VERY INTERESTING PERSON No. 1
“I had planned on retiring after 30 years. Then 9/11 happened and I decided to stay in a few more years. Two weeks after my 50th birthday I jumped out of a C-5 from 10,000 feet with 375 of my men and we took Baghdad airport.”
~Dan Garrison, US Army Retired.
Click to listen to the interview audio.
For a long time I had been thinking about starting a project of photographing people who I personally considered to be very interesting, but I hadn’t actually done anything with it… until I met Mr. Garrison.
Mr. Garrison is currently an independent contractor for insurance companies. He came to our house one morning to take pictures for our business insurance. He’s a very friendly and conversational gentleman and it didn’t take long to realize that this kind man was much more than his job title.
I noticed the jump wings emblem on his hat and I asked, “Were you a paratrooper?” We started chatting and he ended up spending over an hour in our kitchen tell us stories.
Prior to his arrival, I had been busy cleaning the house of the clutter which so quickly accumulates when you have small children and simultaneously planning out the rest of my work for the day. I had expected that this appointment would just be a quick paperwork thing and then I would move on with my plans. However, the conversation that ensued took me completely by surprise. I immediately put all of my previous plans on hold and directed all of my focus to the conversation and living history that was unfolding before me.
Dan Garrison spent 34 years in the US Army. To say he’s well-traveled would be a significant understatement. I heard more country names than I had heard at once in a long time. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Japan, Falkland Islands, Syria, Philippines, Greenland… The list went on. He’s led men in battle and his uniform bears 14 battle ribbons. He’s ate and drank with tribes on every continent. Been shot in the chest by a sniper and lived to tell about it. Raised sons. Gone hunting for Moose in Greenland and chose not to shoot the biggest bull anyone had ever seen. Is still married to a woman who he met when he was in 7th grade. Now he’s 64 yrs old and working on a degree in philosophy and frequently gets in arguments with the professors due to their lack of life experience. He loves his job for the insurance company because he gets to meet interesting people.
I sat across the table from him in awe of the things he was telling us. That was the moment when I knew that this was the person I was going to begin this project with.
When he got up to leave and I asked if I could photograph him and get a recording of him sharing a few of the stories that he had already told us. When I asked him, he said, “Why do you want to take a picture of my fat old face?” I asked for 10 minutes to set up a photo and 3 minutes to record. I shot a few frames and then just sat in front of him and listened to him talk while I recorded with my iPhone. He stayed another 45 minutes… Just talking off the cuff. It was an honor to meet him and get to make these few portraits.
This is No. 1 of a new long term project I’ve titled Very Interesting People. Follow me on instagram @bradleylanphear