While on route to New Orleans as I was passing thru airport security, I spotted a young man in fatigues surrounded by his family with his mother clutching Kleenex in her hand. They were all hovered around the young soldier, bidding him a farewell. I looked into his face. He seemed so youthful and innocent. My mind then traveled to a photographer, Ellen Susan, whose work focuses on the young men and women who serve our country and with whom I will be participating in the Six Shooters Panel discussion at PhotoNola.
SPC Brandie Carpenter, Brandie, 2007 , Ambrotype 6"x6"
In Susan's words..
"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.
SPC Brandilynn Corntassell, 2007, Ambrotype, 6 x 6 in
The photographs are made using the 150 year old collodion wet plate process - 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.
PFC William Burnett, 2007, Ambrotype 6"x6"
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."
SGT Timothy Campbell, 2007, Ambrotype 6"x6"