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Our Place Amongst the Stars

Landscape image of dark trees in front of a starry sky

Exploring the cosmos to find connections

On a cold winter’s night in Kilcunda, Soldier On Melbourne participants were treated to a Social Connections experience that was simply, out-of-this-world.

After six COVID-related failed attempts, the Melbourne team was able to facilitate its first-ever astrophotography workshop.

This workshop was led by award-winning astrophotographer and retired United States Marine, Jason Perry.

Jason concluded his 27-year career in the U.S. Armed Forces in 2017 and was then confronted with the daunting task of figuring out what to do in life after service.

“It was hard to figure out what was next, trying to find my way and what I wanted to do in life. Then one day I picked up a camera, started taking pictures and really fell into it,” said Jason.

Not long after, Jason was introduced to the specialisation of astrophotography.

He was instantly captured by the spectacular images that the craft could reveal of the heavens, but admitted that he was initially not able to produce anything good himself. Despite this, he found there was something that kept bringing him back and the process became a meditative healing experience.

“Under the stars, I have this feeling that I am much smaller in the bigger picture of things, which puts the challenges of life into perspective.”

Being exposed to the vastness of space and the realisation of our place within the universe can be a humbling and perhaps terrifying experience, but Jason describes the feeling as “a controlled fear that I can’t wait to get back to”.

The sense of purpose provided by the life-long learning of astrophotography inspired Jason to share his skills with other veterans, stating that “it’s not only a tool to heal, but also a creative outlet that I can share with someone who may not know where to start looking for purpose post-service.”

Jason regularly engages with the veteran community, sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for this other-worldly craft through his photography business, Veteran Focus – A non-profit that provides an awe-inspiring creative outlet for veterans to flourish through astrophotography workshops, camaraderie and art therapy.

On that cold night in Kilcunda, Jason observed strangers from different walks of life come together for a shared experience. He perhaps even saw someone taking their first steps on a journey towards realising their new purpose, just as Jason did several years before.

Whether it be through the simple act of attending a coffee catch-up, engaging with a new career path, or even exploring the cosmos through the lens of a camera, it is our connections with others that truly help us find our place among the stars.

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