Buffalo State granddaughter of Vietnam vet displays his photography in exhibition


James Janik/The Record

Kenneth L. swain Jr.’s collection of photographs include photos taken in Japan and Taiwan. They serve as historical views into different cultures.

Joseph Morganti, Reporter

SUNY Buffalo State is presenting “Through a Soldier’s Eyes: My Grandfather’s Cultural Journey” until Sept. 18 in the E. H. Butler Library Information Commons Circulation Desk Gallery.

The exhibition is a selection of prints from an amateur photographer, Kenneth L. Swain Jr., took during his experiences from Japan and Taiwan where he served as an aircraft mechanic during the Vietnam War from July of 1965 to January of 1967. The pictures were created while exploring the countries with friends from the service, and new Taiwanese friends Swain made during his service.

The slide transparencies created during his service were and still are able to show his cultural experiences to anyone. Especially when Swain returned home to Buffalo.

The exhibition is created by his granddaughter and Buffalo State master’s student, Amanda Niemi, who felt the pictures taken by her grandfather should be ”preserved from further damage” in order to present them in her master’s project. Niemi chose to scan over 400 slides, which created digital copies of each slides. Being digital, it created the opportunity to be able to print the slides and easily show anyone who wishes to view them.

“I wanted to create a display dedicated to my grandfather because he’s my role model,” Niemi said. “He’s always been there for me and I’ve learned so much from him, from teaching me how to cook to teaching me about his photography interests. So in return for all of his help and guidance throughout my life, I wanted to be able to honor him in a way that highlighted his passion and life hobby of photography.”

“I also wanted viewers to see and understand the importance of preserving family heritage. The slide collection is 50 years old and the condition of the slides have deteriorated, so preserving them for my grandfather and my family was most important. Scanning the slides and creating digital copies has also made it easier to share with the family.

“Several times before, my grandfather had set up the projector and screen to show slides to the family, but it was such a big task. With the slides now in digital format, I can give my family copies of those photographs for them to keep and use to their hearts’ content and that means the most to me.”

The small selection of prints displayed in the exhibition, which were selected by Niemi “as the best representation of cultural experiences held by Mr. Swain.”

Pictures from the exhibition include a “Two Cup Ride” located “On Some Roof” in Japan in 1966, and a drill in a Taiwanese base trying to create a well in Taiwan in 1966. Other pictures include main streets of Japanese and Taiwanese cities, civilians, statues, buildings, pictures of Swain himself and pictures of Swain’s aircraft base.

“I think the pictures make it aware just how culturally different we are in just separate countries in the same planet, and that we should all respect each culture because we are all unique and great in different ways,” said Buffalo State student Reilly Kelly.

The exhibition is half of a component to Niemi’s master’s project, with a written paper as the second half of her master’s project. For more information, Niemi’s business cards

are located at the exhibition itself.

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