PORTLAND — Integrity. Courage. Endurance. Character.

We, as Americans, hold these values dear, but rarely have time to reflect on them.

Over a three-year period, photographer Jerry Robinov worked to capture the depth of the human spirit as seen in the eyes and expressions of Maine’s service men and women.

The resulting 34 black-and-white portraits of those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are on display in Robinov’s “Faces of War: A Photographic Essay Exhibition” at the University of New England Art Gallery.

The show, which includes comments by each featured soldier displayed on the wall, and a retrospective exhibit of Robinov’s work over 20 years on the gallery’s second floor are a celebration of life.

Two common threads run through the men and women’s comments — each soldier found an inner strength when facing the brutality of war and each is proud to have served the United States.

Robinov worked on the “Faces of War” exhibit with the Community Counseling Center, a Portland organization that provides mental-health services to veterans, service men and women, and their families. He died on Aug. 8. His family completed the project.

Robinov’s compassion, love of life and generous spirit live on in his penetrating and powerful photographs.

“With one in four veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Jerry recognized this project as a necessary and relevant story to tell,” the Community Counseling Center notes in its exhibit brochure.

While viewing the exhibit, Master Sgt. George Yanez, a soldier whose photograph is in the exhibit, entered the museum with his family. Yanez, who lives in Whitefield, shared some of his thoughts:

“I grew up in Juarez, Mexico, which has the reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in America because of its gangs, drugs, chaos and violence. Many of my friends were killed or went to prison. I decided to take a different direction.

“I found in the United States Army — structure, discipline and a secondary family. I served with many of the soldiers in this exhibit, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. I developed a bond with them which will never be broken. The common thing I share with my buddies is a pride in representing America.”

Yanez said he chose to move to Maine because of its natural beauty and peaceful environment.

Through Robinov’s photographs, we see beyond the facts of war published in newspapers and textbooks. We get a glimpse of some of the emotions felt by the men and women who bravely serve their country.

“As long as I can remember, Dad had a camera in his hand. He was always taking pictures of something. But it wasn’t until about 20 years ago with his first one-man show, ‘Faces and Places,’ that we all started to realize how talented he was,” Robinov’s son, Gary, wrote in the Community Counseling Center brochure.

The retrospective exhibit features 26 photographs and focuses on people as well as landscapes. “Robinov’s photos focus on important issues of our times like cancer, mental illness and the sacrifices of those in the service,” said Stephen Halpert, curator of the UNE Gallery.

One of my favorite photographs is a beautiful, snowy scene of Deering Oaks showing a bridge in a wooded area. With this peaceful scene, Robinov captured the quiet strength and beauty of Maine.

Robinov’s photographs will be displayed through Feb. 12 at the gallery at 716 Stevens Ave. Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; and 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free. For more information, call 221-4499.

Pat Davidson Reef has a master’s degree in education and has written two children’s books, “Dahlov Ipcar, Artist,” and “Bernard Langlais, Sculptor.”


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