The Lone Star State is home to the unparalleled photojournalistic talent of Jeremy Lock, a retired United States Air Force (USAF) Master Sergeant Combat Photojournalist with 22 years of service.
Lock was born the oldest of four, growing up in a military family in Dayton, Ohio with a father who served as an officer in the USAF as an aeronautical engineer and a grandfather who served as a World War II chief. After being “politely asked to leave” college, Lock enlisted in the USAF. Aspiring to be an x-ray technician, Lock was assigned to image processing. It was here in the darkroom that he fell in love with the art of photography.
From there, the USAF sent him to study photojournalism, and he graduated from Syracuse University’s photojournalism program. The skills he learned, coupled with a hefty dose of self-motivation, resulted in an adrenaline-filled career as a combat photographer. Lock was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for distinguished service in Iraq. His hard work was also acknowledged by winning the Military Photojournalist of the Year an unprecedented seven times! His Air Force career allowed him to document battles, disasters, as well as everyday life in Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Haiti, Mongolia, and many other locations.
Lock’s passion lies in his intense determination to document moments that the world might not otherwise see. “My photographic journey is rooted in my ability to capture the essence and reality of humanity at its finest and at its worst,” Lock said. “I’ve captured everything from the hunt for Osama bin Laden, to the playful nature of our young military defending our freedom, and the plight of humans in search of food after the Haiti earthquake disaster.” He has a distinct photographic style that skillfully captures moments in such a way that creates connection across common human emotions. “It is an honor to be able to share my vision and hopefully foster awareness, understanding, and empathy,” Lock explained in an interview following his fifth award acceptance as Military Photojournalist of the Year.
Lock stated that in such a stressful, war-time atmosphere he was able to focus on getting great shots as a result of his extensive training. He talked about his body almost going into a state of autopilot when it needed to, and yet how valuable the dangerous situations were in order to document what the men and women of the U.S. military do overseas. He called it “an honor and a privilege” to tell their stories. Throughout the intense moments interwoven into his military career, Lock was motivated by the words of a mentor who told him, “If you really want to capture war, you capture it on the soldier’s face next to you.”
There is a very real inner struggle in combat photography between documenting the significant moments while also remaining safe and alive. Lock shared that he had tactical as well as strategic training to be an asset to the teams with whom he worked. “We could provide first aid, act as vehicle commander/ driver, fight, or act as a soldier in the stack, going into a house if the need arose. However, I saw myself as a photojournalist first, there to document and tell the stories of our Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen.” Lock recalled an innate sense of intuition that essentially told him when to put the camera down to stay safe or help out a team member.
In addition to his intense combat documentation, Lock covered the military humanitarian effort in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and in Japan following the 2011 tsunami. “Not only do I get to live my life, but I’ve been able to live the lives of those I photograph, even if it was just or a moment,” he said. “I thrive on sharing my experiences to remind myself and others that what I am doing is very important; the world needs to see it. I like to think the experiences haven’t changed me, but I know they have, and I’m thankful for that change. There is more to the world than what is outside your front door.” Lock has carried this sentiment forward into his civilian career.
Home in “The Big D”
Lock continues to develop his post-military career after retiring from the USAF in 2013. Working from his private studio in Dallas, he teaches some photography classes while pursuing passion projects. Additionally, he enjoys working with nonprofits and other charitable organizations and hopes that these will be seen as a call to action for others to engage with and support them as well.
In his independent endeavors, he enjoys being able to align his projects with his values. Annually, he likes to have one big personal project that he considers to enlighten his life; additionally, he likes to partner with two charities, one military and one civilian. One example of a past personal project is when he traveled to Kolkata, India in November of 2017 with a fellow retired military photographer friend. As the trip unfolded, they embarked on a photography challenge they later named Kolkata 24. They decided that they should document Kolkata for 24 hours, producing an image each hour. A local friend and photographer joined them and helped them around the city. The photo gallery from this trip is found on Jeremy’s blog. Lock traveled back to India in 2018 to continue working on a larger project yet to be revealed.
Currently displayed on his website is a collection Lock titled Twenty-One. To “encapsulate his 21 years as a combat photographer,” the artist selected 21 thought-provoking images from his time spent doing work for the military. According to his website, “They showcase his ability to imbed himself into the tragedies, celebrations, and everyday realities of our world.”
In early 2019, Lock partnered with the Warren Center in Richardson, Texas, whose mission is to advocate, serve, and empower children and families impacted by developmental delays and disabilities. Lock created a few pieces of art that were auctioned off at its gala, which raised over $10,000 for the agency. Lock’s blog shows a video project of a compilation of his work on this project, entitled Beautifully Broken. The artist described his experience of meeting and getting a glimpse into the lives of these families as seeing a “beauty in these children, not held down by their disabilities.”
On the technical side of his business, Lock continues to hone his craft by selecting areas in which to intentionally advance his skill set. One of those areas is experimenting with light. Historically, most of his photography has been done in natural light, and he has now been playing with studio lighting. On the teaching side, Lock’s instruction to his students is three-fold in creating a somewhat conditioned response to consistently produce high-quality images: first, fill the frame; second, control the background; third, wait for the moment. He explained that after a while, “Your mind just takes over.”
Lock’s presence on both the national and international stages certainly keeps him busy and definitely adds to his already impressive and extensive photographic (and recently directorial) résumé. However, he can still be found out and about his own neck of the woods in Dallas, capturing the beauty, sadness, struggle, and reality of local everyday lives. He recently documented several local rallies that occurred when the NRA convention took place, photographing protesters and supporters alike. When a buddy of his invited him to McKinney, Texas’s “Bike the Bricks” event, he grabbed his camera, and likely a beer in solid spectator spirit, and went out to see what the event was all about.
Lock has a vast portfolio of superior images with one thing in common: they freeze a moment in time in order to tell a story and evoke emotion. Lock strives for this connection and stated, “I hope that when people look at my work, they feel something.”
When asked which photograph is his favorite, he answered, “I haven’t taken it yet. I’m still waiting for that one.”