I have an admission to make.
Between Suzanne Opton’s most recent portraits of soliders from Fort Drum, and her previous series, I decided to show you the previous images. I found the newer work almost too odd to look at. When I put examples of each side-by-side, however, it was clear that the newer photos called for attention.
Given the amount of time we have spent looking at war-related images, and the practiced eye of The BAG readership, I hesitate to say much about Claxton (above) or (below – l to r, top to bottom) Jefferson, Dougherty, Pry, Morris, Kimball or Birkholz. (Though I urge you — if you can handle the emotional and bandwidth demand — to click open and study Claxton. All the images open at a larger size, but Claxton reveals himself at the full 938 x 750.)
According to Opton, the work is about vulnerability. All the portraits were taken in 2004-5 at Fort Drum, New York, after the soldiers had returned from either Iraq or Afghanistan and were awaiting redeployment. The soldiers were aware of the subject and were given the chance to “retreat from self-consciousness into the interior of their minds.”
Beyond that, we have the following:
Claxton: 120 Days in Afghanistan
Jefferson: length of service unknown
Dougherty: 302 Days in Afghanistan
Pry: 210 Days in Afghanistan
Morris: 100 Days in Iraq
Kimball: 287 Days in Afghanistan
Birkholz: 353 Days in Iraq, 205 Days in Afghanistan
My one thought, before I make room for discussion, is to wonder: is just the experience of approaching these images its own metaphor for the war? My first inclination — probably a common one — was to keep my distance. Continuing to look, I didn’t know where I went or for how long.
For your further consideration, I also offer three shots from the previous series (Chapter III). Suzanne will be available until Wednesday to answer questions or respond to points in the comment thread. Otherwise, you can view additional images at her website. The gallery links will also lead you to more statements and information.
Suzanne Opton’s website .
All images ©Suzanne Opton. New York 2005. Posted by permission.