Lalage Snow, a war photographer who has spent a lot of his working life in Kabul, Afghanistan, completed a remarkable 8-month-long project titled We Are The Not Dead. In it, he took portraits of British soldiers before, during, and after their deployment in Afghanistan. Snow captures the innocent expressions of these men transformed into gaunt, sullen faces in less than a year.
The three-panel juxtaposition allows the viewer to observe the physical changes a stationed soldier in a war zone goes through. Time is sped up for these men under the beating sun, amidst combat. Regardless of age, the boys that went in came back as men with experiences beyond their years. As weathered and worn as their skin or sunken in faces may appear, it’s their dilated eyes that are the most telling.
Additionally, Snow’s series accompanies each triptych with quotes from each of the servicemen that gives a great deal of insight into their mental and emotional state at each given time. Sergeant Alexander McBroom’s first portrait, before deployment, features him bravely saying, “I am not worried about going out – it is my job after all.” Three months later, he is quoted as saying, “It has been an eye opener.” And, finally, another four months after, he says, “It is always that fear, that apprehension, what is going to happen if I get blown up?” Having gone through life-altering trials and warfare, it is no surprise that fear is no longer a foreign feeling to these courageous men.
Snow’s intention with the series is to not only honor their bravery by featuring them, but to also draw attention to every soldiers’ psychological transformation. She says, “It was a very personal project and stemmed from having embedded with the military on and off for 4 years in Iraq and Afghanistan and bearing witness to how many young men return as shadows of their former selves and, in many cases, with deep, psychological scars. As the body count of British servicemen killed or wounded rose and the political ramifications of the British army’s presence in Afghanistan became increasingly convoluted, more and more soldiers felt like they didn’t have a voice, or at least, weren’t being listened to. We Are The Not Dead is an attempt at giving the brave young men and women the chance to explain how it really is.”