Soldier/Many Wars

Suzanne Opton, intro. by Ann Jones and Phillip Prodger. Decode (decodeinc.com), $60 (104p) ISBN 978-0-9833942-0-4
Opton (Loose Change) offers mannered but moving portraits of American veterans from WWII to Afghanistan (with the curious omission of the Korean War) who have experienced combat trauma. Each photo is accompanied by the soldier's brief description of his or her wartime experience. In the "Many Wars” section, the vets—conspicuously emoting trauma—are trussed in robes, giving them the air of saints or Roman senators. For example, Marvin Zacharie, a Native American Vietnam War vet, looks suspicious and defiant, with hands clenched in a pugilistic pose, as though he can't stop fighting. In contrast, the "Soldiers” section features only the faces of veterans of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, as they lie on tables like spent schoolchildren. The portraits, all shot in 2003–2004 and displayed on billboards in eight cities, are extraordinary close-up and intimate, but the biographical data is vague and impersonal. While the short essays are thoughtful and appreciative, more background and discussion about the soldiers would have been welcome from Opton herself, who has an amazing ability to unconventionally and memorably profile her subjects "up close and personal.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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