Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 1, 2007

All You Need Is Heroin: U.S. Troops In Their Own Hand


Graffitti17 2

Graffitti02 3

Epitaphs.  Reasoned opposition.  Doubt.  Fatalism.  Bravado.  Anger.  Bitterness.  Hate.  Faith, and blind faith.  Commemoration.  Castigation.

Photographer Peter van Agtmael has made two trips to Iraq and one to Afghanistan in the past couple years.  Among his work over that time is a series, the idea of which is eminently logical, but which I haven't seen before.  To capture a more raw if performative picture of the U.S. soldier's experience, Peter photographed graffiti on the bathroom wall at a major traffic point for U.S. troops, the Al Salem Air Force Base in Kuwait.

4Graffitti10  Graffitti135

6Graffitti15  Graffitti167

8Graffitti25  Graffitti239

I have some brief reactions to a few of the images.  (In #1, for example, I am struck how someone, obviously quite religious, ended up phrasing this as a question.  And I see #3 as speaking to the emotional monster of the killing field, and how quickly feelings become a liability, needing to be numbed out.)

Primarily though, I'm interested in what you are seeing and thinking here.  (All images pop open to a larger size.)

For additional photos, see this article at the ABCnews site.  (Click on the Photo link with the caption: Scared, Bored and Lonely — The Horror Written On The Latrine Wall.")  More of Peter's images are also available at the World Press Photo site, where he won a Story Award for coverage of a night raid in Iraq.

(images: © Peter van Agtmael/Polaris Images.  Kuwait.  2006.  Used by permission.)

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