Marine Corps Veteran, artist finds that combat experience transcends generations



Nick Collier spent one month as the artist in residence at Gettysburg National Military Park.  During his time at the park, he used photography and sculpture to capture the significance of the historic site. The events that occurred on the battlefield at Gettysburg resonated with the Marine Corps Veteran, and that came through in his artwork.

Nick Collier posing with box camera

Nick Collier posing with box camera

Collier served in the Marine Corps as an 0311 Infantryman from 2002 to 2006. One afternoon, while on patrol in Afghanistan, Collier met someone using a “box camera.” The man was using the box camera as a small business. He would make a little money taking people’s photos using the self-created contraption. Collier was intrigued and had his picture taken with the unique camera.

Years later, after separating from the military, Collier decided to build his own box camera. It is made of 3 inch oak and sits atop a surveyor’s tripod. It serves as its own traveling dark room and exposes the image directly onto paper. He calls it a “pinhole Polaroid.” The shutter is the front cap that is removed to expose, and there are two trays inside the box that give the photos the chemical washes they need. Then, he can remove the photo from the back of the box.

He uses the box camera for a number of things, but at national parks, he has used it to take portraits of park employees who are military Veterans.

Collier’s participation as Artist in Residence is part of Gettysburg’s Veterans outreach program. The park has a new artist each month, and they feature at least three Veterans each year.

“We’ve always used art and we’ve always had Veterans use art to tell the story of the battle,” said Chris Gwinn, Gettysburg’s chief of interpretation and education.

Collier has worked in a similar program at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

“The program is unique because I don’t think there are a lot of opportunities specifically like this for Veterans that are artists,” said Collier. “I think its special that national parks would take a step in that direction.”

VA also embraces Veterans expression through art. There are currently 10 artists whose work is on display at VA medical centers across the country.

Author

Timothy Lawson

Timothy Lawson has been a member of VA’s Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016. He graduated from American University’s School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard posted at embassies in Algeria, Russia, and Peru.

Comments

  1. Manny Gaona    

    Wow.. Incredible story! That’s what a true creative artist and fellow veteran can do.. combine creativity.. Ingenious! Very much inspired by this story. Congrats Timothy! As a fellow vet whose getting ready to graduate this spring I enjoy reading and participating in these kind of events. Especially for a vet who always wanted to have a change in careers and it’s very possible to make any dream come true.

  2. Manny Gaona    

    Correction and apologize.I meant Nick Collier! Much Respect. -M Gaona

  3. Sean Baldwin    

    What a great program! I served onboard the USS Gettysburg and our crew had to privilege of visiting the Borough of Gettysburg. The people were very welcoming and it was one of the best experiences of my career.
    People who are involved in Arts programs are often misunderstood and criticized. As a fellow artist and graduate with a degree in Industrial Design, I say “Thank you” to Nick Collier for expressing himself through the art of photography.

  4. Chuck Hathaway    

    Great article . . . . Thanks.

  5. Pamela Renz    

    I hope our travels will bring us to Gettysburg one day. My love and I are both Veterans and we try to get on the road in our Airstream as many months as we can afford.

  6. Kenn Dillon    

    Very cool! Now I want to build a camera!

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