Jay, both a fashion and fine art photographer, says he chose men and women for The Unknown Soldier, spotlighting wounded service members from the United States Armed Forces who sustained injuries that left them severely burned and limbless. This moving series of portraits includes Shilo Harris as well as Bobby Henline, the sole survivor of a roadside bombing in Iraq. “Several soldiers were recovering from their injuries at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. Others, I photographed in their homes across the country,” said Jay.
When asked about the spirit of men and women he photographed for this project, Jay says he was in awe of their courage to fight for our country in the first place, their strength, and resilience in overcoming their injuries as well as their openness in allowing themselves to be the subjects of this series.
“These men and women are warriors. They are the bravest and yet most humble individuals I have ever had the honor of meeting. I am forever grateful to them for their honesty and willingness to bare their scars and their story to the world.”
Jay has received extraordinary feedback, including hundreds of emails from people of all walks of life reaching out as a result of the series. The response he says has been both inspiring and humbling. “These emails are often deeply moving, relaying to me the personal struggles they have faced in their own lives…and often, how seeing the images had catalyzed a sense of self-acceptance, dignity, self-worth and love within them.”
Jay says he hopes that these images “transcend the narrow and simplistic confines of war and encourage us to examine the way we engage each other, both friend and stranger, on the most basic day to day level. It is these subtle, seemingly innocuous interactions that will ultimately lead us either to peace or to the continuum and carnage of war.” As with most of his photographs, Jay believes the images of The Unknown Soldier are not so much about the subjects themselves as they are about the viewer, “as in some distant way, we are all responsible,” says Jay.
Ultimately, The Unknown Soldier is not about war says Jay, “it is about us. We recognize our shared emotions and scars—the soul of humankind. I hope the portraits reveal the immense power of our every interaction and the future they create.”