Capturing the human face of combat in pictures

(CBS News) FORT MEADE, Md. - Combat photographers have been making a visual record of America's wars for as long as there's been photography. Among them are Mathew Brady, who led the way in documenting the Civil War; and William Perkins, Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam. CBS News correspondent Bill Plante presents the work of the six-time Military Photographer of the Year who is continuing the tradition.

Air Force Master Sergeant Jeremy Lock knows what he's looking for when he aims his camera -- a human face, an act frozen in time, an image that tells a story.

"You look for the moment, that brief second," said Lock. "It almost makes the hair stand up on my arms when I see that great moment unfolding in front of the camera."

A photograph taken by Air Force Master Sergeant Jeremy Lock, who was named Military Photographer of the Year for the sixth time.
Jeremy Lock

Lock joined the Air Force 20 years ago to be an x-ray technician, but soon decided he'd rather photograph people -- from the outside.

"Some of my best photos have come from out of the war when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Lock. "To truly capture war is to capture war on the face of the soldier next to you."

His career has taken him to 40 countries on six continents. Lock travels with a videographer and goes wherever the U.S. military goes. In the last year alone, he took close to 5,000 pictures.

Going over some of the pictures, Plante asks Lock about one of them. "Talk about an action shot. What is going on here?"

"This was over in Djibouti, Africa and a bunch of Marines standing around watching a guy break dance," said Lock.

Sketching veterans recovering from war, so their stories aren't lost

Plante commented on a sweet photo of a young child. "This was taken in Timor over in Indonesia," recalled Lock, "and we just saw these children playing in some algae-filled water."

One photo shows Air Force Master Sergeant Teri Whitehead, who is going through breast cancer. "She is an Air Force photographer -- in the same career field as I am," said Lock.

Another of Lock's photos is of a sniper who "at the time was one of the best snipers over there," said Lock. "And it's pitch black. You can't use flash because we're in a tactical situation and [I] was trying different things."

A photograph taken by Air Force Master Sergeant Jeremy Lock, who was named Military Photographer of the Year for the sixth time.
Jeremy Lock

A picture shows a man who is lying on the ground and looks like in pain. "This was in Ramadi. We got outside the front gate and we came under fire. This was one of the guys that was shot. To me, that says war."

And now Lock pays forward what he has learned, mentoring younger men and women interested in military photography. "If we're not out there showing what they're doing, then it's like it never happened," he said to them.

Lock has been named Military Photographer of the Year for the sixth time -- but when Plante asked him to show his favorite photo, he said: "I haven't taken it yet. Still waiting for that one."

Waiting to capture an instant of beauty or truth.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent