Fort Polk Community
Soldier seeks new purpose through photography
By Sgt. ASHLEYMORRIS
3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div PAONCOIC
FORT POLK, La. Sgt. Isaac Wright, the brigade religious affairs noncommissioned officer in charge, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, discovered that photography can be more than a way to capture memories. Photography has provided a much-needed outlet that led to resiliency through his most stressful times and helped him discover a new purpose in life.
“I joined the Army because I wanted to serve my country,” Wright said. “I wanted to be able to help people but I also wanted a way to pay for college and graduate without debt, travel the world and be independent from my parents.”
In the beginning of his career, things were going well professionally. After being in the Army for only two and half years, Wright was promoted to sergeant.
Unfortunately things were not going well in his personal life. Early 2017, Wright started experiencing problems at home that ultimately led to a divorce from his wife. As a result, his military work was starting to suffer.
“I knew that I needed to work through my issues, but my independent attitude sometimes clashes with the military,” said Wright as he recalled the first time he picked up a camera.
Wright began traveling on the weekends to clear his mind. Wright soon realized that he wanted to share the things he was seeing and experiencing through his travels.
“I was never really into anything artistic as a kid,” Wright said. “The first time I picked up a camera was September of 2017. The first camera I bought was a Nikon D3400 with a couple of kit lenses. I shot a few times here and there, but nothing serious.”
He realized that taking photos combined with traveling to new places was a good outlet for Wright releasing stress .
“Photography helps me work through the stresses of life and the military,” Wright said. “Art has given me an outlet to express myself during a time when I really didn’t have any other outlet.”
When he first arrived at Fort Polk in 2018, Wright had lost his passion for being a Soldier. The stress of reporting to a new unit and duty station so quickly after his previous issues led to him going out every weekend and shooting photos to decompress.
“When I got here I wasn’t excited about the Army anymore,” Wright said. “Although I was progressing pretty fast and performing well, I had lost my passion for being a Soldier.”
Wright was determined that he was not going to let his lack of motivation affect his work.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to let my personal issues spill over into my work,” Wright said. “When you’re a good chaplain’s assistant and you get really embedded in a unit, you can help Soldiers, leaders and an entire unit in a way that you really wouldn’t imagine.”
Wright said he knew that he was ultimately responsible for his own success or failure. It was up to him to put forth the effort and be proactive about helping Soldiers
“I was going to get to know the Soldiers in my unit and make sure that I was a contributing force,” said Wright fondly. “The six months that I was in 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment before moving to brigade were some of my favorite times in the Army. From the leadership on down, I felt like we were all very close. To this day I still have Soldiers from 2-4 approach me and it’s like nothing ever changed.”
Towards the end of 2018, Wright went to the battalion promotion board and was recommended for promotion to staff sergeant, after which he was moved to brigade.
Now a chaplain’s assistant at brigade, Wright says his change in responsibility is new territory that he is currently working through. At the brigade level, his duty position is more of a managerial role over the enlisted brigade’s battalion level unit ministry teams.
“Brigade is a different beast and atmosphere,” Wright said. “I’m still trying to find that balance between interacting with Soldiers directly and understanding my duties at the brigade.”
For Wright, that means finding any moment he can to decompress. He attributes photography to his ability to come back to work from weekends more focused and ready to accomplish any mission.
“Being in a busy unit, it can be hard to find time to shoot. I find myself becoming upset, angry, irritated or sad, if I am not able to work in any time for my photography. It has a very different significance than I think it does for other people. It keeps me going and I really can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Although he is progressing quickly through the Army, Wright has bigger plans for his photography.
For Wright, photography has become something he loves more than being a Soldier. It is no longer just an outlet to deal with stress, it has become something that he wants as a new career.
“I wish I could combine photography and my current job,” Wright said. “The creative side of me wants to focus on thinking outside of the box and finding new ways to approach something. Sometimes it feels like the military can stifle that creativity.”
Wright has spoken with several people about making photography a career and he has received mixed advice.
“People tell me I am stupid if I decide to get out since it looks like I will make staff sergeant in under five years,” Wright said. “I know that people won’t understand my goals and ambitions as it relates to making photography my life’s work, but that’s okay. As well as I work in the Army, I can put 10 times better work into photography and videography. I also believe that I can help people in other ways my art being one of them.”
With three years remaining in his contract, Wright is working on a vision that will allow him to make a career out of traveling and taking pictures of cityscapes and creating products that offer unique perspectives. Adventure photographer is his ultimate goal and it requires a lot of flexibility.
As far as the military, Wright does not want to completely hang up his uniform. If he decides to leave active duty, he would like to transition into the Army Reserves or the National Guard. This will allow Wright the opportunity to continue serving his country with the freedom to make photography into a full-time career.
“If I stay in and do everything right, take the right positions and attend the right schools, I would probably go all the way to the top of my corps,” Wright said. “For me that is not what it is about. I don’t believe you should make anything your life’s work that you don’t absolutely love.”
Wright currently maintains a YouTube Channel and Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to his photography. By having his work on social media it not only allows him to receive honest constructive feedback, it also helps him meet new people and make new friends.
“When I first started sharing my work, I tried to take myself out of the picture as much as possible,” Wright said. “Over time my work has evolved and now I want to tell my story using my pictures and videos. At the end of the day I want people know that if I can make it, they can make it too.”
When reflecting back on why Wright initially chose photography, he believes it had more to do with capturing the good moments in his life. According to Wright, art through photography has a way of connecting people better than anything else.
“Photography helped me at a time in my life where I did not think I could go on in a lot ways physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Wright. “It allowed me to conquer and rise above the bad things in my life. I want to inspire other people to do the same. I hope that through my photography and videos I am able to stir emotions that cause people to want to look objectively at the world around them and become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.”