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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2021

Kentucky National Guard documented in Kentucky visual history series

By Andrew Dickson, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard will be featured in a photo series documenting Kentuckians, to include Soldiers training at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., in November 2021.

James Southard, a fine arts photographer with the Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project (KDPP), wanted to include the Kentucky National Guard in the visual history series after conducting his own research on his father’s military career.

Southard’s father, retired Air Force Col. John B. Southard Jr., served in the United States Air Force in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Southard Jr. transferred to the Air Force Legal Services Agency at Bolling, Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., in support of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

He retired in 2003 with the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky.

Southard’s plan is to photograph guardsmen to include their work in the visual history of members of the commonwealth as both a tribute to his father and to help serve the people of Kentucky.

“My father believed very much in serving your community, and I always felt he was in the Kentucky Guard for the same reasons,” said Southard. “I try to follow that same standard in my own career path.”

Southard, also an art professor at the University of Kentucky, began working with the KDPP to serve his state by documenting the people of Kentucky.

“The purpose of the project is to document and exhibit what makes Kentuckians unique and what makes Kentucky an amazing place full of interesting stories and people. I feel the role that the National Guard serves for the state is an amazing example of that.”

The KDPP is a non-profit organization funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Estate of David and Betty Jones, private foundations and public donations.

The KDPP’s roots began with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) back in 1935 to document rural Americans during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother is one of the most famous photographs to come out of that work. From the same program, four other photographers focused on rural Kentucky.

The KDPP is the grandchild of the FSA focusing on Kentuckians spanning from 2015 through 2022. Once complete, the images will be put on display at the Frazier Historical Museum in Louisville, Ky., and from there, on display in a traveling exhibit. Ultimately, the works will be published into a book for the general public.

The current timeline for publishing is being planned for 2023.

For more on the KDPP, please visit

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