The Toll of War

Jill Rahn's picture
Some of the most haunting images of our time are those made in areas of armed conflict. Among the earliest war photographs were those taken by an anonymous American who made a series of daguerreotypes in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

Robert Capra’s work during the Spanish Civil War and the D-Day landings received considerable acclaim, and he continued traveling to war-torn areas of the world until his death after stepping on a landmine in Indochina in 1954. Other iconic images include Joe Rosenthal’s shot of American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima and Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a South Vietnamese National Police Chief executing a Viet Cong officer in Saigon.

Much of the early and contemporary war photography has documented the horrific physical toll that battle takes on soldiers and civilians alike, but Dutch photographer Claire Felicie has recently done some remarkable work conveying the enormous emotional and psychological effects of war. In a series of portraits entitled “Here are the Young Men,” Felicie photographed a group of 20 Dutch Marines before, during and after deployment to Afghanistan.

Her portraits, taken with the same basic pose and lighting, illustrate how the visage of young men—full of excitement and expectation— can be transformed when confronted by pain, sadness and death. “At first I saw nothing,” she said after her final shoot. “But when I put the photos together I noticed the difference.” She explained that the changes in the soldiers varied (even though they all claimed to be unchanged by their wartime experiences. “Some looked scarier, others looked more mature. Most of the men looked different—much harder.”

For a look at this interesting project, visit www.clairefelicie.com.

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