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Military Life

This assignment ran from Jul 23 to Aug 13, 2016.

What does freedom mean to you? Have you stopped to consider who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the liberties that we often take for granted remain intact?

One of my greatest honors has been to serve as a member of the United States military for over two decades. During the course of my career, as a U.S. Air Force photojournalist, I had the unique opportunity to showcase the daily lives of our service members and allies in times of peace, humanitarian efforts, and conflict. People, regardless of their nationality or citizenship, often draw the same conclusion—the military is there to protect us. For Americans, this is particularly profound.

For this assignment, I want you to capture moments in the lives of servicemen and women that help us understand what life is like for them on a daily basis. The images I am seeking need to invoke a reaction. In essence, I would like you—with your own eyes and perspective—to do the following:

Explore the military culture of service members from the time of entering the military to retirement and everything in between; Create images that give us a glimpse into the "behind the scenes" and tell the backstory of these service members; create images that can pay tribute to servicemen and women, from the youngest enlisted to veterans who have served their time. 

I want you to bring the lives of these men, women, and their families to the world. Therefore, this assignment has two key components. Military life and the families who sacrifice. Military families sacrifice, as do their loved ones. Whether it is the time away from family, or by paying the ultimate price with the loss of life. Bring us into a family’s home life, giving the viewer a perspective of how having a spouse, child, father, or mother being away from home impacts all facets of life. Make sure that the images submitted to this assignment are no more then five years old. We'd like to see some new images submitted for this assignment. 

The goal is to see images that tell a compelling story—a strong “in your face” or quiet, reflective moment is key to this assignment. Make the viewer feel they are there going through the situation with the people in the images. Create images that don’t just show me what they do, but rather give me a sense of how they feel about doing it. Dive into the culture of the world’s military and explore all forms of training, vets at home, conflict, and community service, etc. In essence, tell your story by creating inspiring images to remind us what our protectors do and what it means.

Curated by:

Jeremy Lock
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Aug 23, 2016.
Thank you for your contributions!

Hierarchical Images

Posted aug 10, 2016

We only have a few days left with this assignment. I want to announce that the submission number has been raised to five images. So for those who have only submitted three, you can now add two more images to this assignment. I also want to thank everyone for the discussions and images you have produced for this assignment. I have seen a lot of great work. As we enter these final days for the Military Life assignment, I’ve included some sample images below to give you visual examples of what I’m looking for as an editor. Studying images like these have really helped me throughout my career. We should push ourselves to produce emotionally appealing photos or—better yet—intimate photos.

Hierarchical Picture Categories

In the book Photojournalism, Kenneth Kobré and Betsy Brill explain the “secret” strategy for photo selection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Joe Elbert, assistant managing editor of photography for the Washington Post, and his photography team. Elbert, they say, divides photographs into four hierarchical categories: informational, graphically appealing, emotional, and intimate

Informational pictures represent the “lowest common denominator,” describing primarily the Five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) as in a written news story. These types of photographs report the facts without flavor. 

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

This image is very simple, but very clearly communicates the information.  

The next type is graphically appealing pictures. These photos are the ones taken by photojournalists who try to make interesting pictures out of a routine and “boring” shooting assignment by using advanced composition techniques, such
as framing a subject through a window or using a distorted perspective with a 24mm lens to add visual interest.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

Interesting shapes, colors, and textures draw readers in by creating an image that is pleasing to the eye.

Emotionally appealing photos cause the reader to feel something about the subject, rather than just intellectualize the story. They include photos with their subjects crying, laughing, smiling, or performing other actions that appeal to the emotions of the viewer. Of course, emotionally appealing photos shouldn’t simply be used because of the emotions they may evoke. A better photo would also include information about the story. 

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

What kinds of emotions does this photo evoke? How will this bring your reader into the story?

Intimate photos make the viewer feel like part of the subject’s world. A similar way of selecting pictures for publication includes choosing those with impact. These pictures grab the viewer’s attention and draw them into the story. They have stopping power, emotional response, and readability

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

An intimate image gives the reader a sense of connection to the subject. It brings the reader into the world of the subject.

Elements of a memorable image:


Amazing images will contain all of these!

Show Me the World Through Your Eyes

Posted aug 6, 2016

We are about halfway through this assignment, and I have truly enjoyed editing through all your images. I can’t wait to see more! It’s been amazing to learn more about the world’s military through your eyes. I hope you were able to watch the Facebook Live I did?  In the video I gave out some insights on what I'm looking for when editing images for this assignment.

As we are a little more than a week away from the assignment ending, I would like to remind you that I am looking for storytelling moments. I am looking for images that tell me something about the subject and give me an idea of what their life is and how they are feeling when they go through what they are going through during that time in their life. I want the viewer to feel like they are a part of the subject's world. In this photo for example, I feel like I am in the bunker with the solider. 

Additional note: Good captions are a must! They can really drive home the feelings of the subject or give addition information on what their story is about. As I have said before, it can make or break an image and set you apart from other photographers. It can also make a great image go over the top with the story you share. You are taking the time to submit your work, so take pride in your beautiful work and follow through with it, always including a great caption describing the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why, and how). Adding quotes to the caption are also a great way to set yourself apart and put your caption over the top.

Things to stay away from:

I have seen a lot of process images. These are images that are step-by-step information photos with no real moments. I have seen some images that are well toned, but missing a great moment. 

Some things I would like to see:

I would love to see more intimate portraits. One of the best pieces of advice I was given by an old combat cameraman was, “To truly capture war, you need to capture it on the face of the soldier next to you.” This advice has stuck with me and whatever I am shooting I am always looking for that portrait that helps show how people are feeling. 

I would also love to see more conflict images, women in the military, and veterans. Show me your world through your eyes. I want you to show it to me in a way that if I were there I wouldn’t have seen it or noticed that moment. Here is an example of one of my favorite shots where the photographer put me into this beautiful moment, shooting it low with all the faces in the background adding to this fun celebration.

Good luck, and I can’t wait to see what you bring next!

Facebook Live

Posted aug 4, 2016

Jeremy Lock recorded a Facebook live video discussing the Military Life assignment. Watch the video below to see Jeremy point out some of his favorite images from the assignment and give his explanation on what makes these images great. He also gives some tips on what kind of images he would like to see submitted as we enter the final week of the assignment. 


Posted jul 26, 2016

Loved going through all the great images today for my first edit! Keep them coming in.

Remember that the key element for this assignment is moments. I don’t just want to see pretty pictures; I want to feel something from your storytelling image. There also were a few images in there today that could have used a caption to put them over the top. Captions are very important, and they can make or break a great image. Please include a good caption!

One of my favorite images from today was an image of kids playing “army” in the street. I commend this photographer for going outside the norm of the assignment and thinking bigger.

Jeremy Lock

Jeremy Lock

A retired Master Sergeant of the United States Air Force, Jeremy "JT" Lock has experience, training, and insight that few photojournalists can claim. He's been in the thick of war battles, shooting with his camera rather than a gun; earning a Bronze Star. He's documented the realities of life in disease- and poverty-stricken Africa. He's covered diplomatic celebrations, funerals and historic meetings. He is specially trained to shoot from the air and under the sea. He is the sole military photographer to be recognized seven times as the best in the business (Military Photographer of the Year, 2002, '05, '06, '08, '10, '11, ‘12).