Daily Picture Show

A Very Vintage Take On Our Modern Military

In the 1860s, a photographer named Mathew Brady hauled a huge, clunky camera around the Civil War battlefields, capturing portraits and scenes of military life.

As camera technology goes, the process used by Brady was all but phased out. Today, a few niche art photographers continue to practice it — including Melissa Cacciola.

And in the vein of Brady's Civil War portraiture, Cacciola also focuses on the military. Her latest series, War and Peace, takes two looks at men and women who serve: in uniform and in civilian garb. "Through the photographic lens," she writes in a statement, "we can study just how the airman in his dress blues relates to the man in the Guns N' Roses T-shirt."

  • Edward, gunnery sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (dates of service: 1996-2011): "I wanted to be a Marine forever, but after losing my eye and parts of my skull, I wasn't able to anymore. I refused to accept this as a negative thing and instead I made a conscious effort to find a new path that I was even more excited about."
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    Edward, gunnery sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (dates of service: 1996-2011): "I wanted to be a Marine forever, but after losing my eye and parts of my skull, I wasn't able to anymore. I refused to accept this as a negative thing and instead I made a conscious effort to find a new path that I was even more excited about."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Sylvia, command sergeant major, U.S. Army
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    Sylvia, command sergeant major, U.S. Army
    1984-present/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Ted, captain, U.S. Marine Corps (June 2003-present): "The Marine Corps is very good at beating your sense of exhaustion and lack of motivation into submission during your initial ground training — that's what makes you a Marine."
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    Ted, captain, U.S. Marine Corps (June 2003-present): "The Marine Corps is very good at beating your sense of exhaustion and lack of motivation into submission during your initial ground training — that's what makes you a Marine."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Samantha, staff sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (2002-present): "Doing humanitarian missions overseas was the best experience of my life, as well as speaking with Wounded Warriors. The opportunity is so surreal, mostly unimaginable."
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    Samantha, staff sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (2002-present): "Doing humanitarian missions overseas was the best experience of my life, as well as speaking with Wounded Warriors. The opportunity is so surreal, mostly unimaginable."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Lawrence, petty officer first class, U.S. Navy (1998-present): "When I go out there and provide assistance to making our community better ... this brings a smile to my face. It also shows the sensitive side of the military, one that is hardly ever seen."
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    Lawrence, petty officer first class, U.S. Navy (1998-present): "When I go out there and provide assistance to making our community better ... this brings a smile to my face. It also shows the sensitive side of the military, one that is hardly ever seen."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Estee, staff sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (2002-present): "The experience that has most affected me while I have been in the military was the death of my best friend, Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez."
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    Estee, staff sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (2002-present): "The experience that has most affected me while I have been in the military was the death of my best friend, Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Sean, yeoman second class, U.S. Navy (active duty 2005-09): "The satisfaction of knowing I am making a positive difference for our country as well as the locals at every place I was stationed was incomparable."
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    Sean, yeoman second class, U.S. Navy (active duty 2005-09): "The satisfaction of knowing I am making a positive difference for our country as well as the locals at every place I was stationed was incomparable."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Esther, lieutenant junior grade, U.S. Coast Guard
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    Esther, lieutenant junior grade, U.S. Coast Guard
    2008-present/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Kirtan, staff sergeant, U.S. Army (active duty 2000-09): "My yearlong tour in Iraq was a very enlightening experience. I witnessed heroism, tragedy and the true finding of religion."
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    Kirtan, staff sergeant, U.S. Army (active duty 2000-09): "My yearlong tour in Iraq was a very enlightening experience. I witnessed heroism, tragedy and the true finding of religion."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Sarah, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy
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    Sarah, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy
    2001-present/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Brian, lieutenant junior grade, U.S. Coast Guard
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    Brian, lieutenant junior grade, U.S. Coast Guard
    2003-present/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Yamili, specialist, U.S. Army (2007-present): "The death of my husband while serving in the Army ... made me really sad, but at the same time it made me be grateful to be alive and have such a wonderful daughter."
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    Yamili, specialist, U.S. Army (2007-present): "The death of my husband while serving in the Army ... made me really sad, but at the same time it made me be grateful to be alive and have such a wonderful daughter."
    Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Tony, petty officer second class, U.S. Navy
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    Tony, petty officer second class, U.S. Navy
    2004-10/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola
  • Travis, lance corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
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    Travis, lance corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
    2002-06/Courtesy of Melissa Cacciola

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Cacciola was trained by renowned photographer John Coffer but is somewhat new to the wet plate process. In fact, photography is not really her background, per se, but she makes all of the chemicals and materials by hand — a feat even for a seasoned photographer. She studied historic preservation and restores paintings for a living — which helps explain why she would be drawn to such an antiquated, tangible process.

"[There] is a growing feeling that images lose their sense of permanence or uniqueness," she writes in her statement. "Photographs are no longer created with light but with pixilation and computers whose software is engineered to erase our scars and correct anything ordained to be a flaw."

But her photos are up-close, personal and untouched. Over the phone, she explained that getting people to participate was the biggest challenge. "They're very private people," she explained. "A lot of people who [agreed] wanted to show that they were just like everyone else. Just because they were in the military didn't mean they were different."

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