Student veteran Ben Brody captures the world of war
To make his way into the hypercompetitive world of photojournalism, Ben Brody ’12 took a less obvious road: he joined the Army.
As a soldier and combat photographer, Brody served two tours of duty in Iraq between 2005 and 2008. Although his official designation was “Combat Camera,” as a member of the Third Infantry Division he was “absolutely a rifleman first.” This experience as a soldier formed Brody’s eye as a war photographer. “It makes it easier to put things I see in context, to know what to look for, what the soldiers are experiencing, what exactly it is I’m seeing,” he says.
Communicating what war feels like to a soldier is a continual challenge to Brody, who alternates his studies at UMass with overseas assignments. “There’ve been few photographers who can get what combat feels like in a still image,” he says.
Brody is driven by a sense of professional challenge and social urgency. He feels that photography “keeps the pressure on” people’s awareness of war: “Americans are disconnected from the fact that there are young Americans in combat every day, that three or four soldiers are coming out of Afghanistan missing limbs every day, that you have 22-year-olds leading soldiers in the field. For UMass students, these are their peers, young people just like them.”
What most impressed Brody among the soldiers he served with is that “you have young guys becoming statesmen, building relationships with people from cultures so vastly different from their own, figuring out what a 21st-century warrior and a 13th-century farmer have to offer each other. How can they influence each other? That shows a nuanced view of foreign policy, and great ingenuity and creativity.”
For the second year in a row, UMass Amherst has been named a GI Jobs “Military Friendly School” and a Military Times EDGE “Best for Vets College.” To support its population of several hundred vets, the campus has a dedicated Veteran Services Office in the Whitmore Administration Building and a specialized student orientation process for veterans, who tend to be older and have different needs than traditional first-year students. UMass Amherst’s Yellow Ribbon Fund matches funds with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help make tuition affordable for out-of-state and graduate student veterans.