We had the good fortune of connecting with Christopher Oshana and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christopher, what do you attribute your success to?
There are many factors behind my success, one has been the support of the Arts Community, without their guidance, critique and friendship I would not have been able to make my project possible. “PTSD, The Invisible Scar” has been such a success, because of my Brothers and Sisters (fellow Veterans), they have are the ones the need the help and I have been able to bridge the gap between Veteran and Artist by allowing them to open up and be extremely candid with me during our interviews. The most important factor though is my ability to listen to the stories they have to share.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One of the things that I am most proud of is my “PTSD, The Invisible Scar” project, I have been able to help some Veterans with their Post Traumatic Stress. I have interviewed and listened to many stories of extremely traumatic experiences like the death of friends, being hit be incoming weapons fires to the lack of support from family and medical professionals. Has it been easy, by no means. I have had to stop interviews because I would get upset and started to lose concentration. The only way to overcome that challenge was to take a break. Lessons learned have been many, I had to learn lighting and the effects that studio lighting would play on the final product as well as pulling out the emotions in the photo, because I had only used studio lighting a few times in college. The biggest piece was ensuring the Veteran trusted me and that I was not out to do this project for myself and that I had their interest in mind. So, the rapport building process was a key factor. The good thing about the rapport building is that I had a common attribute with them, I am a veteran myself. I next had to learn how to pitch and promote the project. I started writing notes from time to time and finally put them all together. I edited it, let it stew, edited it, and let it stew and edited it again. I finally got something I could work with and needed veterans to volunteer. Which met getting the info to the people, I looked to craigslist, FB, Google+, as well as other social media and veterans groups. The actual curation of the installation was another factor that I had no idea of the process, so I asked Justin Germain (the curator of the monOrchid Gallery at the time) what I needed to do. The advice was to print about 30 5X7 prints and laying them out to see what I wanted to view to see, i.e. the emotions of the condition. The project is not about me, yes I may be receiving all of the accolades, but it is the raising of awareness and hopefully putting money where needed the most.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think first off I would have to go Eagle Tail Mountain Wilderness and hike the Ben Avery Trail, then go out to Arlington, AZ and finally make our way up to Perry Mesa to see some of the most beautiful Native American petroglyphs. We would have to eat a Tony’s in Avondale for some of the best Mexican food and finally I would take them out for a night on the town on Roosevelt Row.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There is a group of people out there that definitely need some recognition and that is our Veterans, without them I would not be able to do what I am doing, but Wayne Rainey, I wish I was eloquent at writing, but here I go. He took a HUGE chance on a guy that lived almost half-way to LA, with 3 kids living at home, a job and going to college. I will never be able to THANK him enough for it. Without his support I would not have been able to meet the people that has shaped me as a person and as a photographer. Many people throughout the Phoenix area have not truly seen the side of him that I have, and I am so proud of that fact. Without him in my corner I truly feel that I would have not been this far in my career. Through our many conversations on politics, religion, LGBT issues (which I never thought I would ever have), immigration issues, Art and of course Veteran/Military issues and have been able to embrace new ideas and opinions.
Brad, Chris, Danee, Ricardo, Omar, Peter, Travis, Zue