Sarah Blesener was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied Linguistics and Youth Development at North Central University. While at university, she worked as a photographer for the organization Healing Haiti based in Port au Prince, Haiti, covering events surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduation in 2012, she studied at Bookvar Russian Academy in Minneapolis, concentrating on the Russian language. She is a recent graduate of the Visual Journalism and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her latest work revolves around issues of youth culture and movements, focusing on Russia, Eastern Europe and the United States.

All of the candidates were amazingly talented and driven. It was a tough decision. Sarah stood out for the review committee here largely because of the uniqueness of her story proposal and how well it fit into some other areas of coverage we have in the works. None of us had ever heard of these nationalist youth programs and camps and we simply were dying to know [was] clear she had the moxie and organization to pull it off. On top of that, her photography from patriotic camps in Russia was spectacular.
— Amy Pyle, REVEAL from The Center for Investigative Reporting


“Always remember, you are soldiers of God. And nobody in  the entire history of the world has ever been as free as you are right now.” —Opening words from Utah Patriot Camp

In patriot camps and clubs around the United States, roughly 400,000 children are taught annually, often  with military subtext, what it means to be an American. Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, youth straddle the vulnerability of adolescence and the simultaneous stripping of individuality. Sarah Blesener’s ongoing work examines the interplay of religion, love of country, and military-style training in the teaching of ‘New Americanism’ amongst youth.