NMU student-veteran takes second place in national art competition

Traci Dietz, a Northern Michigan University student-veteran from Negaunee, recently won second place in the photography category of the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition.

The senior photography major entered a local competition through the Iron Mountain VA Medical Center. Her first-place finish in the local competition qualified her for the national judging process. Dietz’s winning submission is an image titled “Broken.”

“It is a black-and-white photo of a dock that is falling apart that is shot through a broken mirror,” she said in a news release. “Veterans come back broken from the military. I wanted to depict that through an image and also that, even through all of the cracks, veterans are still standing. I am very happy to have placed second among all of the work that made it in to the national competition.”

Dietz was born in Marquette and grew up in Negaunee, where she joined the U.S. Navy her senior year of high school. She served as a master-at-arms with the Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C., spending much of her time working in the Pentagon. Since enrolling at NMU, Dietz has held a work-study position in NMU’s Veteran Services Office.

“What really spurred me on to go to college and learn about photography was when a company lost my daughter’s first school picture. I was devastated and decided to learn how to do professional photography. I now get to enjoy doing my children’s school pictures every year, along with many others in the community. My daughter has been my model for a lot of my photography as I try out new things each time, and now she has taken up an interest in photography and has been entering competitions as well. It has created a bond between us that we can enjoy together.”

Dietz saw a flyer for the creative arts competition in the elevator while at the Iron Mountain VA for an appointment, but didn’t think much of it. Jordan Fox, a peer counselor from the Marquette VA, mentioned it during a visit to the campus office, then helped Dietz complete the paperwork and submit her piece.

We would like to congratulate Dietz for taking the leap and getting recognized for her work. Self-expression can be difficult at times for veterans, and we commend her for going beyond her comfort zone and deciding to put herself out there.

Writing and artistic expression can go a long way in healing and we’re glad she has found an outlet that works for her.