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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Through the lens

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His hands hold a bugle and his feet stand at ease. The cadet bows his head, his hat tipped forward to the memorial in front of him.
At 33, international studies senior Aaron Randal has trekked from student to active military and back again. Somewhere in the middle he found photography.
His most recent project was shooting a series of five photographs for the A&M Veteran’s Resource Center office. Each photo aims to embody the Aggie veteran from an artistic standpoint, but one photo in particular, entitled “Remember,” spotlights the Freedom from Terrorism Memorial, the 9/11 memorial on campus.
“Out of all the military [memorials] that are on campus, it just defines my generation,” Randal said. “This is why we went to war, this is why we went for service. It just defines my generation of military.”
Col. Gerald Smith, director at the Veteran Resource and Support Center, said the office continues to steadily build up personal accounts and history on the military memorials on campus.
With more than 1,000 student veterans on campus who served post-9/11, Randal’s art is a means of accentuating the history and military legacy on campus, Smith said.
“You know, we see pictures of Aggie football games and things like that around campus all the time,” Smith said. “I think because we don’t have anything on campus that really accentuates these memorials, you know, sometimes we just walk past them. His artwork causes student vets and others around campus to notice what we walk past every day.”
Randal served four and a half years in the Air Force, spending time thousands of miles away in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. He also studied abroad in Paris in the spring, which influenced his decision to be an international studies major and pursue photography.
Smith said Randal’s work is a portrayal of the personal ties he has to his years of service and it motivated him to exemplify that message in his photos.
“Because he has been out there and done it, it’s personal for him,” Smith said. “I think he takes a great amount of pride in his service as well as being able to help convey the message of service.”
The 9/11-themed photo is a composite from a photo he took during Veterans Day 2013 and a photo taken at the Freedom from Terrorism Memorial.
Randal said he was inspired by photographer Joel Grime’s suggestion that every photographer is an artist.
“And what are the rules in art?” Randal said. “It’s your interpretation. So if you are doing photojournalism, don’t touch the picture, but when you’re doing artwork or ads or trying to express yourself, why not touch the picture?”
His photos are often shot with high dynamic range imaging, in part because he is color-blind. The technique involves merging three of the same images, Randal said — one underexposed, one overexposed, and one perfectly exposed.
“That way you can see the details and the highlights and the details in the shadows,” Randal said.
The first time Randal received an SLR camera was in 2006 before he left for the Air Force, where he was a loadmaster. Randal said he wanted to be in the air, but his color-blindness hindered him.
“I never knew I had it,” Randal said. “I did oil paintings, I was very artistic growing up, so when they told me I was color blind it was almost like taking away something that I really liked.”
The cadet in the photo is anonymous so more people can relate to it, Randal said.
“It could be any cadet, it could be any Aggie or anyone, depending on how you look at it,” Randal said.
Cesar Sarabia, cadet in veteran outfit Delta Co. and accounting senior said the photo was somber, but inspiring. “Just seeing that picture there — that bugler who’s standing there, it’s all about that selfless service,” Sarabia said. “He’s taking time out of his day to make his uniform correct. He’s taking time out of his years to learn how to play the bugle, just like military members learn over the years how to do their jobs for this country.”

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