Through The Lens: Seeing Veterans Up Close
Suzanne Opton is the author of Soldier/Many Wars.
When the war in Iraq began, I worried there would be a draft. What if my son was called? How would he ever recover from going to war?
I decided that I wanted to meet the young men and women who voluntarily sign up. I began at Fort Drum in upstate New York where I photographed soldiers between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was little conversation as I asked each soldier to adopt a vulnerable, intimate position, and lay his or her head on a table. I did not give these images captions.
Later I went to the Veterans Affairs medical clinics in Vermont to photograph veterans who were in group therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. I thought if I draped them in fabric, they could become a boy with a cape, a warrior, a martyr, a saint. Unlike the active-duty soldiers, these vets liked to talk. The more they did, the more I realized they could have been in any one of these roles.