A captain poses in both her Air Force uniform and in civilian clothes

Through the lens: “Profiles in Bravery”

By 1st Lt. Holli Nelson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Victoria Dyson poses for a studio photo in uniform
Deployed photograph of Staff Sgt. Victoria Dyson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock/Released)

Every day, our Airmen at The Rock put on their respective uniform that signifies their service in the United States military. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines are all represented among this small deployed location, but they each are special and Staff Sgt. Victoria Dyson is bringing their stories to life through her photography while here.

Dyson, the 386th medical control center NCO-in-charge, created a project called “Profiles in Bravery” depicting deployed troops stationed here at The Rock.

“I created this project because I feel there is a difference in who we are when we put on our uniforms, versus who we are in our personal lives,” said the Pullman, Washington native. “When we put on our uniforms, it alters the way we talk, the way we treat others, the way we engage with our peers, the way we carry ourselves. I wanted to showcase that who we are as military members is more than simply what we wear to work.”

An Airman poses in his firefighter gear and in civilian workout clothes.
“Profiles in Bravery” photograph by Staff Sgt. Victoria Dyson. The project captures who Airmen are on and off-duty. (Courtesy photo)

Dyson got the idea to start this project one day while watching a movie at the theater, noting that ideas pop into her head all the time, but she felt a particularly strong need to pursue this project. The objective of “Profiles in Bravery” is to depict service members in their military capacity and in their civilian life as well.

“I just hope to capture two distinct parts of our service members’ lives; to capture their passions in a single image and to show what motivates and drives our people to be a part of the greatest military in the world,” said Dyson a seven-year Air Force veteran.

She began her journey with “Profiles in Bravery” by reaching out to her co-workers in the medical group. When she started to receive an overwhelming response, it was time to take the project beyond the range of her peers. She then began reaching out to other Airmen on the base and to service members in the Army, Marines and Navy.

“When we are in our uniforms, we are all part of a huge machine that has so many different parts and has the ability to move seamlessly, but to the public when we are in uniform we are simply our ranks,” noted Dyson, who deployed from Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “By having them [military members] take off their uniform and photograph them doing something they love, something they get excited about, that offers a chance to show who they are as an individual.”

An Air Force captain is shown on duty for her medical job as well as in civilian clothes showing her passion of working out
“Profiles in Bravery” photograph by Staff Sgt. Victoria Dyson. The project captures who Airmen are on and off-duty. (Courtesy photo)

As an underlying message to tie into her photos, Dyson has each subject write out a short narrative describing why they serve. These words offer an intimate look into each person’s individual story as to why they put on the uniform and choose to serve their county, adding depth to each photo shoot she accomplishes.

“My goal is simply to offer a glimpse into our service members lives and to share the unique reasons that motivate them to do what they do,” she said.

Dyson has been pursuing photography for some time after discovering her innate talent during a deployment in 2008. While overseas, she captured her experiences on film and received great responses from people that she shared her images with. It wasn’t until 2010 that she began getting serious about honing her photography skills when she purchased her first digital single lens reflect (DSLR) camera.

Now that she’s had the opportunity to deploy again, she’s taking advantage of her skills and telling the stories of military members across the base. She has taken advantage of many mentors along her journey in photography and has worked hand-in-hand with Stephanie Reeder, a long-time photography idol of Dyson’s.

“I was so incredibly excited to meet her, and she was just as amazing in person as I thought! She is so driven, largely self-taught, has amazing work, and is kind and generous with sharing her experiences and tips with other photographers,” Dyson noted.

When not deployed or spending time with her husband and son, Dyson enjoys taking photographs outside of her Air Force job through her private photography business. She plans to continue capturing those special moments in people’s lives through photos and developing her artistic abilities.

And to answer the question she asks every military member she photographs, she serves to further her education and career experiences, to travel, help others, and serve as a positive role model for her sisters while also helping reach out to teens that have grown up in troubled homes.