Fitness-photographer Michael Stokes showcases wounded veterans in a whole new light with his collection of provocative images. The portraits feature young men and women who have suffered amputations and are often aided with a prosthetic arm or leg. Though they are missing a limb (or limbs), Stokes' subjects don't let their disabilities get the best of them. Instead, they use it as an opportunity to thrive in their new-found physique, appearing as strong and capable as those who are able-bodied.
The inspiration for Stokes' series came about two years ago, after an interaction with a veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan. “I met this veteran, Alex Minsky, and talked to him about different approaches to a portrait session,” Stokes told The Huffington Post. “I had already studied as many amputee photos that I could find. I noticed that most of them emphasized the lost limb, and that the mood was often sorrowful. That was not the vibe I was getting from him, so I decided to simply photograph him as if he were not an amputee, photograph him exactly the same way I would any of my fitness models.”
This simple shift in attitude blossomed into a new passion for Stokes, and he began photographing more amputees. Now, he's currently raising funds on Kickstarter for his book Always Loyal, which will feature photos of 14 U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War, Gulf War, and War in Afghanistan.
In his images, Stokes harnesses mankind's incredible ability to adapt and overcome adverse situations. “Some people will say to me ‘Oh, this is really helpful to [the veterans'] self-esteem,' or, ‘You're making them feel like men again,'” Stokes explained to MTV. “…The response I have to that is that 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.”