Remember, by Roger Raepple; A Photographer's Tribute to our Military

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Remember, by Roger Raepple; A Photographer's Tribute to our Military
Remember, by Roger Raepple; A Photographer's Tribute to our Military

Photographer, Roger Raepple, and I met several years ago on a photography workshop in the Great Smoky Mountains. We shared a car most of the trip and so we got to know each pretty well over the course of the week. 

At one point, Roger asked if I was a veteran. I later learned that he often asked this of people he met on workshops because, if they were, he had a gift for them.

Even though I'm not a veteran, Roger and I "clicked" to the extent that he presented me with a copy of his book, Remember. I'm so glad he did. 

Roger's book is one of the most poignent collections of words and pictures that I've ever seen. I'll never forget going through it with Nancy in our dining room one Sunday morning. The combination of Roger's photos, quotations, and poetry (some of it Roger's), moved us both, summoning a deep emotional response.

Even though I don't have a military background other than my father serving in the Korean War, Roger's book informed me on an emotional,  intellectual, and psychological level about a topic that can be so very difficult for many of us to explore. 

As is written on the jacket cover, 

Remember, by Roger Raepple, is a heartfelt tribute to our military and to its service to our country. 

With Memorial Day coming, it seemed a good time to talk with Roger to learn more about the inspiration for this work, how he went about it, and what the response has been. 

Before going on, I need to share something about Roger. He is more internally motivated and inspired than any photographer I know. He is extraordinarly deliberate in his compositions and he does not seek input from others about what to photograph or how to photograph it. In fact, he will walk away or hum a tune if a group leader or workshop participant begins to discuss a particular scene. He does not allow himself to be influenced by others in what or how he photographs. I mention this because I think it's important when looking at Roger's work and especially the photographs in this book. When you see an image of his, know that what you see in the photograph is there because Roger chose for it to be there. His photographs are not arbitrary or accidental, but thoughtfully composed.

I hope you enjoy this interview. I also hope you will look at Roger's book and perhaps make a gift of it to someone close to you who will benefit from the sentiments expressed therein.

Interview with Roger Raepple

Roger Raepple

Rad: Roger, your book, Remember, which is a tribute to veterans and their families is unlike anything I have seen before. Where did the idea for the book originate?

Roger: A very close friend of mine told me that my images of military subjects – memorials, cemeteries and monuments – had a special feeling to them, something he could not define. He told me I needed to do something with them. That was the impetus for the project. I wanted to create a “message” book, one of respect and admiration for veterans and their families. As you know, each image is paired with words in the form of a poem, song lyric, quotation or brief essay, many from well-known poets who write about the ravages of war. The pairing idea came from my seeing a book where a landscape photographer added a poem of his own with each image.

Rad: Feedback shows that the book resonates with families of veterans, their spouses, children, parents, and siblings. It certainly resonated with Nancy and me. Was that your intent? 

Roger: The original intent of the book was to, hopefully, get non-veterans and their families to appreciate the sacrifices of veterans and their families that are made on behalf of all of us. I have a brother-in-law who is a retired Air Force pilot and a nephew that is currently in the Air Force serving as a pilot. And, a friend of mine had a son who served several tours in Afghanistan. I saw the sacrifices that families and extended families make when a spouse or parent or other family member is serving, especially when deployed overseas alone and away from their family – a strain on everyone. I think the sacrifices that families make are often unrecognized and unappreciated by the general public. I wanted to honor that sacrifice and bring attention to it.

Rad: How did you get your start in photography?

Roger: I went in the Army for four years right out of high school. My first permanent duty station was Fort Myer which is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. Two fellows in my barracks where amateur photographers and they introduced me to photography. I walked out the door of my barracks with a used Pentax camera onto Arlington Cemetery and took my first serious photographs. Even at eighteen I was moved by the scenes there and of the nearby Marine Corps Memorial. My two friends also introduced me to multiple exposures, something I remain very interested in and several appear in the book.

Rad: While I find each of the images in the book compelling, one resonates with me more than others. (Maybe because of my memory of seeing the Wall for the first time in 1983.) It's the double exposure of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Wall, and the Three Soldiers statue. Will you say how you came to make this photo?

Roger: On my first trip to the Wall many years ago I saw the couple in a very private moment. I did not want to intrude so I took the image from afar with a telephoto lens. Years later on a subsequent visit I noticed that the then newly erected Three Soldiers statue was located in almost the same spot that I had been standing when I took the first image of the couple. Loving multiple exposures because of the additional layer they provide, a story more readily told, I took the image of the Three Soldiers and combined the two images.

Rad: Your book was publicly released last November. How has it been received?

Roger: The most frequent comment I receive is that the combination of images with words associated with each image creates something quite unique where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Remember has received several national book awards and all the reviews, thus far, on Amazon have been very favorable. Most importantly to me, are the comments and letters I have received from veterans and family members of veterans. One of the most touching included this, writing about her father: “Thank you for honoring him and my memories! I’m the only one left who knew him but I’m trying to pass those memories on. I’m going to place his last letter, the telegram announcing his death, etc. in between the pages of your book to remind my family of his sacrifice and to tell his story after I’m gone."


In closing I want to say thank you to Roger Raepple for this remarkable body of work and for sharing through this interview with me.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from what Roger wrote about the Vietnam War Memorial photo that so resonated with me. Maybe the photo was made more impactful in part because of his words:

... If one place can evoke every emotion, this place can: anguish, contempt, remorse, bitterness, hatred, love, betrayal, fondness, warmth, forgiveness. The most hardened persons soften when they see the sought-after name, touch the name, think of that person. Some cannot go to see and touch. They start down the brick path and stop. They stop and then return to a more distant spot where a name cannot be discerned, where a blurred memory can be dealt with because a focused reminder is still too overhelming. 

On occassion a  person in a very private moment in this very public place will touch the name they sought, will lift a piece of paper to the etched name, a special name, and carefully will stroke the name with soft lead making a hazy tracing of a vivid life. – Roger Raepple


You will find Roger's book on Amazon here. Even if you don't plan to make a purchase, follow the link to read what others have said about Remember. If you do get the book, please write a review. 



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