Summer Anderson Thatcher built her identity, career, and lifestyle by getting really tough from a very young age. She learned to be “full on, all in, all the time” in attitude and practice.
In 2000, Thatcher enlisted in the Navy assigned to an aircraft carrier as a photographer’s mate. She was later accepted into the Department of Defense’s elite program for advanced broadcast journalism and documentary arts projecting her to became a top-flight videographer. When stationed out of Combat Camera Pacific, embedded within an Army unit as a combat cameraman in Iraq, she became a “desert sailor”.
Since women weren’t allowed on the front lines at the time, Thatcher battled just to do her job. When accepting assignments, she carried her personal armor, firearms, and camera gear strapped to her body which was more weight than other soldiers carried. She fought to find the right stories, develop relationships, and invest in soldiers to gain their trust. The Infantry learned to trust her and became compassionate about the stories she told about them. With this new-found trust, they asked her to join them on front-line missions. It was here she stumbled upon the close-up, hard-hitting stories that earned her Navy Videographer of the Year for 2007, taking first place in both field production and combat documentary.
One of Thatcher’s award-winning stories entails a doctor who defied the rules of engagement by dashing through an embattled convoy, struggling to reach a small girl who had sustained a traumatic brain injury with Thatcher in tow. With a fluid pouch in one hand and camera in the other, Thatcher never missed a beat and kept filming the entire time. As unpleasant and difficult as Iraq was, Thatcher reflects, “If you can reach one person, if you could do one good thing, then the struggles are all worth it.”
Thatcher believes that in order for a videographer or photographer to capture “the shot,” they have to absorb the subject matter and encapsulate the story. Movies and photography are so powerful when the true intention is captured by the photographer and expressed skillfully, it will connect with people and speak to their emotions. “That’s why when you watch a film and say I don’t know why I like it so much but it connects with me,” Thatcher said, “It’s because the filmmaker had the right approach.”