Monday, May 19, 2014


In less than a week people all over the country will be honoring fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.  So I thought that I would venture out to Pioneer cemetery in Sierra Madre California.  My pappa a WWII veteran is laid to rest there, and I know his buddies from VFW Post 3208, were going to be placing crosses and flags at the head stones of Veterans.. I arrived to a truck packaged with tall boxes.

Besides the guys from the VFW, there were several volunteers from Boy Scout Troop 110, and  Cub Scouts Pac 110.  From ages 10 to 90 something, they were all here to make sure 222 vets received the honor they so greatly deserved. So families attending this Sundays ceremony would be able to celebrate their loved ones with a real patriotic moment.  
Volunteers came however they could... with walkers,

using canes,
hooked to oxygen tanks

 and flanked by their support team.

What I didn't know about this mission, was that it's much like a treasure hunt.  You see the map to the graves in the cemetery is well, difficult to read.  In fact difficult to decipher where all the veterans head stones are placed.

After all this is not Arlington cemetery, where every grave site gets a flag.  So there was a lot of clipboard checking...

To be followed by lots of looking and  looking.

So names were starting to correlate with locations, and that meant time to assemble the crosses...

and place the flags on top. 

 This entire process took about two hours.  I truly have a new appreciation for what it takes to prepare a cemetery for a Memorial Day Ceremony.  What drove them to show up was more than a patriotic obligation.  It seemed to me to be a strong sense of love for their fallen comrades, an eagerness to understand the older generations, and a heartfelt need by all to give families a special  moment, that hopefully will lesson the pain of the loss.


Not every Debra Snell Photography photo shoot has this kind of a emotional  story line.  In this case, I give a big thank you to the members of VFW Post 3208, the young men from Boy Scout Post 110 and the Cub Scouts from Pac 110.  You all did a wonderful job, and will touch a lot of hearts at the Ceremony. 

You have already made me a bit emotional.  We miss you Pappa Di.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I was recently asked to be one of the speakers at a career day at Lockwood Elementary here in L.A.  I immediately said yes as I remembered how much fun I had with these students when I volunteered before.  Besides my friend Richard Ayoub who adopted this school a few decades ago,  can be a pretty convincing guy.

Onto my little story of "A Boy, His Heart & an Image." A moment that I won't soon forget. Richard suggested that we bring visuals, an easy thing for a photographer to do of course. I gathered images that reflected the different types of photographers.   Family, Pet, Landscape, Product, Celebrity, Humanitarian, Sports and Photojournalist photographers.  I had a wide spectrum of images of different photography specialties

When I asked the 4th grade class, of about 30 students, what they thought a photojournalist was, here are the answers I received from two eager kids.  A boy said "someone who puts photos in a journal?" I can see how he'd come to that conclusion.  I replied "good answer, anyone else?" A girl quickly raised her hand, yes they still do that in classrooms, it was nice to see.

In a soft voice she replied, "they write stories about pictures they take?" The smile on my face let her know she was right on target.  I took a few images out to show some examples of photojournalism and shared the stories behind the pictures.  There were several questions the students had about one particular photo, and that image seemed to resonate deeply with a boy in the front row.  

This is the image they were oooing and ahhhhing about. 

 Some wanted to know what that was in the front.  I said " It's a helmet sitting on a rifle.  They do this at Memorial and Veterans day ceremonies, to honor those soldiers who never made it home from the war.  Soldiers who died fighting for our country."  "What's in the back" asked one curious student.    I went on to tell the class, in the back of the image is   was a solider in his medal decorated uniform.  He was honoring those fallen soldiers by standing at attention.

One boy spoke right up with enthusiasm and pride, I'm going to be a Marine someday. I smiled at him with all his brimming excitement.  He reminded me of the kids along the parade routes when I was a youngster, who would try to mimic the march of  the soldiers, walking in unison to a military band song. 

When my time was up in the classroom, as I gathered my many visuals aids, that proud little boy with the dream of being a Marine, asked me something I will never forget. He said in a mere whisper "Excuse me Ms. Debra? Could I have that picture?"  With uncertainty of how I would respond but hope filling his big brown eyes, he pointed to the image of the soldier standing behind the helmet and rifle.

I almost told him that I needed it for two more classes.  However the look on his face was so precious, so invested in what this image represented to his young life, that I quickly responded "Of course you can."  He took the picture and again starred at it with such intensity, and a big grin on his face.  At that moment, my heart filled with so much emotion I thought I would cry.   

I nodded my head saying silently, "This is why I am a photographer, why I created Debra Snell Photography.."  For someone to connect so strongly to an image that I have captured, makes me feel that my meager attempt to visualize a moment was successful.  And so ends my story of "A Boy, His Heart & an Image."