The most meaningful things in life start with a vision. For Navy spouse and professional photographer Amanda Manupella, her own experience living through over a dozen deployments did just that. Her vision was to tell the stories of the beauty that takes place in the quiet moments of life.
Manupella began photographing deployed service members families in what she has aptly named, The Deployment Sessions, in June 2016. The idea came to her after her second daughter was born and her husband was deployed a majority of the first two years of her life.
“I realized that there was so much that was undocumented in our life and how much he was missing and it felt unfair. It was so heavy on my heart and I realized that it would have been really great to have someone document some of the simple moments of our life and that is how The Deployment Sessions were born,” Manupella explained.
The service started with five families that she photographed at no cost. The families were nominated to take place in the inaugural sessions and had to be in the middle of an active deployment.
“I wanted to be able to give these deployed soldiers memories so they could see what was going on in their families daily lives while they are gone. I wanted them to feel like they could witness the little moments like bath time or dinnertime or even a soccer game,” the photographer said.
Though deployments are a way of life for many active duty military families, that does not make the days tick by any faster or lighten the load on their hearts caused by the months apart. While Manupella cannot grant the gift of time back for her clients, she is able to preserve a few of those lost everyday moments.
“I come into my client’s home and just ask them to live life and I photograph it. I do not expect a clean house, it is a judgement free zone. I tell them if they need to change a diaper or empty the dishwasher, then do it and I follow along. I get to spend so much time with them and learn their stories.”
After the session, Manupella compiles the photographs as black and white images in her online gallery and sends the gallery to the spouse and the deployed service member. The photos are a surprise for the service member to whom she also sends a heartfelt letter that explains who she is and tells the story of her session with their spouse.
“I tell the service member that they are missed and loved and that what they do is important and that they are shaping young minds and supporting their family. I thank them for their service and tell them that what they do is not an easy task and I remind them how much of a rockstar their spouse is,” she said. “They can access the images the whole time they are gone. Through good days and bad days, when they are missing home and their family.”
The feedback from clients that have done a deployment session has been very positive. Amanada Cascarano is a military spouse whose husband was on 9 month deployment when she had her deployment family life documented by the photographer.
“The photos from our session and what Amanda wrote to my husband brought me to tears,” Cascarano said. “We did our session right when we were doing bath and snack and bed. It’s the little things that everybody misses out on that you do not think about.”
Manupella has noble goals for The Deployment Sessions. She hopes to spread the word about the service and expand beyond the District of Columbia and Maryland area where her family is stationed. While the initial sessions she did when she launched the service were at no cost for the families, that is not a sustainable option as a business owner. She hopes to find businesses to partner with to offer the service to more families.
“I cannot do it for free because of my own costs that I incur. Until I am able to find sponsors, I have to charge for it. My goal is to find sponsors for these sessions so the families do not have to pay for it,” she stated. “My long-term goal is for this service to be offered at every base. I would love to hire other military spouse photographers to carry forth this vision.”
Manupella has found a way to make deployed service members feel present when they cannot be physically present because as we all know, it is the little things in life that count.