Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

VA program links recovery and photography


When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.

Members of the inaugural group of The Seeing Lens photography program.

Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

“You are more thoughtful and creative”

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

Angela King-Sweigart is a public affairs specialist with the Lebanon VA Medical Center.

Read more:

VA NY: Photography, poetry helped Veteran cope with PTSD

Center of Recovery Education, photography, gives Veterans a second chance

“I Am Not Invisible” Photography Project spotlights Women Veterans


VAntagePoint Contributor

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  1. David Murray Rice    

    Hey!!Is there a Facebook page of this to support?

  2. David H Lyman    

    I am a photographer and author. After servicing in Vietnam, in 1973 I founded a summer school for photographers and filmmakers, The Maine Photographic Workshops, now
    I would like to proposed an online photography course for vets. This would meeting weekly for 5 weeks and include lectures on digital technology, composition, light, themes and especially critiques. We use ZOOM, an on line sharing program.
    If the VA is interested I can provide a complete course outline.
    I am also interested in leading a similar course to help vets write a memoir. See my recent memoir “Seabee71 In Chu Lai” about my 14 months with a construction battalion in Vietnam in 1967. I was a Navy JO3.

    David H Lyman, JO3,USNR

  3. Gentz Bird    

    This is wonderful to here. Photography keeps me sane. That’s no joke. If I could help bring this program to GLAVA I will. I’d love to see some of the work.

  4. WHall    

    This is a great idea. I hope the VA standardizes this and promotes throught every Region! I’d love to be a part of this type program in NC!

  5. JFifer    

    This sounds like a great program. i am taking a Photography class with Thomas Edison State University. I am very interested in The Seeing Lens program. I am in California. I hope this program catches on and it spreads to all the VA’s.

  6. D. Brent Miller    

    Does the VA have a formal photography program or guidelines for one for Veterans? I am a VA Volunteer in Cincinnati, and a former professor of journalism and photojournalism. I would like to look into something like this for our community.

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