by Sean Cayton
Freelance Photographer

One thing that always inspires me is the tremendous potential for good, meaningful work to be found in our own communities and our own backyards.

I live and work in Colorado Springs. And I have relied on being able to find rich photojournalism assignments in my home town for my entire career. I have never needed to travel elsewhere.

Many of these assignments were made by me on speculation.

In other words, I funded the assignments myself. I photographed them myself. And I found a home for the pictures myself.|

It’s always surprising what I end up tackling. It’s usually not the sort of photojournalism stories that typically are associated with small town U.S.A. (Actually, we’re a small metropolitan area of 500,000.)

I just began work on a story that now has it’s own category in still photojournalism competitions. It’s called the ‘War on Terror.’

When I watched the events of Sept. 11 on the TV in my living room, I couldn’t imagine how those events would effect my own community.

But two years later, we are occupying Iraq and many of the soldiers stationed at the Fort Carson Army Post have been deployed there.

The Fort Carson Army Post is home to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the 43rd Area Support Group.

But I’m not embedded with these troops in Iraq. I’m embedded every time I visit the rear detachment at Fort Carson.

Often that visit involves the death of a soldier and a memorial ceremony in their honor.

These memorial ceremonies are held at the Soldier’s Memorial Chapel. It’s challenging to photograph these because of the restricted access placed upon the media by the public affairs escorts.

There is one rule we are not allowed to break: We can’t photograph inside the chapel during the service. One exception to this: We were allowed inside the chapel for the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony.

I have photographed nearly 15 of these ceremonies over the course of four months time and I am generating a body of work that I find interesting, meaningful and historical.

There are the photographs that everyone has seen and yet, at the same time, there are other pictures to be made. This is what I have tried to do.

I’ve also found a home for these images. First, they were published in the Colorado Springs Independent, a weekly newspaper here, as a standalone photo story. Then, together with the Independent, I sponsored an opening reception and gallery exhibit of the work in a local restaurant.

The show was also a fundraiser for The Home Front Cares organization. It’s a non-profit designed to help families with loved ones deployed to Iraq. It was a treat to see the work being exhibited and I was surprised by the support that the exhibit received.

I have also contributed this body of work to my agent Mark Antman with the stock agency The Image Works. I’m hopeful that he will be able to find another home for these images.

Because I was able to find so many homes for this work, I turned this speculative story into something more than a news story on the front page of the daily newspaper.

Covering this story has been rewarding to me and it was something that I never expected to take on in my own home town.

Osama bin Laden appears in a slideshow during the memorial ceremony for victims of Sept. 11 inside the Soldier's Memorial Chapel. The show included news pictures of Osama bin Laden, the World Trade Center being hit, the dead being carried away from the scene and the Pentagon in flames.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Soldiers pray during the memorial ceremony for victims of Sept. 11.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Staff Sgt. Kevin Brown gets a hug from Sandra Olson during a memorial ceremony for Spc. Darius Jennings. Brown commanded Jennings who died in a Chinook helicopter crash in Fallujah, Iraq Nov. 2, 2003. Brown himself was injured in a grenade attack and is recuperating from his injuries.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Boxes of tissue sit on a church pew inside the Soldier's Memorial Chapel after the memorial service for Staff Sgt. Dale Panchot. Panchot was killed by enemy fire while on patrol south of Balad, Iraq on Nov. 17, 2003.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Shadows from the honor guard along the wall of the Soldier's Memorial Chapel during a memorial ceremony for Staff Sft. Dale Panchot. Panchot was killed by enemy fire while on patrol south of Balad, Iraq on Nov. 17, 2003

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

A member of the honor guard is 'Looking for People' on the lawn outside the Soldier's Memorial Chapel after a memorial ceremony for Spc. Stephen Scott who died in Iraq Aug. 23, 2003. The 'People,' in soldiers' lexicon, are actually spent shell casings that fall to the ground after the three-shot volley that is issued during the ceremony.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Shell casings from the honor guard's three-shot volley after a memorial ceremony for Sgt. Daniel Bader who died in a Chinook helicopter crash in Fallujah, Iraq on Nov. 2, 2003.

©Sean Cayton All rights reserved

A member of the honor guard stands at attention during the the playing of 'Taps' at a memorial ceremony for Spc. David Goldberg. Goldberg died in Iraq Nov. 26, 2003.

©2003 Sean Cayton All rights reserved

Sean Cayton




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