Vietnam War Photographer Uses Camera to Record Veterans

Nominated by Corinne Harmon

Vietnam War veteran Bruce Roscoe received his first camera on his 8th birthday. Ten years later, he found himself behind a camera for most of the time he served in the U.S. Army as a combat photographer (1967-68). 

He eventually took those skills and founded a nonprofit organization, Vision of Vets, to honor combat veterans by preserving their stories in portraits, videos and written formats. 

The idea came about in 2013 when Roscoe learned his childhood friend Joe Rowe had terminal lung cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange when he served in Vietnam.

Roscoe, now an award-winning professional portrait photographer, offered to fly to Rhode Island and photograph his friend as a gift to the Rowe family. On his return flight, he got the idea to photograph other veterans and give them a large, framed image in recognition of their service. The idea expanded to include an hourlong video of an interview and a written narrative in the veteran’s words.

He has filmed and photographed a Navajo Code Talker, World War II prisoner of war, a real-life Rosie the Riveter, an Air Force technical sergeant with her K9 patrol partner from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Navy SEAL and an Army Green Beret. 

He also has interviewed reenactors who appear as historic figures, complete with authentic clothing and equipment, as military personnel from earlier wars.

In 2016, Roscoe learned about a piece of technology that took his project from honoring veterans to also educating students through their stories.

Augmented reality takes a viewer from looking at a still picture to watching it turn into a video. From the veteran’s interview, Vision of Vets staff produce a two-and-a-half minute video that comes alive — perfect for capturing students’ attention. 

Anyone with a smartphone or tablet can download a free app through Live Portrait, point their device at the veteran’s image and it begins to move and speak. Roscoe uses background images from historical archives or from the veteran’s own belongings to illustrate his or her wartime experience.

To learn more about Vision of Vets and Bruce Roscoe visit www.visionofvets.org