‘Back in Town’ photo gallery shows everyday life in Iraq

By Olivia Willoughby

He is “Back in Town,” filling a DeKalb gallery’s walls with colorful photos of everyday life from his time in Iraq.

Trevor Alan Elliott shows his photographs at The Art Box, 308 E. Lincoln Highway. After serving in the U.S. Army for eight years, Elliott has returned to his home in DeKalb to start a new, stranger life.

“It’s very strange,” Elliott said. “I never thought I’d move back here. I’ve been home since December and I still feel like I’m just visiting.”

Photos taken in Iraq line the walls of The Art Box, showing off digital experimentation with saturation and colors.

However, some of these photos do not show the harshness of life in that country.

“I don’t like the way the media portrays war,” Elliott said. “Always seems to be about the bad. They don’t show when you go into schools, giving out supplies. They don’t show any of that.”

Elliott said during his time in Iraq, he took photos of what everyday life looked like.

“I wanted to show what the media didn’t,” he said. “Mainstream media like CNN or Fox. It’s where most people get their information from. Articles in The Daily Chronicle and other small-town newspapers were very positive and interesting.”

His photos, such as one of three boys waving, did not emphasize the war and devastation of Iraq, but casual life as well. He even took photos of “c. wire.” Dan Grych, The Art Box owner, said that photo, titled “Modern Barbed Wire” caught his attention.

“It’s really wicked looking,” he said. “They looks like razor blades.”

Elliott said this piece meant something to him, since he was from DeKalb, the home of the barbed wire.

“It wouldn’t make sense to someone from Tennessee. But someone from DeKalb would be drawn to this,” he said. “Being from DeKalb, I had the opportunity to take a picture of the c. wire.”

Elliott eventually came up with the idea to create a group of artists called “Soldiers for the Arts.”

“I established it in Fort Lee, Virginia. The idea was to give soldiers a venue,” he said.

While in Virginia, Elliott found a gallery that donated space. He then decided that Soldiers for the Arts would have workshops for soldiers with disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or other issues. Elliot said the group was active for two years, but now he has come to another idea.

“I would like to start it here,” Elliot said. “NIU has over 800 student veterans, plus faculty.”

While Elliott works on this idea of bringing together volunteers for the group, he also said his photos were not meant to be his source of income. Instead, he uses photography as poke fun at our own country.

“It’s my way to illustrate the economic struggles and emphasize the regression of America right now,” Elliot said. We’re not progressing and I find it kind of humorous. I want people to enjoy it. Selling isn’t what the photos are there to do. They put emotions in someone’s ideas.”