Members of the 325th Tactical Psychological Operations Company speak with locals along a roadside in Afghanistan. This photo and more by MTSU student Duran Bunch, a U.S. Army veteran, will be on display in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of MTSU)
A Middle Tennessee State University student turned U.S. Army veteran will let his camera tell the story of his service in Afghanistan in a new exhibit that opens this week inside the Todd Art Gallery on campus.
Duran Bunch, a junior marketing major, will be part of an opening reception on Wednesday, Aug. 28, for “Afghanistan: Through the Eyes of a Soldier,” which will be on display until Thursday, Sept. 19, in Room 210 of the Todd Building.
Bunch, a Nashville native, first came to MTSU as a biochemistry major straight out of high school in 2005. A modeling agent spied him in a Nashville store and whisked him into international fashion, where he worked in front of the lens as a model for the Wilhelmina Agency in New York, stalking down runways in Milan and Paris for designers John Galliano, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood and Tommy Hilfiger.
He traded in the designer garb for desert fatigues in 2009, joining the Army Reserve’s 325th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) as a specialist and winding up in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to support the 82nd Airborne in 2011 and 2012.
His unit was one responsible for the hearts and minds factor in U.S. military service, communicating American goals and offering help and support to local residents before the Taliban could make more inroads into the towns and villages.
Bunch, 25, bought a Pentax ZX-M 35mm camera and kept it and plenty of black-and-white film at hand throughout his tour of duty, using knowledge gained from working with renowned photographers Steven Klein and Steven Meisel to capture the documentary-style shots.
The result is a series of photos that depict the soldiers’ in-country experience in Operation Enduring Freedom, ranging from daily interactions with the Afghan people to routine missions that abruptly turned deadly.
Since his return to the states, Bunch has exhibited his photos, along with looped video footage from his helmet camera, at a Nashville gallery while he works toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and more appearances on the dean’s list. He’s also donating proceeds from sales of his prints to the Wounded Warrior Project.
His photographs and uniform also will be a part of an exhibit in the Tennessee State Museum featuring an historic look at military uniforms over the years. Bunch’s uniform will represent the current conflict
Todd Art Gallery exhibitions and receptions are always free and open to the public. The gallery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is closed on state and university holidays.