A staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Reese’s tour of duty included about fifty days in Iraq. He faced incoming missile attacks and malaria-carrying mosquitoes; met generals, Congressmen, and celebrities; took a dozen flights in CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters and C130 airplanes; and managed to shoot over three thousand photographs.
Upon his return to his position as a digital media instructor at the Art Institute of Washington, he displayed some of his work in a faculty show. The idea blossomed into a traveling exhibit of his best images. In May, 2004, the exhibit opened in Washington, D.C., and has since traveled to Tampa, Los Angeles, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and York (Pa.).
In November, 2005, Operation Iraqi Freedom: From a Marine’s Eyes was showcased at the Art Institute of New York City. (Full information about the exhibit, including photos, can be found at www.rockyblues.com/oif.)
The focus of the exhibit was on elements of Operation Iraqi Freedom that most Americans could not see on television. Reese knew that the mainstream media outlets leaned towards highlighting the bullets, bombs, and blood instead of the rebuilding efforts. He wanted to show that a soldier's experience was about more than just violence, he said.
The same week that the exhibit first opened, the Abu Graib prison scandal broke, with images from this story in every paper and on every television. Although the exhibit’s photos were actually a positive outlook on the war, it received little attention from the media.
Reese hopes to change that with the continuing exhibit. He has connected with other art institutes around the country and created a buzz about the show. The plan is to eventually auction the artwork off to raise money for a scholarship for military personnel who would like to get a degree at the Art Institute of Washington.
Reese also owns Reese Productions, a photography, video, and web production company.
Some of Reese’s photos and the story of his experience in the Middle East and photos were featured previously in Alumni Extra.