Ellen Susan: Soldier Portraits

11Oct09

The Soldier Portraits Project is a work in progress. The project consists of portrait photographs of soldiers of the United States Army, primarily of the 3rd Infantry Division. Until recently, the focus has been on the 3rd Infantry Division for its particularly active role in present day military events. The project is now open to any active duty member of the United States Army who can come to Savannah to be photographed.

Each soldier who participates is asked to complete a brief questionnaire and to make any comments he or she wishes on any topic.

The wet collodion process was the primary photographic method from the 1850s through the 1880s, encompassing the dates of the American Civil War. The men and women photographed for the Soldier Portraits project are members of the U.S. Army based in Southeast Georgia. Most have deployed to Iraq one to three times since 2003. Many are in Iraq now.
 
The necessarily long exposures of this process often result in an intensity of gaze, and the grainless, highly detailed surface brings out minute details of each individual. These attributes, combined with the historical military associations made me feel that the process could be a meaningful way to photograph contemporary soldiers to provide a counterpoint to the anonymous representations seen in newspapers and on television. I wanted to produce physically enduring, visually arresting images of people who are being sent repeatedly into a war zone.

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