The Image of a Veteran.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image. As we celebrate the millions of service members and their families this Veteran’s day let us remember the unspoken words related to the complexities of serving our great country.

The very first war photographer was an American. While the particular artist’s name has been lost to history, we do know that he was attached to the U.S. forces fighting in the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. And since then we use images to tell the stories often too hard to articulate in the spoken word.

Photographer Devin Mitchell, however, created a touching photo project called “The Veteran Art Project” that examines what lies on the other side of the uniform. Using Photoshop, Mitchell has created images of uniformed servicemen and women whose mirrored reflections reveal who they are – and vice versa.

Mitchell explains, “What viewers get to see is unabashed joy and unrelenting pain. There is pride, diversity, and there are Americans free to be whatever. And while the photos are very different, the format is the same. On one side of the mirror, the veteran is in uniform, on the other is an image the veterans choose themselves.

Too often our attention is captured by the heroic recruiting ‘posters’ and images displaying the glamorous side of the military. These images deflect our attention from the realities of long deployments, loss of life, and increasing cases of PTSD.

In image number 130 Craig Millward, an Army veteran, stands with his wife, Deva. It is a story of love and triumph. In the reflection, Craig is in his uniform leaning over the sink. Deva stands behind him with her hand on his arm, supporting her husband. Unlike most images, Deva, who is not a veteran or active-duty soldier, is in both images.

“We had a lot stacked up against us,” Deva said. The image’s message, she said, is that they “beat the system.” When Millward returned from deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, his reintegration process was difficult. It was hard to find a stable job, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and the two were newlyweds. But Millward said his wife’s conviction helped him become the man he is today. See their Interview on CBS.

Mitchell’s goal is to take 10,000 images of veterans and active duty service members from across the country.

As we celebrate our military service member heroes we need to appreciate the images that not only celebrate our countries freedoms, but the visual remembers of what was lost after the end of the welcome back parade.

I am honored to write this blog on behalf of John Bratton. John served our country in war and continues to fight for military families during their transition back into the civilian world. Thanks John for your dedication and service. (John’s Bio)

As an Army Logistics Officer, John served during Desert Storm leading the efforts of 156 men and women to war and back. His desire to continue working with the military community influenced an MBA with a thesis that focused on helping veterans transition from military to civilian life.

The Experience Economy and the Gentrifying Effect of Boutique Fitness

The landscape of residential homes are quickly adjusting to the upswing in boutique fitness studios. The rapid growth of fitness properties, such as Orangetheory, SoulCycle, and Rumble, to name a few, are beginning to attract a particular type of home buyer. Katherine Rosman of the New York Times describes the phenomena as boutique ‘fitness clusters’ emerging in suburban shopping developments and gentrifying city neighborhoods.

New development on H Street brings a choice of boutique studios.

There is a growing consumer class more interested in living close to holistic health oriented venues opposed to retail shopping. The typical brick-and-mortar retail store has seen significant competition from the high demand hot yoga, pilates, boxing, and cycling studios. Jamie, a senior at American University, explains, “I can order my groceries online and have them delivered by Whole Foods. I would rather live in an area where I can walk or take a short Metro ride to my yoga studio.” 

Jamie is not alone in her mindset. The expansion of fitness clusters is seen in a variety of DC neighborhoods becoming anchors to new developments, including healthy restaurant concepts like HipCityVeg and Sweetgreens. And for this reason, real estate agents see an uptick in requests for condos and townhouses located in these neighborhoods. 

Although millennials and Gen Zs may seem to be the target market of farm-to-table-vegan-fitness driven neighborhoods, there are plenty of Gen X-Ys craving the minimalist lifestyle. Downsizing, both in square feet and distance, are becoming a must-have amenity when searching for properties with their real estate agent. Broker John Bratton has been working with DC buyers and sellers for the past twenty years. “It is amazing the shift in demand for certain neighborhoods based on boutique type services.”

Brokers are adjusting their marketing techniques reflecting demands from clients wanting to take advantage of new studio construction and pre-boutique pricing vs. traditional requirements for high ceilings and walk-in closets. 

And who can blame them for wanting the MALL walking experience, a movement started back in the early 1960’s. David Bouchier’s 1999 article,  OUT OF ORDER; At the Mall, Walking and Wondering Why, points out that physicians figured out that the only way to persuade people to exercise was to combine it with shopping. Now that shopping has gone online and consumers are relying on developers to build exercise opportunities within walking distance of their homes. 

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) these new fitness studios now make up a big part of what’s been called the “experiential economy.” HBR explains that experience occurs -when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Today, the concept of selling experiences is spreading beyond movie theaters and sporting events, but to the boutique offerings that provide both tangible services (cycling, yoga, etc.) and an experience (a high-paced music driven motivational workout).

As the experience economy unfolds, so will the desire for homebuyers to require proximity to their favorite boutique studio. Proximity is a must-have and homebuyers are willing to pay. The developers are listening and building new properties throughout the city, such at the Wharf, Capital Crossing, Eastern Market, Mount Vernon, and Capitol Hill. And don’t worry, your favorite boutique studio is right around the corner. 

Success! You're on the list.