Soldiers: Before, During, After.

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Recently, a photographer named Lelage Snow began an incredible project.  Based in Kabul, Afghanistan, she photographed Scottish soldiers before, during, and after they had seen combat.  What she produced is astounding and haunting.  See here:


This is Private Chris MacGregor, 24.  The rest of Snow’s work can be found here. There is no need to analyze these photos, as I think they speak for themselves the proverbial 1000 words (the eyes alone speak 900).  However, what does strike me is how almost a century ago the German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, described what we see in these contemporary faces.  In his essay The Storyteller, Benjamin had this to say about veterans who returned from the cataclysmic First World War:

“With the First World War a process began to become apparent which has not halted since then. Was it not noticeable at the end of the war that men returned from the battlefield grown silent—not richer, but poorer in communicable experience?  What ten years later was poured out in the flood of war books was anything but experience that goes mouth to mouth. And there was nothing remarkable about that. For never has experience been contradicted more thoroughly than strategic experience by tactical warfare, economic experience by inflation, bodily experience by mechanical warfare, moral experience by those in power. A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.”

A century on, the human body is still fragile.

  1. Dashawn Wilson says:

    This is crazy; a lot of people think going to war is easy. People fail to realize that just because your arm does not blow up does not mean you body does not deplete. I am really in shock, and kind of feel bad, I wonder what does the government or the army does to prevent the soldiers from looking like this after a war. But as I think I feel like there is nothing really that you can do; it is almost like a football player after so many hits your body starts to deplete. A football may come in walking the same but after they are done they walk with a limp. Relaying this to football is the only way I can grasp why the man starts from looking healthy to looking like he did crack.

  2. Phoebe says:

    Wow, this picture really shows how the soldiers endure so much mentally and physically. Growing up, my dad was in the military and he says that he constantly fears for his life. I know he had seen somethings that cannot be unseen and I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to be able to unthink such awful events.

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