732. Decorated Combat Photographer–“I Strive to Live My Life to the Fullest for Those Who Can’t”
“I left behind so many wonderful people that didn’t make it home from the Iraq war and every single day I strive to live in their honor and to live my life to the fullest for those who can’t.”
Stacy L. Pearsall got her start as an Air Force photographer at the age of 17. During her time in service she traveled to over 41 countries. During three combat tours, she earned the Bronze Star and Air Force Commendation with Valor for combat actions in Iraq. Though disabled and retired from military service she continues to work worldwide as an independent photographer and founder of the Veterans Portrait Project. Her work has been exhibited at The Pentagon and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“I enrolled in the Air Force at 17 and before I signed my contract I asked for a guaranteed job in photography thanks to the advice of my uncle who was in the Air Force then. I spent six months at the Defense Information School taking a still photography course where I also learned picture taking and storytelling and then more on how to develop special infrared film and more. The whole experience was actually very good because being basically creative I had to engage the technical part of photography.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“I was hit by a roadside bomb back in 2004, and was just managing the symptoms when I was hit by another bomb in 2007, which aggravated and worsened my symptoms to a point that was almost debilitating. I was in medical recovery in 2008 on temporary retirement leave trying to get better and in a really dark place. I met Mickey Dorsey, a fellow veteran, and that relationship was the catalyst for me starting the Veteran’s Portrait Project from August of 2008 until the fall of the next year. And I’m proud to say it continues today.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
“Within my family we consider the military a family business on both sides. My great grandfather was a WWI veteran in the Marine Corps, my father served in the Navy, my grandfather was in the Navy, too, and my other grandfather was in the Army along with most of my other aunts and uncles. So, the military was clearly where I looked for my own future career plans.”
Steps to Success from Stacy Pearsall
“No one in our lives knows us and what we want to do in our deepest selves. They are concerned about our financial security and survival, which is fine, but listen to yourself and follow what actually interests you, because you know what that is, even at a very young age. The military turned out to be the best decision I could make because it married both security along with giving me a platform from which to grow and expand my artistic talents and deep love of photography. After I retired, this foundation was the springboard I needed to launch my life forward as an entrepreneur and business owner.”
Connecting With Stacy Pearsall
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