Michael Stokes, a 52-year-old Los Angeles-based photographer, is making headlines for clicking naked amputee war veterans. His portraits have a strong sense of empowerment – and serious sex appeal. The scintillating photos show how there’s a lot more to human spirit than an arm and a leg.
The idea for Always Loyal, a book that features stunning photographs of 14 different wounded United States Army, Navy and Marine veterans of The Gulf Wars, first came to Stokes more than two years ago when he met Alex Minsky, an amputee veteran who wanted to pursue a career in modeling. He agreed to shoot Minsky the way he would shoot any other professional model, with one goal in mind – to inspire others by seeing “people who’ve been dealing with disability and injuries their whole lives.”
“People will say it’s not dignified for a veteran to be clothed unnecessarily, but I don’t even respond. Other people will jump on the negative comments right away. They’ll say you’re missing the point. It’s about showing vulnerability and embracing their disabilities,” Stokes told E! News.
“Why can’t an amputee be shot with glamour? These veterans were making themselves vulnerable and deserved to be treated like any other model. If they could handle it, why not? Amputees work harder. One time I was at the beach and I told a [traditional] model, ‘Now we’re going to walk down to these rocks,’ and he was like, ‘Way down there? I’m not doing that.’ And I thought, even double amputees would drag themselves to the end of the beach if I asked,” Stokes told PEOPLE.
“Some people will say to me ‘Oh, this is really helpful to their self-esteem,’ or, ‘You’re making them feel like men again’. These guys have come to me very healed and ready to take the world on. I’m not giving them back their confidence. They already have it,” Stokes told MTV.
He’s currently raising money on Kickstarter to fund two large-scale, coffee table, art books – “Always Loyal” that features wounded US veterans, and “Exhibition” that features fitness models as well as veterans.
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