We had the good fortune of connecting with Aaron Mahlon Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aaron, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Our mission is to make friends, have fun, share the art of photography to accelerate healing; all are tools to help my fellow Veterans, their families cope with the symptoms of PTSD. In doing so, improve the quality of life for those who paid the cost for our freedom. I do this by guiding affected veterans through the process of therapeutic photography. It is my mission to serve those who paid the price for our freedom, providing a personalized approach of artistic expression and camaraderie for Veterans still fighting for THEIR freedom. I am an 80% disabled veteran with PTSD. Currently, I am at the University of North Texas graduate program for my Master’s degree in Documentary production. I am attempting to research veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD that would be interested in therapeutic photography. If possible, would you please contact me with information on how I can help my fellow veterans with PTSD? I have a Bachelor’s of Fine Art in photography from Texas A&M Commerce. I have three years of teaching experience at the Brookhaven campus of Dallas College.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It all started when I was four years old. I drew a squiggly picture and ran to show it to my caretaker, and something she saw in the squiggly picture I drew offended her. She gave me a spanking. She was only 14 years old. Now that I’m older, I think she had been molested at some point, so sad. However, she was probably trying to protect me from something she thought would hurt me later. After that, I decided never to draw again, and that’s when I fell in love with pictures. I was only four years old. I couldn’t read yet, but I entertained myself with picture books even until today. When I joined the United States Navy, I travel to 33 different countries on the USS John F Kennedy aircraft carrier. I took a lot of photographs while traveling and photography is still with me today. I took a break since I didn’t know how to monetize photography. I opened an information technology firm I operated for 25 years. I borrowed a lot of money for marketing to try and reach the next level. The 2009 recession hit, and the business fell into bankruptcy.

I had to close the business, I had to file bankruptcy, and I suffered from deep depression and posttraumatic stress. After my diagnosis, I got into a vocational rehabilitation program sponsored by the veterans’ administration. The VA sponsored my tuition, books, and supplies, and a small living stipend. That’s when I began to learn photography again, digital photography. It was comforting, pleasurable and symptom countering. I was inspired to open a nonprofit 501(c)(3) to share the symptom countering skills of photography with my fellow veterans. That’s how I got where I am today. It was not easy. It was hard and painful. Nine years later, I’m in a Master’s of Fine Arts degree program at the University of North Texas, learning documentary production and studies. I am developing a documentary for my thesis to promote the nonprofit, named photographically touching souls deeply or PTSD in short. So, between my Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in photography, and my Masters of Fine Arts degree in documentary production, I will teach my fellow veterans the skills of visual storytelling in photography and video production.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a visitor for a weekend, I would schedule a trip to a show at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, an exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, and a show at the Bishop Arts Center. We would eat at Benihana’s Japanese hibachi grill. Or have some southwest tacos from Shady’s hamburgers and grill.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to give a shoutout to the professors who helped me learn a life-altering career. Professor Wayne Loucas, at Dallas College Richland campus, professor Leigh Merrill, Texas A&M Commerce, add junked instructor Greg Milano professional photographer, professor Chad Smith Texas A&M commerce. The late professor Leeane Sullivan of Brookhaven College gave me the confidence to learn at 55 years old after being a high school dropout for 40 years. And last but not least, Dr. Giraud Polite, also my professor who was Executive Dean Viscom Brookhaven college, offered me my first job as an educator. Without these people, I would not be where I am today. I owe them the biggest shout out! Today, my current professors at the University of North Texas are professor Melinda Levin, my thesis chair. Dr. George Larke-Walsh, thesis committee member, Associate Professor Tania Khalaf committee member, and Dean Tamara Brown is a psychology doctor, and a master’s in divinity. I would love to pay them all a huge shoutout.

Website: http://www.aaronmahlon.com
Instagram: @aaronmahlon
Facebook: @aaronmahlon1
Other: https://vimeo.com/aaronmahlon

Image Credits
Aaron Mahlon Thomas

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