Between the ages of 21 and 27, military photographer Stacy Pearsall captured over 500,000 images across 41 different countries. She is the first woman ever to win the Military Photographer of the Year twice, "giving the boys a run for their money."
Growing up with a love for photography and also born into a long line of military men and women, it was no surprise that when Stacy turned 17, she joined the United States Air Force, signing on to take photographs on the front lines of combat. She trained at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) outside of Washington, DC and then headed to Nebraska for four years working with the Joint Intelligence Center to process thousands of feet of infrared spy plane film. At only 21 years old, she was then accepted to the elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron based in Charleston, South Carolina.
"That's when my photography career really started," Stacy said. "My first few months on the squad were the most challenging, personally and technically as a photographer. I learned how to ingest digital files from the camera and transmit them via satellite all over the world, how to take images from the open ramp of a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft at 14,000 feet, how to fire a weapon on a target while moving, how to tactically drive armored vehicles, and how to navigate terrain using only a topographical map and a compass."
Stacy admits that as a female, the pressures to succeed were real and challenged her to deliver without fail. "As a woman, I felt the pressure to perform without error because I had the critical eyes of my male peers watching me closely – always ready for me to make a mistake. It drove me to work harder and harder."
In 2003, Stacy was sent to her first combat mission in Iraq. She then traveled to Somalia, Lebanon, and back to Iraq. She spent a total of 280 days a year away from home covering Special Forces operation and humanitarian relief missions. But all the while, her purpose was clear:
"My primary goal was getting real-time combat imagery from the battlefield to the Joint Combat Camera Center in Washington DC. The President, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff used my pictures to make informed decisions on military tactics and maneuvers in the battle space. The photos were also disseminated to news agencies such as the Associated Press and Getty Images and were picked up by several newspapers, magazines and online newsgathering sites."
Stacy's portfolio expanded to include hundreds of thousands of photos, which she put all on her hard-drive - all vulnerable to the dangers of her surroundings. As she headed off on her last deployment in 2007, she realized that if in harms way, her photos could be destroyed in an instant. That's when she turned to PhotoShelter as a safehaven for her work. And it was a good thing she did.
"During my last combat engagement, I was awarded one of the military's highest honors, the Bronze Star, for saving the life of several soldiers during an enemy ambush in Iraq. However, I was wounded in action too and flown to a field hospital, leaving behind my camera equipment and storage units. As I lay in the hospital bed, I began to wonder what was going to happen to all of my hard-earned images and would I ever see them again. Then I thought to myself, at least I have them saved on PhotoShelter."
Now far from combat zones and working as a photographer, hosting workshops, and addressing influential military leaders, celebrities, former presidents, and Fortune 500 companies as a keynote speaker, Stacy knows firsthand the importance of an effective online portfolio and website. She thanks PhotoShelter for the capabilities to present and showcase her work to people all over the world. Today, her clients include the Air Force Recruiting Service, Army Recruiting Service, Associated Press, Barnes and Noble, BBC, Boeing, CNN, Columbia Museum of Art, Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, PBS, USA Today, among a long list of others.
"I love PhotoShelter," Stacy said. "I started really utilizing the website features and gave my clients their images in a timely, easily-downloadable way – no more cd's, dvd's, hard drives and shipments. My site is a simple clean white background with a few featured galleries and a nameplate at the top, which I created independently with my brand colors and design. I linked my blog and new education facility, the Charleston Center for Photography's, website. On my business cards, I've showcased my PhotoShelter site so potential clients and students may see my most up-to-date images and videos."
Stacy also takes advantage of social media platforms to market her work and uses PhotoShelter's sharing features to post new images to Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. "I'm heavy into social media and I find it's a neat way to showcase my work without having to upload my work directly to those sites," Stacy said. "This also allows viewers to purchase prints of any featured image with just a click of a button."
Today, Stacy continues to host workshops and lectures, speaking about her experience in the lines of combat. Aside from her educational ventures and photography assignments, she also raises awareness for disabled veteran's groups.
"During my rehabilitation after I was injured, I started a portrait project, which featured veterans from South Carolina," Stacy said. "I photographed vets from WWII all the way to Vietnam and the current conflicts. I'm continuing this project all over the U.S. My time on the battlefield has provided me an appreciation for life and an infatuation with photography. No matter what happens, I'll continue to push myself."