Click. Robert Perez, a military veteran, takes a gorgeous photo of a river flanked with trees. Click. He takes another of the neat rows of a mid-summer cornfield. Click. And a photo of the faithful brown dog following him around, tongue hanging out.
He’s participating in the PhotoVoice project, which encourages veterans to bond by capturing photo images that have meaning for them. And a new video features Perez, his fellow veteran friends and two National Louis University professors.
“Like Robbie says in the video, we talk about the (veterans’) feelings first, then how we/they express them in imagery,” said Cari Stevenson, Ph.D. She’s a 2017 graduate of National Louis University’s Community Psychology program, teaches Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Human Resources Management at NLU as an adjunct professor, and serves as a professor of psychology at Kankakee Community College.
Stevenson had obtained a “Making Connections” grant from the Movember Foundation, which primarily works to improve men’s health and well-being, while still a student at NLU. Around that same time, she was working with veterans for her dissertation project. She is co-advisor of KCC’s veterans’ group.
One of the student veterans she taught at KCC, Pedro Santos, liked photography, and she introduced him to Movember’s PhotoVoice project. He enlisted other male veterans from the school, and they decided to plan and execute the “mission” of PhotoVoice together, in the same style of planning and executing missions together they had learned in the military.
“The photos they took in PhotoVoice became a catalyst for incredible, meaningful dialogue that this (veterans) group usually doesn’t have,” Stevenson said. “Veterans don’t usually sit down and talk about their feelings. So the project opened up a lot of doors for them.”
Stevenson feels that dialogue and mutual support is important for veterans. The latest research indicates about 22 veterans commit suicide every day; having meaningful connections and conversations with supportive friends, especially fellow veterans, helps them process their experiences in a healthier way.
The Movember Foundation funded the production of the video, which also features NLU’s Brad Olson, Ph.D., co-director of the Community Psychology program. PhotoVoice is a methodology, promoted by PhotoVoice.org, that is used for purposes of social good.