Always Loyal is not an ordinary book about veterans. Instead, photographer Michael Stokes decided to treat his amputee models just like any other model during a photo shoot.
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) July 12, 2015
“Why can’t an amputee be shot with glamour?” he asked. “These veterans were making themselves vulnerable and deserved to be treated like any other model. If they can handle it, why not?”
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) July 15, 2015
Alex Minsky, an amputee vet and aspiring fitness model, met Stokes on another photo shoot. But the encounter stuck with Stokes, who decided to photograph amputee vets with “a strong sense of empowerment – and serious sex appeal.” Stokes set up a Kickstarter fund, which reached its goal of almost $50,000 in an hour. He earned $324,049 during the entire campaign. He donated some of the money to the charity Veterans of Foreign Wars.
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) May 3, 2015
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) July 8, 2015
“Some people will say to me, ‘Oh, this is really helpful to their self-esteem,’ or, ‘You’re making them feel like men again,’” he told MTV. “And I hear all these types of commentMs [sic] and 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.”
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) July 7, 2015
Veterans from the Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War modeled for the book. He noticed these models worked harder than any other models he worked with on previous photo shoots.
A question I have been seeing. Will vets be in both books? Yes, the racier photos will be in Exhibition. pic.twitter.com/6pwIvDJuzR
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) July 6, 2015
“Amputees work harder,” he told People Magazine. “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.”
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) April 25, 2015
He also received many thanks from the veterans. One soldier told Stokes the photo shoot “was the best day of my life. I could never imagine doing something like this. Being naked in front of somebody for so long — it’s an incredible experience.”
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) June 29, 2015
Stokes brushed off any criticism of the pictures due to nudity or guns. He said he had no interest in changing his mind to appease others.
— Michael Stokes (@Stokes_Photo) June 27, 2015
“Some people didn’t think that it was dignified for soldiers to be partially nude,” said Stokes. “Others complained about guns in the photos, or some of the guys smoking cigarettes. I’m far more interested in pleasing my model and staying true to my concept than being politically correct.”