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Taking art to heart

Celebrated and graphic Iraq War veteran photography exhibit comes to Voorheesville High School

Students in the Voorheesville High School were in elementary school when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

For these youngsters, a post-9/11 world is more of a constant that a new way of being. Still, despite living in an era of instant communications, in Voorheesville, like the rest of the country, conflicts overseas seem distant and unrelatable.

But from now through March 18, students at the high school and middle school have at their fingertips a world-renowned photography exhibition that aims to humanize the impacts of modern warfare. "Purple Hearts," by Nina Berman, is on display in the Performing Arts Center lobby and is open to the public.

The exhibit was arranged by Robert Alft, a Voorheesville resident and Vietnam-era veteran. He saw "Purple Hearts" at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy and was moved by it.

"After it was over, Nina offered us the photographs that were used in the exhibit to put in local schools, high schools, community centers, things like that," Alft said. "She really wanted someone that was involved in the community to get these images closer to where people go, rather than in a gallery."

Voorheesville High is the first of what Alft hopes will be many places the remarkable work goes on display. "Purple Hearts" has been shown all over the country and been featured in the like of the New York Times.

It's easy to see why. The exhibit is a series of photographs of soldiers who have come home from the Iraq War badly wounded. Some of the images are graphic, like those of soldier scarred by their burns. One particularly moving image is "Marine Wedding," a photo of a Marine and his bride on their wedding day. The groom is blank and featureless, his injuries so extensive his face is erased.

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