USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION
RESILIENCE Priscilla Bethel, who served in the historic U.S. Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War era, prays at a chapel at the VA health facility in Menlo Park, Calif.
screenings have been very “warm and responsive.” “People were visibly emotional after watching the film because they had family members who are veterans or are still in the military,” said Lai. “They said that it connected with them on a deeper level.” During the six-week clinic, participants learn basic photography terminology and camera skills, discuss imagery and take photos. For many, photography feels less intimidating than drawing, painting or sculpture. Quaglietti noted that photography language mirrors the language used in recovery. For example, focusing on your issue/focusing the camera and framing the issue/framing the photo. “Photography therapy allows people to think about a new way of expressing difficult emotions and thoughts,” said Quaglietti. “Some people have a harder time expressing themselves with verbal dialogue; for others, it’s a distraction technique because they can just focus on taking the photo and let go of the other stuff like hypervigilance and anxiety.” For their final project, participants assemble a six-photo portfolio, present it in front of peers, family and friends, and explain why
they selected these photos to represent who they are. “I made the presentation a mandatory component of the class because some of the veterans have social isolation issues,” said Quaglietti. “To get up in front of an audience so someone can not only bear witness to your creative expression, but also to hear your story — that’s really powerful.” Those in the workshops said that Quaglietti has helped them by giving them a voice. Amanda Smith, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and participated in VPRP in 2016, said that the program helped her rediscover her self-worth. Smith met Quaglietti while she completed the Women’s Trauma Recovery Program at the Menlo Park VA campus. “A lot of my pictures focused on the sense of hope, worthiness and light,” said Smith, adding that, like many veterans, she suffered from hypervigilance and preferred to remain isolated. Her desire to embrace the photography skills taught in the clinic allowed her to live in the moment and take another step toward recovery. “A lot of veterans are experiencing some sort of trauma and a lot CO N T I N U E D