Even with a fairly widespread understanding of post traumatic stress and other effects of war, it is hard to really know what soldiers go through in defending their countries, apart from what we see on the news. The stress they undergo in training, the many horrors they may witness, the friends they lose, the struggle to reintegrate with civilian life…It is an experience unlike any other, which undoubtedly imprints itself on the minds and psyches of these men and women – and perhaps in their faces and eyes, too?
This is exactly what photographer Lalage Snow captured in her harrowing series, “We Are The Not Dead.” Over the course of 8 months, Snow photographed British soldiers before, during, and after deployment in Afghanistan, with accompanying quotes from each individual portrayed. You may notice how dramatic the transformation is in some of these young men and women’s faces, some of them just in their early 20s or younger. Without trying to read too much into the portraits, let yourself first just observe their faces and appreciate the honesty in Snow’s composition:
Private Chris MacGregor, 24
Private Dylan Hughes, 26
Private Becky Hitchcock, 23
Corporal Steven Gibson, 29
Private Matthew Hodgson, 18
Private Jo Yavala, 28
Lance Corporal Sean Tennant, 29
Second Lieutenant Adam Petzsch, 25
One thing you may notice is pupil dilation in many of these soldiers’ eyes. Along with increased heart rate and blood pressure, pupil dilation can be a large indicator of stress, anxiety, and trauma. This would make sense given what these individuals went through over the span of just a few months in combat, as expressed in many of their quotes. But even understanding some of the science behind the transformations doesn’t make the visual any less potent.
Are you a veteran, or do you have any friends or family who have fought in war? Does Snow’s photography mirror your own experience?
Photography by Lalage Snow