Photographer Michael Stokes has taken the internet by storm with his powerful, provocative photo endeavor “Always Loyal,” a coffee table book featuring amputee veterans of all branches.
Rather than minimize his models’ wounds, Stokes boldly showcases their prosthetics (or lack thereof) in a series of semi-nude, erotic photographs.
Most of the featured male subjects lost limbs to IED attacks, and Stokes uses powerful poses to highlight the bravery and beauty of his models — shattering the stigma that wounded warriors can only be depicted in somber, “respectful” situations.
“Why can’t an amputee be shot with glamour?” Stokes told People in a recent interview. “These veterans were making themselves vulnerable and deserved to be treated like any other model. If they can handle it, why not?”
To fans who praise him for making his models “feel like men again,” Stokes strongly disagrees.
“I’m not giving them their confidence back,” he told MTV. “They already have it.”
The project first began more than two years ago when Stokes met then-aspiring fitness model and amputee vet Alex Minsky. Stokes had been shooting fitness models for some time, but the encounter with Minsky motivated him to capture veteran subjects with just as much sex appeal as a “typical” model.
He had no idea what an impact his photos would have on the veteran community, or the models themselves.
“I’ll never forget the second soldier I shot,” Stokes told MTV, recalling that the soldier told him, “‘This 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.'”
Stokes added: “And he hadn’t even seen the photos yet!”
The book showcases 14 veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. The photos vary in tone: some models playfully show off some “leg” while others smolder at the camera. One thing is clear in every photo, however: these guys are hot, and they know it.
So does Stokes’ growing fan base. His Kickstarter campaign for art books “Exhibition and “Always Loyal” reached its $48,250 goal in just over an hour, and has now earned a whopping $321,694 with five days still left on the campaign.
A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to a charity for wounded, United States veterans of war.
Check out some more photos below and click here to check out Stokes’ Kickstarter campaign: