In the shadows of war

Marine Staff Sgt. to share photography knowledge at Beaufort club's meeting

July 7, 2011 


  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Kester will speak to the Photography Club of Beaufort about the challenges of combat photography at 7 p.m. Monday at ARTWorks, 2127 Boundary St., Suite 18A, Beaufort Town Center/Kmart Plaza. New members are encouraged to attend. The club meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month.

    Details: www.PhotoClubBeaufort.com

Imagine being a photographer and not being able to show the faces of the people who are the focus of your pictures.

That is one of the biggest barriers faced by combat photographer Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Kester. The Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station press chief and combat correspondent will share what he has learned at an upcoming meeting of the Photography Club of Beaufort.

Members of the Photography Club of Beaufort have learned about all kinds of photography -- fashion, portrait, wedding, advertising, newspaper and event -- said Rebecca Bass, vice president and program chair for the Photography Club of Beaufort. Now members will get a chance to learn about combat photography. Kester will speak at the club's next meeting Monday.

"We realized that we knew nothing about the lives and experiences of photographers who serve our country in war zones," said Sandy Dimke, the club's publicity chairwoman.

"We felt that this was an important aspect of photography that we needed to understand better -- from the equipment challenge to the psychological impact on the person behind the camera, who is trying to document events for the world to see."

For more than a decade, Kester has captured images of Marines in and out of the country while facing some unusual obstacles. When he photographed special forces in Afghanistan, he was unable to identify anyone or show their faces. Kester avoided identification by using low angles and silhouettes, over-the-shoulder and long shots and by partially darkening shots where Marines could have been identified.

Among the technical challenges Kester faced was shooting photos with available light -- the use of a flash might have given away his unit's position in the field. In Afghanistan, fine dust frequently blew its way into his camera as well as his weapon, providing a constant battle for equipment cleanliness.

Still photos continue to be the focus of his work, but he's recenty begun working with video and short slideshows to spread the Marines' news. Kester said his job is that of observer and recorder.

"The job we do is about telling the Marine Corps story," he said. "It is not about me at all. ... I consider myself a wallflower watching and taking notes. We get to be there to document and let the world know what Marines are doing across the globe today."

His love of being behind the lens began while working with his father on architectural projects. He took photos of buildings and projects.

The Tulsa, Okla., native joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002 at age 29. He wanted a career that challenged him and gave him a chance to pursue photography. The Marine Corps did both.

"When I was young, I would go to the bookstores and look at books on military history or in the military section," Kester said. "I remember looking at the byline at the bottom (of the photos) and thinking how cool that was."

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