Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advance praise for America's Second-Class Veterans

Rick Rocamora’s work belongs to the honorable tradition of documentary photography. In the 1930s, during the Depression, this photographic approach was used to change the ways we think about the world. Sponsored by the American government, such photographers as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange worked with the Farm Security Administration photographing the rural communities in both the South and the West hit by drought and in poverty. Lange’s wonderful pictures of the brave people who sat in the sun waiting to pick peas in the Central Valley when there was no work where they came from helped Americans understand some of the problems of those times.

Like Lange, Rocamora focuses his attention on the people he wants us to look at and think about. These are ordinary people. They fought alongside American soldiers in World War II in the Pacific, often at great personal cost. They are Filipinos, living here in the United States, promised benefits by the United States government that many still expect. Most of these men are also very poor, though it is not their poverty that we remember most, but their gentleness and bravery. Rocamora reminds us, in these quiet and dignified pictures, of the value and integrity of these people, and of their strong sense of community-which sustains them, even as they suffer from careless neglect.

Sandra Phillips,
Senior Curator of Photography,
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Rick Rocamora has produced an important book of photographic images that addresses what can be called an inconvenient lapse of memory in the history of the United States of America. This book is about the group of men who were left behind after risking everything in defense of their country and ours. These men are the Filipino veterans who fought during World War II for the United States and were promised concrete enticements which in the end were as flimsy as sheets of paper left on the crest of a hill to the tender mercies of a fully developed March wind.

The book should be viewed as an important element in the failed promise of delivering the promise of America. Rocamora admirably performs this difficult task by photographing the lives of these men in a sensitive, straightorward, and respectable manner. He doesn’t add unnecessary flourishes that might take you away from their story. He leaves you to understand that these images are about these men and not about him. When you look into the eyes of these men, you will truly feel their pain. You will also feel the shame of knowing how they were left to drift by our country after helping us in our time of need. They went through hell and were then abandoned. Rick Rocamora has not abandoned these men and through his photographs of their lives, he insures that we will not forget them either.

Eli Reed,
Magnum Photos

University of Texas in Austin

The pictures—and the stories—in this book will break your heart. Rick Rocamora photographs Filipino soldiers who fought bravely during World War II and have come to America to demand the recognition due them. Rocamora portrays these men with tenderness and respect. In his pictures, their dignity is undiminished. They seem unbowed by the humiliations they had suffered in America, hopeful, despite all that they had been through here, that they will get the justice they deserve.

Sheila S. Coronel,
Director Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism,
Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University

All of these aging and precious veterans have to live for is hope, pride, and dignity—priceless in every sense. They have endured the many years of waiting for the US Government to compensate them for answering the Call to Duty. Some have even discounted their selfless sacrifices, questioned their integrity and dismissed their citizenship. Yet, they remained loyal and devoted to this Nation. This is an incredible study in courage and inspiration.

Major General Antonio Taguba, (Ret.) U.S. Army