Local photographer takes pride in ‘Portraits of Honor’

Updated: Nov. 10, 2019 at 9:53 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - When Jeffrey Rease sits down to work, the eyes of history stare back.

“I’ve always loved doing portraits,” says Rease.

As a graphic designer, Jeff Rease only took pictures as a hobby. But now he’s found a calling in it. His campaign, Portraits of Honor, makes us take a closer look at the men who fought for our country.

For the last seven months, Rease has taken portraits of World War II veterans—free of charge—as his way of giving back, inspired by an acquaintance of his doing the same thing overseas.

“Growing up I read stories and books about World War II ace pilots and bomber crews and it was just fascinating,” he says.

Before April of this year, Rease never knew any WWII veterans. Now he knows 65.

"When you know somebody finally and you don't just read stories about them in a book or a magazine, it makes it that much more real."

Those stories no longer just in the pages of books but now shared first-hand by the men who lived them.

"Listening to their stories is priceless."

And boy, has he heard stories, like the one about Army Medic Sgt. Ray Lambert.

"He had saved so many guys previous to D-Day, but also on that day, mostly pulling guys out of the water just out from the beach and a Higgins Boat, one of the landing craft came over and dropped his door right on top of them and it broke his back. He'd already been wounded three times, but he prayed to God that he could just rescue this one guy, this one last guy, and at that time the boat moved back off of him and he was able to pull the guy out before he lost consciousness."

Rease walks away from every session heavy with history, in awe of the men he gets to meet.

"Not just that I get to meet these people and get to know them and their stories but that other people get to know them and honor them and salute them for what they did."

Each one insisting they aren't heroes.

“They just say, all I did was I did my job as I was trained to do. And they did it very well.”

Rease says he still calls them heroes. You can read more about these veterans and see their portraits on his website https://www.portraitsofhonor.us/.

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