War on Terrorism

Monday, August 15, 2011

Face of Defense: Marine Pursues Photography in Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Cpl. Rashaun X. James
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2011 – Marine Corps Sgt. Tristeza Castellanoz hasn’t let her deployment here get in the way of her passion for shooting – pictures, that is.

Capturing moments in time is a passion for Castellanoz. What began as a casual interest in photography has grown into a long-term hobby, a method of expression and a potential career for the Nyssa, Ore., native.

Castellanoz’s interest in photography began when she was around 13, she said, when she always had an abundance of film rolls to be developed, full of whatever images she captured in the world around her.

Now Castellanoz is an aviation operations specialist deployed here with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. As the wing’s air tasking order chief, she oversees air support requests from Marines and their coalition partners operating in southwestern Afghanistan.

Castellanoz has a busy job during her year-long deployment here, but when a lull in her schedule presents itself, she often grabs her professional-grade digital camera and continues to hone her skills, finding her weaknesses and strengths. The thing she enjoys most is photographing people.

“I like seeing how a person grows over time,” she said. “It’s interesting for me to see how my siblings, who all have children now, have grown up and how much their children favor them.”

The people around Castellanoz often become the subjects of her photos. “I took pictures of the Marines in my exercise class and let them have them afterwards,” she said. “My officer in charge was telling me that he sent them to his wife as well as other Marines that work for me.”

Having had no formal training, Castellanoz progresses her skills by experience alone, taking any opportunity to capture a unique moment.

“Since I got my new camera, I’ve gotten a lot of offers from people to come and take photos for them,” she said. “I do photography jobs on the side now, mostly for friends and family. When I went home on emergency leave, I did a photo session for my best friend to give to her father on Father’s Day.”

Castellanoz said she has received several offers to photograph weddings and other events, but has had to turn them down due to her deployment. However, being deployed to a foreign land yields its own set of unique opportunities.

“Being in the Marine Corps has definitely helped my photography skills,” she said. “It’s given me a way to do things that I normally would not have the opportunity to do back in the states.

“I think that if I wouldn’t have enlisted and just stayed in Oregon, I would’ve been limited on where I could travel to and what I could take pictures of,” said Castellanoz, who is deployed out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. “While I’ve been stationed on the East Coast, I had the opportunity to go to New York around New Year’s and got to take pictures of Central Park.”

After her career in the Corps, Castellanoz said, she plans to pursue a career in photography. But while she remains on active service, she said, she may consider changing specialties to a field with a focus on photography.

“I like my job, I like what I do, and I like being in charge,” she said. “But, if the Marine Corps gives you the opportunity to pursue something you can do after the Marine Corps, you should take it.”

While Castellanoz has other passions including playing guitar, singing and cooking, photography is something that has shown her a way to express herself and relate to the emotions of others in a special way.

“Photography really inspires me, and I feel like my passion for it became greater and more realized after my dad passed away,” she said. “So much lies in a photo. It can show you emotions at times that words can’t. Now more than ever, I want to pursue this, because I never want to miss a moment that could last a lifetime for me or the people I am photographing.”

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