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Veteran Student's Photograph a Finalist in National Contest

Late Afternoon in the Garden-140201

'Late Afternoon in the Garden' by Garrick Morgenweck. Courtesy of Garrick Morgenweck.

Last winter, Academy of Art University student veteran Garrick Morgenweck snapped a luminescent picture of Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. The documentary photography major was struck by the peaceful beauty of the spot he drove past every day while taking a course at the fort in San Antonio, Texas.

He submitted the photo he titled Late Afternoon in the Garden to the Student Veterans of America Warpaint competition. The contest sought art with a military theme from student veterans across the country, and Morgenweck’s picture scored high points from the judges. It was among the 40 top entries unveiled at the National Veterans Center in Washington on March 27.

Morgenweck, who shot the image with a Nikon D600 camera, was pleased with the photo because it captured the cemetery exactly as he saw it. “The way the sun was coming down behind the tree when I took the picture, bathing the cemetery with this warm, golden light, made it seem like a living monument to the men and women buried there,” he explained. “It didn’t seem like a graveyard to me. It reminded me of a flower garden in spring—not dead and gray, but alive and welcoming.”

Stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama, Morgenweck is a flight paramedic and manager for the Army’s medic program. He’s served in the military since 1989 for a total of 18 years, completing two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He and his wife have three young daughters.

Morgenweck is in his second semester of the Academy’s online photography program. He said the program suits his busy, mobile lifestyle and is helping him to build a professional portfolio for the career in documentary photography he plans to pursue when he retires from the Army. He also appreciates the ongoing communication with his instructors.

“I was already pretty familiar with the basics of photography and Photoshop,” he said. “But the interaction with professors who are professionals in the field, and the insight I’m getting as I move through the program, has been invaluable.”

Morgenweck wants to use his photography skills to document a side of military life he believes many people don’t see. He’s seen plenty of work dealing with soldiers in combat, war heroes, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the challenges of adjusting to coming home after months of being in a war zone. But he thinks there’s a shortage of projects depicting the ordinary lives of those who serve in the military.

“We’re normal, everyday people with friends, families and jobs who happen to choose to serve our country,” he remarked. “Just because I come back from Iraq, it doesn’t mean I’m about to run down the street and kill people.”

In addition to his passion for photographing military life, Morgenweck is using his time as an Academy student to hone his style and explore other genres. He’s interested in environmental portraiture because he likes the way photos of people in their natural surroundings tell their story. He also enjoys taking pictures of old houses, abandoned buildings and other aging structures.

“ I love documenting stuff that’s slowly slipping away,” he said. “I also like to get out in nature by myself, or with my family, and take photos. It’s personal therapy.”