above, and the Revolutionary War. (Photo by Lynn Blodgett)
"

The problem Blodgett found was finding something in all the photographs that felt consistent.

"That's when we came up with an idea of, rather trying to capture all of the variations of ages and eras in the armed forces, we should go in a different direction and photograph one male and one female wearing different uniforms," he said.

To do that, Blodgett didn't want to find professional models to don these authentic clothes.

"I wanted people who looked like everyman or everywoman," he said. "So the person we used for the Soldier Boy photos is a mail carrier by profession, and the girl we used for Soldier Girl works at a grocery store."

As Blodgett and his crew got into the project, they discovered some critical messages about war.

The first message was that these photographs represent the millions who have struggled because the country needed them, Blodgett said.

"In almost every case, they have paid the ultimate price, whether or not they died," he said. "I say that because they were willing to die, even if they didn't.

"In many cases, they still carry with them scars — emotional and physical — all their lives," he said.

The second message is realizing that war doesn't change.

"The uniforms and technology may have changed, but we continue to send innocent young people to die because we are unable to live together in peace," Blodgett said.

That said, the exhibit isn't intended to be a political statement, but to pay tribute to all those who have fought for the United States.

"I mean, the reasons for all the wars that the United States has been involved with were all different," Blodgett said. "When we were trying to win our independence from England, we were fighting for a completely different agenda for why we fought in Vietnam.

"Why we're fighting in the Middle East today is completely different than why we fought in World War II," he said. "So I didn't want the exhibit to be a statement of the rightness or wrongness of war. It's just a commentary about, while we engage in war, we need to realize the cost."

To convey authenticity and feeling, Blodgett began searching for uniforms on the Internet.

"We started by buying a World War I uniform, complete with gasmask and helmet, online, but then my photo editor told us that we didn't have to buy uniforms for all the others," he said. "She told me that a costume shop in Hollywood had ones we could rent."

In an added element, the exhibit will feature a life-sized mannequin modeling the World War I uniform, Blodgett said.

While women didn't fight as soldiers in the Revolutionary or Civil Wars, they did serve as nurses, Blodgett said.

"We went back to study the role of women in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, because the roles have changed over the years," he said. "Since the woman we chose as a model is African American, we did some research and found that African American women served as nurses in those wars and often times, the sickest and most contagious cases were put in their care, which was such a terrible thing to do."

Prose, poetry or letters in the exhibit will accompany each of the 22 photos.

"One of the letters is by President Abraham Lincoln that was written to a woman who lost five sons in the Civil War," Blodgett said.

When the photographer started the project, he already had a deep appreciation for those in the military.

"Now, it is so much more," Blodgett said "I hope this exhibit causes people to think a little bit like I did as they look at the photos and read the poems and letters. We owe these people so much."

The Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave., will open "Solder Boy, Soldier Girl" by Lynn Blodgett on Friday, Oct. 18. For more information, visit www.kimballartcenter.org.