Tag Archives: Post Traumatic Stress

The Boy from Troy

Donny began raking in the cash almost immediately after the short yellow school bus dropped him off in front of his house in Troy N.Y.

He spotted his mother Kayla, 22, who had been waiting for him on their front porch and hurled his Spiderman backpack in the direction of her feet. As he walked up the steps, Donny made himself available to a random, yet steady, trickle of well wishers, the sort who preferred to peel off a few green backs instead of fumbling with gift paper and bows. Donny, whose name has been changed at the request of the photographer, turned eight that day and in his neighborhood, occasions such as birthdays, funerals and releases from prison, drew big crowds in which everyone was considered family and obliged to make an appearance.

That birthday, which took place this April, was particularly important for Donny. His previous birthday had fallen in the middle of a fourteen-day crisis intervention that the seven year old had spent in a pediatric psychiatric facility. Since kindergarten, Donny has struggled with several emotional and behavioral disorders including attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety. His diagnoses have resulted in multiple suspensions that have caused him to miss valuable school time.

This year, family members were making up for lost time. Jose, an old sweetheart of Kayla’s who was recently released from prison, passed by the stoop with a twenty; Donny’s uncle Will, who was scheduled to begin a 60-day stint in county jail, left a fist full of ones; Kayla’s brother Robby, out on probation, put $10 towards a World Wrestling Federation action figure that Donny wanted. And Sabrina, an extended family member, dropped by to give Donny a huge hug and reveal her birthday plan to take him to a Yankees game. A cousin to Donny’s biological father, Sabrina has filled in for him, on and off, since Donny’s birth and later became Kayla’s first serious girlfriend.

I’ve known Donny since he was born, after a friend introduced to me Sabrina, who was the subject of a New York Times Magazine assignment that sent me close to my hometown in upstate New York. It was the first time that I returned as a professional since leaving there more than 30 years before. Kayla lived in Troy, just 10 minutes from where I grew up, and her story resonated with me. Reserved and street smart, Kayla was the girl I wished I was when I was 14. There was an uneasy identification between the two of us that grew into friendship over the next eight years while I continued to document Kayla, Sabrina and their friends who lived as a family on the same block. A family, I discovered, that was formed largely in response to increasingly punitive legal, moral and economic shifts within their working class community. I watched, as school either became the interface between the justice system and a disengaged teenager or a lifeline thrown from an involved teacher. At year six, I began to agonize about the utility of this monster story and when Donny began school, it became evident that he was the story. Donny is the proverbial child that this neighborhood raised.

Donny is one of a number of very young children that are part of an alarming increase in students being labeled with disabilities at much younger ages. He was suspended from school four times when he was in kindergarten, almost twice that in first grade and more than twenty days in second grade. In New York City, policy critics and social justice advocates note that minority children and children with disabilities are more likely to be suspended, and at much younger ages. Yet, organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund note that there is no evidence to show that suspension corrects behavior, especially among children as young as Donny—and that this supports a “cradle to prison” pipeline. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights 2009-2010 survey released In March 2012, shows that once students are suspended from school, they are more likely to be suspended again—and ultimately may serve time in prison.

In February, Donny was taken out of the Rennselaer county school district regular classroom for special education and placed in day treatment that serves as a specialized school with one-on-one instruction in small classrooms, a longer school year and where suspension is not an option. That consistency, along with the support of a team of social workers, has been a tremendous factor in his improvement at home and school. Kayla says he wakes her while it is still dark and wants to get ready for school. In the past, school social workers had targeted one of Donny’s “triggers” as school avoidance, and it became a cycle, with him acting out because he knew he would be sent home and then not feeling a part of the class when he returned and then acting out so he could leave again. Donny has now been in school since February without being suspended. This is the longest time he has gone with out a suspension since kindergarten.

Brenda Ann Kenneally is a photographer based in New York. See more of her work hereTo read more about the project, visit Upstategirls.org.

Tearsheet of The Day | 17 June 2012

Craig F. Walker’s 2012 Pulitzer prize in Feature Photography winning series ‘Welcome Home – The Story of Scott Ostrom’ featured today in The Sunday Times Magazine’s Spectrum section.

The Sunday Times Magazine, 17 June 2012. Photos © Craig F. Walker

Text on the spread: The Aftermath. Since he was discharged from the US Marines five years ago, suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Brian Scott Ostrom has been unable to hold down a job or maintain healthy relationships at home in Boulder, Colorado. These pictures are part of a Pulitzer prize-winning study by the photographer Craig F. Walker. Ostrom is seen arguing with his girlfriend (bottom centre right) and alone afterwards (bottom centre left and top right). He  has attempted suicide – below he examines the scars.

The project in its entirety can be viewed on the Denver Post’s website here.

You can also see  a video of Walker speaking about the work right after the Pulitzer prize was announced.

Ashley Gilbertson and Photographic Responsibility in the New York Times

Collection photographer Ashley Gilbertson is featured in a number of online media pieces and articles of the New York Times and NYT Magazine (see below for links). As a war conflict photographer since 2003, Gilbertson has captured countless poignant, intense, and challenging images of soldiers, civilians and moments of life and death. Gilbertson first started photographing conflict at the age of 23, after feeling that films of war correspondence or wartime did not give him any sufficient understanding of the world of war or the emotional toll taken on those that experience it.

gilbertson_blog.jpg
Ashley Gilbertson, Untitled from 1/8 Bravo Marines during the November 2004 battle for Falluja, 2004, MoCP Collection

In the several NYT features, Gilbertson describes what he sees as his responsibility as a photographer to help his viewers understand what soldiers go through during wartime and to express that the difficulty of war is not over when soldiers return home. This feeling of responsibility was instigated by the 2004 death of the marine soldier, Billy Miller, who was assigned to protect the photographer as he worked to capture images of victims from the Falluja attack. Gilbertson is particularly concerned with expressing emotional and psychological turmoil, subjects like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and other internal or psychological topics that do not lend themselves to photography.

Gilbertson argues that his “soldiers’ bedrooms” photography, shown in this slideshow and highlighted in this article, is war photography. The images show what we, as a nation, have sacrificed in going to war. He explains that this project is the body of work that has reached closest to his goal of explaining what war is to people who have not seen what he has seen.

Some images in the slideshows and video interviews are intense and difficult. Please view them before sharing with others.

Watch the soldiers’ bedrooms slideshow.
Read the soldiers’ bedrooms article
Watch a video interview with Gilbertson concerning his goals and recent body of work.
Watch another slideshow of other images narrated by Gilbertson.