In its newest exhibition, “Hard Earned: The Military Photographs of Stacy Pearsall,” opening Saturday, October 21, 2023, the Upcountry History Museum – Greenville County, a Smithsonian Affiliate, presents a rare look through the lens of a decorated combat photographer to remind visitors that war is not just what happens on the front lines, but also includes camaraderie, solitude, and patience.
Stacy Pearsall started her military career at age 17 when she enlisted in the Air Force. By age 21, her strong work ethic and commitment to overcoming obstacles earned her a place in the 1st Combat Camera Squadron (CONCAM), an elite unit of the Air Force that provides photographs of military operations to high-ranking government officials in order to inform decision making and preserve a historical record. In 2003, she was deployed to Iraq where she spent the next five years as a combat photographer taking more than 500,000 photographs in 41 countries. Due to injuries sustained while deployed, this recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and Air Force Commendation with Valor retired from military service.
One of only three women to ever receive the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Military Photographer of the Year award – and the only woman to earn it twice – Pearsall’s active-duty military service coupled with her understanding of its impacts gave her insight into military movement and action that resulted in images that depict not the heat of battle as much as the quiet, haunting moments of combat. For example, images that show landscapes with lone or few figures and speak to an experience fraught with hidden dangers and hours spent alone in unforgiving territory offer a contrasting visual to the typical battle action scenes.
In partnership with Syracuse University, this exhibition has been designed to present both Pearsall’s combat photos and veterans’ portraits from different angles, drawing its content from her combat photography taken overseas on active duty in the Air Force, as well as her Veterans Portrait Project. “Hard Earned” is on display from Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, through Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. In addition, military objects and archival materials on loan will be included with this experience.
Upcountry History Museum
The Upcountry History Museum is located at 540 Buncombe St., in Greenville, S.C. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sunday from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 864-467-3100 or visit www.upcountryhistory.org.