Man at His Best

These Photographs Provide A New Look At Military Life In The US

This was the first time that Instagram facilitated embedding photographers with the military. The project was developed at the request of the Marine Corps in a push to expand its social media presence and make use of the Instagram platform more successfully.

BY ELIZABETH GRIFFIN | May 31, 2016 | Culture

When the USS Bataan (LHD-5) recently arrived in New York City, it carried with it hundreds of marines and four photographers to capture daily life aboard the amphibious assault ship. Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Anthony Geathers, Pablo Unzueta, and Balazs Gardi spent three days shooting scenes from the sea as the vessel made its way from Norfolk, Virginia to join Fleet Week festivities in New York.

This was the first time that Instagram facilitated embedding photographers with the military. The project was developed at the request of the Marine Corps in a push to expand its social media presence and make use of the Instagram platform more successfully. The specific idea of the embed was born of a 'brainstorm session' between the Corps and Instagram, who then made the introduction of the photographers to the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Esquire reached out to these photographers to get an inside perspective on their work.

Anastasia Taylor-Lind:

"I accepted this opportunity because I am excited about making my Instagram audience my primary audience for my work," says Taylor-Lind. "This is my first shoot back at work after a year away from photography on the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard where I have been researching how to tell war stories in a more personal way.”


Today is Memorial Day in the USA. I've spent the last week embedded with the Marines together with photographers @balazsgardi @anthonybgeathers @pablounzueta_ and shooting exclusively on my iPhone for my Instagram audience. Of all the people I met here, Corporal Rachel Warford stands out for me as the embodiment of bravery in the US Marines. Rachel joined up at 18. She told me "My dad was a marine. My grandpa was a marine. That's why”. She is from Shelbyville, Kentucky, which she describes as “A 2 road city”. And continues, “We have a stop light now”. Rachel is gay and has been married to her wife for 4 years. She talked to me about the challenges of being gay in the military “We got married the year gay marriage was legalised. For the Marines it got okayed end of 2013. So till then I couldn't even put that I was married on my paper work. It's still not ok. It's the higher-ups. The thing they don't know is there has always been gay people in the military. Boot camp was fucking terrible about that”. Rachel is going to re-enlist next year, which means she'll stay in the Marines for another 4 years. She describes being in the corps as being part of a family "It's a brotherhood. It's one of those things where you are not doing anything alone. You are a Marine 24/7. It's not just work, you know?". Here she is lining up for a run together with her unit in Manhattan, New York City. She is my hero #inspiring #outsideofthebox #backatwork #marines #fleetweekNYC

A photo posted by Anastasia Taylor-Lind (@anastasiatl) on






Marines take a ferry on the Hudson River in New York City. #backatwork #marines #fleetweekNYC

A photo posted by Anastasia Taylor-Lind (@anastasiatl) on



A Marine leans through sheets hung between bunk beds to create privacy in the male berthing (living quarters) aboard USS Bataan. I went down there at 6am to make pictures with my 3 male colleagues but since I am a woman, the Marine escorting us woke everyone up by shouting "Female on deck, female on deck" as is procedure. I was really embarrassed. And just stood there looking at the floor and feeling self conscious for a few minutes before I started working. Women are the minority in the military, women are the minority in photojournalism, and I've spent most of my adult life being the only woman in the room (or at least one of very few) Most of my colleagues are men, and my friends too. I don't mind, I'd just forgotten about this during my sabbatical at Harvard. #backatwork #fleetweekNYC #marines

A photo posted by Anastasia Taylor-Lind (@anastasiatl) on


"Over the last decade my work has often focused on war and post-conflict," explains Taylor-Lind. "My first book MAIDAN – Portraits from the Black Square came out in 2014 and documented the fighters and mourners of the Euromaidan revolution. It was in Maidan that my wholehearted engagement with social media really began, and where I started using Instagram as a creative tool, not just as a social media platform." 






"This is the first time I have shot exclusively on my iPhone for social media dissemination and it is a totally new way of working for me," says Taylor-Lind. "I usually photograph on an analogue film camera and work for monthly magazines with a long lead time.  Shooting on an iPhone creates a totally different work flow as a photographer: for a start, I am editing and then sharing the images on the same device they were made on, and also having to empty my camera roll 2-3 times a day. 

"Of course, posting to Instagram requires regularly reviewing and sharing images, which is usually something I wouldn't do till weeks later when I was home. It takes balls to post daily, instead of shoot for a month, developing a solid story, then sharing the 10 best pics once I know 100 percent what I am doing”

Anthony Geathers:

"I was chosen for this Instagram embed project because of my military background," says Geathers. "I served with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines as a machine gunner and was deployed to Afghanistan for four years (2009-2012).”



Last post for today is a history lesson. During Fleet Week, you may see the enlisted Marines from 3rd Battalion 6th Marines wear this uniform at ceremonies and other important events and out and about in NYC to steal the show at every turn.The details on the uniform are very specific. Starting with the green rope, it's actually the French Fourragere. A special award given to 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic valor and opening a can of whoop ass with the French during World War 1. Because of the momentous battles that the Marine Corps fought during the First World War, both Regiments were awarded this distinguished honor. The braided rope and spike represents the relentless fighting spirit and courage both Marine infantry regiments have shown and continue to display to this day in any conflict. So if you see a Marine with this on his uniform, know that he is a continuing part of history. The ribbons represent where, in this case Sgt. Damien Salaman has done and gone, to include being in combat in Afghanistan. The eagle, globe and anchor insignia device on the collar is a representation of the blood, sweat and tears he gave to earn the title of Marine. The red represents the blood that Marines past and present gave to fight to protect their love ones and to make sure their brother to left and right of them came home or died fighting like hell to get home. I still have my French Forragere to this day. Be sure to follow my fellow teammates of this dream team @anastasiatl @balazsgardi and @pablounzueta as they bring you other photos from our adventure shooting Fleet Week.📸:anthonybgeathers #documentaryphotography #usmarines #fleetweeknyc #ussbataan #details

A photo posted by Anthony B. Geathers (@anthonybgeathers) on



Third post of the week on this adventure..My man is holding down the fort on the USS Bataan while we start shooting pictures today! He's one of the sentries safeguarding the entry point to the flight deck just in case something goes wrong or someone wants to jump overboard or if the ship is under attack and the enemy send troops to take and/or destroy the ship and the crew. Captain Steve Rogers ain't on the ship so it's just this sentry,myself and the Marines that'll have to defend it lol!! All jokes aside, I'm gonna be sharing more pics with you guys as we go along on this crazy ride through my eyes! 📷:@anthonybgeathers #photojournalism #newwork #seethingsdifferently #usnavy #iphonephotography #makeportraits #tellstories #topflightsecurityoftheworldcraig

A photo posted by Anthony B. Geathers (@anthonybgeathers) on



So after we pulled into port after traveling from Virginia to NYC on the USS Bataan, you already know the Marines made a beeline straight to the hangar bay, so they can finally get off the ship.. For some Marines , this is home.. For others it's like Disneyland and they can't wait to see this beloved city. Oh yeah, they can smell that liquor like Wolverine too so watch out lol!! Plus I wanted to get a picture with them in that sharp ass uniform. Got more work coming from the pipeline. The other dream team members @balazsgardi @anastasiatl and @pablounzueta_ all got interesting stories they are telling on their accounts that y'all should check out.📸:@anthonybgeathers #newyorkcity #usmarines #fleetweeknyc #ussbataan #documentaryphotography #monochrome #photojournalism #iphonephotography

A photo posted by Anthony B. Geathers (@anthonybgeathers) on

"Because of my background, I focused on telling the world about some of the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines and on giving the audience insider access on the life and psyche of an infantryman. The experience helped with telling their stories through my camera."







"[Since] I mainly photograph athletes, I approached this project with an open mind and watched how my teammates were working," says Geathers. "I saw how the other photographers interacted with the sailors and how they made pictures and told stories. I noticed one of the photographers, Pablo Unzueta was taking notes while he was talking with one of the officers on board about why he joined. He was getting into the heart and soul of this officer."

"That's the approach I started using when shooting this project with the team and the major thing I learned from this experience. That, and, believe it or not, how to shoot with an iPhone. This project was first time ever that I took pictures with a iPhone. Oh, and I also learned that iPhones don't work in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

Pablo Unzueta:

Pablo Unzueta is a 22-year-old Los Angeles-based photographer who has been using Instagram to shine a spotlight on the issue of homelessness among veterans. This was his first time photographing active duty military personnel. "My approach was not to take thousands of pictures immediately," Unzueta explains, "but to take a step back and allow the situations to unfold organically.”