65-year-old Korean War photos shown for first time at ArtPrize

ArtPrize

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — In 1953, West Michigan native Jay Kool spent about a year stationed near Seoul, South Korea, working as an Air Force mechanic during the Korean War.

When he wasn’t fixing up airplanes, he found an interest in photography.

“When the war was over, the Sundays were pretty free at that time,” Kool recalled. “I’d walk around the countryside taking pictures of whatever I was interested in.”

When he got home, he kept the images he’d captured overseas, eventually stashing away a box of 35-millimeter slides in storage.

They were stashed away for decades, until recently rediscovered in his basement in Jenison.

“My daughter was recently converting her personal pictures to CDs, and she says, ‘Why don’t we take your military slides and do the same thing?'” he said.

Kool’s family was so impressed, they had nine of the pictures printed. The images are stunning: incredibly rare, 65-year-old color photos from Kool’s time overseas.

“I was just amazed,” Kool said, describing the moment he first saw the photos printed and enlarged. “Tears came into my eyes, you know. I could hardly express myself.”

The photos were so clear and colorful, Kool’s family decided to enter the collection into ArtPrize 10.  

The entry is titled “The Forgotten War” and can be found at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel at 187 Monroe Ave. NW.

While onlookers are amazed by Kool’s creative eye and the story behind the what they see, he hopes people take away something else from his pictures.

He wants people to remember those who served and died in the “Forgotten War.”

“It’s not about me,” Kool said. “It’s about all the servicemen who served in that war. I just hope that people remember that.”

The printed photos are being shown for the very first time at ArtPrize.

His family says now they’re working to find some of the people in the photos.

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