During the Vietnam War, Jerry Tovo was a drill sergeant, training soldiers to go to war. After he left the military, Tovo became a professional photographer, specializing in advertising. But in 2011, he took his photography in a less commercial direction--photographing homeless veterans across the country.
Tovo's motivation for the project originated with an understanding of the problems that can lead to homelessness among veterans.
"As a drill sergeant, my job was to take your brain when you came into the army and remold it and reshape it in the military way," said Tovo. "But we don't have any potential for giving you back your brain the way it was in the first place. So that reshaped and re-molded head goes back into civilian life, and they're kind of on their own at that point."
When he first started taking photographs, Veterans Affairs helped connect him to homeless veterans. Eventually Tovo discovered if he could connect to one homeless veteran in a city who understood the "big picture" of the project and give him an inexpensive phone, then he could coordinate with several homeless veterans in the area and arrange to take their photographs.
One unexpected result of the project, said Tovo, was the ripple effect of connecting to these veterans that served as the point person in the city. For example, one man found a job after talking with Tovo, reconnected with his wife and started a project building homes for homeless veterans.
Two years and hundreds of photographs later, 36 were chosen to be part of the exhibit on display now at the Missouri History Museum. The 6,000 square foot space dedicated to the exhibit contains 22 four foot by four foot images, a monolith collage and a video.
Missouri History Museum Presents "I Was a Soldier" - Photos of Jerry Tovo
July 6, 2013 - January 20, 2014
Wednesdays - Mondays, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Tuesdays, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Missouri History Museum 314-746-4599