VIP Profile: Chris Reese / The Frontline Photographer

Words by Liesel Schmidt

Photography by Chris Reese

Life is precious, war is constant + beauty can be born out of calamity

An avid photographer from an early age, Chris Reese was lucky to have a front-row seat to some of the most spectacular images of the Middle East conflict during his military career. Those scenes brought home not only the moments of war, but the moments of peace. When he was called to active duty in 2003 with the Marine Corps 4th Civil Affairs Group based out of Anacostia Naval Station, Reese owned a business that included a focus on digital photography and video production. Naturally, when he left for war, he took his camera with him.

By then, Reese had been a Marine for 11 years—serving from 1992. He would eventually serve 12 more years until 2015, mostly as a reservist. Because the Marine unit didn’t have a billet for a combat correspondent, the job fell to Reese. “Over my seven-month deployment and additional three months of activation, I shot over 2,500 photos and collected hundreds from my fellow Marines,” Reese explains. “The result was simply a video ‘cruise book’ of our tour of duty that was shared with everyone in the unit. Consequently, my work caught the eye of others and by 2005, we turned these photos into a traveling tour that visited cities across the country over the next two years. The exhibit caught the eye of the media branch of the [the] Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, and they recruited me to join the combat correspondents’ group. My final years in the Corps were spent supporting national public affairs and community outreach events.”

It was the subjects of the photos that made such an impression, and Reese has his favorites among them. “The first is an elevated shot of the ancient Babylonian walls in the foreground with the newer Saddam-built walls off in the distance,” he says. “It is a reminder that [in] over 3,000 years of history, life is precious, war is constant and beauty can be born out of calamity. The second is a shot I took on our second day in Kuwait, when our camp fell under rocket and missile attack. A projectile landed 300 yards from our tent and sent a mushroom cloud high into the sky. Not knowing if it released deadly toxins into the air, we donned our gas masks and ran to the closest bunker, where we sat for two hours. I shot this image looking down the line of Marines hunkered tight, rifles in hand, waiting for the next move. It reminds me that life can often suck, but if you are mentally and physically prepared, you can overcome tremendous obstacles.”

Since 2006, Reese owns and operates Revolve Solutions, LLC, located in Old Town, Alexandria. The service-disabled veteran-owned small business is now also a government contractor and has pivoted to be a services company focused on strategic communications, IT portfolio analysis, training and education.