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History and Heritage

Documenting History Through the Eyes of Navy Photographers

100 years, one moment

When a cook aboard USS Mississippi set foot on the shores of Naval Shipyard Pensacola in 1914, he had no idea that the photographs he took on his off-duty time would lay the groundwork for 100 years of Navy photography.

Although the photographer rating had yet to exist in the Navy, Walter Leroy Richardson was doing the job, documenting aerial and ship maneuvers, crew movement and daily operations. Recognizing the value and necessity of documenting and creating a visual history of its activities, the Navy asked him to do it officially.

While just a photo hobbyist at the time, Richardson seized the opportunity. However, documenting the Navy's history was more work than one man could handle. So the Navy charged Richardson with creating the first Naval School of Photography. Pensacola would become known as the birthplace of naval photography, and Richardson the "Father of Naval Photography and Naval Aerial Photographers."

World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan - Navy photographers were there. In disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, the Fukishima earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Navy photographers were there, capturing imagery and telling those stories to the world.

Even in our modern era of Instagram and "selfies," where everyone with a cellphone is a self-proclaimed "photographer," there remains a dedicated group of Navy professionals armed with the right tools to expertly preserve Navy history for generations to come.

For 100 years men and women have spent their lives visually telling the Navy's story. Now we tell theirs.

Special thanks to the National Association Of Naval Photography.