Airman’s Photography Career Embodies Force of the Future

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. looks for the right photo op while at the Secretary of Defense's speech about the Force of the Future at Syracuse University.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. looks for the right photo op while at the Secretary of Defense’s speech about the Force of the Future at Syracuse University.

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Social Media

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently launched a Force of the Future initiative aimed at inspiring the best and brightest to serve our country, in uniform or out of it.

Carter told students at Syracuse University that more civilian employers are viewing veterans as extremely useful to the 21st century workforce – they’re leaders, are increasingly versed in science and technology, and they get the job done.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. takes a photo of Defense Secretary Ash Carter at an event at Syracuse University.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. takes a photo of Defense Secretary Ash Carter at an event at Syracuse University.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr., 30, of Tampa, Florida, embodies that Force of the Future spirit.   Reid joined the Air Force in April 2003. After basic training, he went to the Defense Information School to learn photography and was then assigned to a few stations, both in the U.S. and overseas, where he photographed anything from exercises and disaster relief efforts to the training of Afghan forces during Operation Enduring Freedom.

After his deployment, Reid was selected as a photographer for the Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s premier flying aerobatic team. He often got to fly in their F-16s, going up to 500 mph while hitting anywhere from six to nine G’s of force — all with a camera on his chest.

Reid is currently spending the year studying at Syracuse as part of the Military Visual Journalism program so he can continue honing his skills. The photojournalist answered some questions about his experiences while at Carter’s speech.

What made you want to be a photographer? 

Major Michael Fisher, Thunderbird 8, Advance Pilot/Narrator and mixed martial artist champion, Ronda Rousey, taxis out for a F-16 Fighting Falcon flight at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 9, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./Released

Major Michael Fisher, Thunderbird 8, Advance Pilot/Narrator and mixed martial artist champion, Ronda Rousey, taxis out for a F-16 Fighting Falcon flight at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 9, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./Released

“I didn’t really understand how powerful the art of photography could be until I joined the Air Force,” Reid answered.

He said he now sees the world from a different perspective, which gives him the chance to capture emotion-evoking moments.

“As a photojournalist, I have the privilege of stepping into people’s lives, connecting with them and telling their story … providing clarity and understanding through visual storytelling,” he said. “The world is my visual playground.”

How has your service helped you succeed as a photographer or, more generally, in life?  

Reid said his service has given him two important things: Discipline and a solid work ethic.

“Like the Air Force, to be successful in the visual communication profession takes a lot of personal sacrifice. I feel that if a photojournalist is willing to go out and shoot beyond the duty day (to include weekends and holidays), he/she will continue to get better and produce stronger imagery,” he said.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. takes aim while at the Secretary of Defense's speech about the Force of the Future at Syracuse University.

U.S. Air Force SSgt. Larry Reid Jr. takes aim while at the Secretary of Defense’s speech about the Force of the Future at Syracuse University.

Drive, dedication and accepting critiques are just as much a part of it.

“When your heart is in it and you care about it, it will show,” Reid said. “Being able to accept constructive criticism will also help you grow, not just as a photojournalist or an Airman but in life in general.”

One of the toughest parts of being a photographer, though? Keeping his emotions out of it.

“One of the worst things you can do as a visual storyteller is emotionally attach yourself to your work,” Reid said. “By doing so, you hinder your growth and your ability to broaden your visual creativity.”

How has the program at Syracuse helped you? 

“The year-long study at the S.I. Newhouse School has been nothing short of amazing,” Reid said. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry, receive mentorship and guidance on how to strengthen my imagery and have a stronger visual approach to capturing my subjects and telling stories.”

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds performs the inspirational Low Bomb Burst during the Cleveland National Air Show, Sept. 4, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./Released

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds performs the inspirational Low Bomb Burst during the Cleveland National Air Show, Sept. 4, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./Released

He’s focusing his studies on multimedia storytelling.

“Multimedia is now an industry standard in visual storytelling, and since I’ve been here, seeing the impact of good audio, video and impactful stills come together to tell a story — it’s been an eye-opening experience,” Reid said.

One that he definitely plans to pass on.

“More specifically, [I plan to] pass the knowledge onto the younger Airmen in the career field so they can continue to grow and one day attend Syracuse,” Reid said.

When he’s done at Syracuse, Reid will join the 1st Combat Squadron, Joint-Base Charleston in South Carolina.

A short documentary detailing how Reid prepared for his in-air missions with the Thunderbirds can be seen here:


Courtesy of: JaronSchneider.com

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