50 Portraits, One Collective Voice: Cade Martin reveals the character of Vietnam Pilots in Over War.

“In November 1982, I was in tears watching these men welcoming themselves home after almost ten years of not being acknowledged by their country for their service, their sacrifice.”

Maya Lin, commenting on the Homecoming parade and
Dedication of the Vietnam War Memorial

By Missy Hunter

Wars have been part of the United States’ fabric since its founding, with the Civil War having the highest number of casualties of an estimated 750,000 souls. Since the Civil War, our country has observed Memorial Day in remembrance of the military members who have fallen for our country. Numerous stories of war have been told throughout the years, with a more significant number yet to be shared; needing to be unearthed – enter Cade Martin. Cade has a thirst for collecting stories where he regularly chases characters, flying on a moments notice to capture emotions, connections, truths, and stories yearning to be told.

Throughout Cade’s life, one notion has repeatedly bubbled to the surface and has now become one of his mantras,

“If you never move beyond your comfort zone, never scratch that itch, you will never find the beauty that lies in the unfamiliar.”

After a series of conversations, phone calls, research and as a result of embedding himself among a group of Air Force Pilots at a reunion, Cade created a portrait series called Over War, documenting the F105 Thunderchief pilots of Operation Rolling Thunder, from the Vietnam War.

Cade’s modus operandi often finds him creating a pop-up studio right in the middle of the action.

“I have used a similar approach before, renting space and setting up a booth. I like to go to the source for these group portrait projects, embed myself in the area and community they share.”

Set up in a conference room, over the course of three days, Cade and his crew pulled each pilot aside during breaks in their conversations to create visuals. Cade reflects on this painstaking journey,

“I stood with my camera among these pilots who have not forgotten any detail of how and why they are connected.”

The pilots who flew the missions of the most massive aerial bombing campaign in U.S. history were also part of the most controversial event in history as well. These heroes have remained mostly silent. This project not only tells the visual tale but gives voice, likely made public for the first time, to the experience and thoughts the pilots were having during this trying time.

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While Cade has many personal projects under his belt, Over War is one of the most in-depth thus far. What started as a series of Air Force pilot portraits evolved into a historical account of the Vietnam War from an airborne perspective. Fifty years later, the Operation Rolling Thunder story was told, connecting the pilots’ experience to their portraits and naming the valiant Thunderchiefs. Over War was a project that redefined collaboration for Cade; the result of the true dedication of time, energy, resource, and heart by so many.

Cade’s youthful spontaneity fueled him to tell this story through portraits.

“As they talked to each other, and then later through our interviews, I heard the things said echoed in what I saw through my lens – brotherhood, support, joy, pain, pride, and life.”

It’s not enough to say this project was personal. In Cade’s words,

“It was an honor – and an extraordinary privilege to be a witness to this gathering, listening to the conversations and banter buzzing through the room. These men, cut from a rare cloth – are living links to our collective history.”

To learn more about these stoic men link here. Stay tuned for a future installment of the Evolution of Over War, behind the scenes of Cade’s fly-on-the-wall experience.

As Memorial Day approaches, let us tip our caps to those that gave their lives for our country, and to the many among us still carrying their stories. Thank you Cade, for conveying this one.

Follow Cade on Instagram to see more imagery of Cade chasing characters, stories and finding beauty in the unfamiliar.

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