As a portrait photographer and former drill sergeant, when Jerry Tovo became aware of the sheer number of homeless veterans, he set out to use his experience to give visual recognition to the issue. Tovo is traveling the country to photograph homeless vets for They May Have Been Heroes. Through his work, Tovo is raising awareness for the issues veterans face after returning home and pushing for action. Tovo recently discussed the project in an interview with Fstoppers.
The Photographer: “Several years ago, I decided to focus on digital Black and White photography. While working for Kodak Professional, I discovered the incredible amount of control one has in shooting B&W with digital cameras. Foregoing the Kodak emphasis on the color skin tone attributes of both film and digital, I opted instead to really dig into B&W.”
The Cause: “As a Drill Instructor, it was my job to take your brain from you, remove all of the civilian thoughts and ideas, and then reshape and remold it, before returning it to you, reprogrammed to perform in the Military way. If, before men and women leave the service, they could spend time being de-briefed, re-educated on what to expect in civilian life, prepared for how others lives might have changed in your absence, some of these people may have been able to adjust to their reintroduction in society.”
The Reaction: “These images must inspire people to join the movement, to embolden the private sector to join forces with the Veterans Administration and find a cure for homelessness among our forgotten warriors. I want people to take note that these men and women are human beings, not pets that need adoption or foster parents. The entire VA budget for Homeless Veterans is $333 million dollars compared to the $54 billion we spend on our pets. That’s ‘B’ vs. ‘M’. I also want people to know these people are not bums and vagrants; to be viewed with disgust or pity, or worse, ignored altogether.”
To help support the project, head to the They May Have Been Heroes website and be sure to share Tovo’s story.
Image: Jerry Tovo