We Are Not the Dead
November 12, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Portraits of Soldiers Before, During, and After War "Photographer Lalage Snow, who is currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan, embarked on an 8-month-long project titled We Are The Not Dead featuring portraits of British soldiers before, during, and after their deployment in Afghanistan."
posted by sweetkid (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
As weathered and worn as their skin or sunken in faces may appear, it's their dilated eyes that are the most telling.

I definitely noticed this in many of the men, but why would this be so? As I understand it, pupil dilation is a physiologic response to drugs, sexual attraction, increased light levels, etc., which are all short term environmental variables.
posted by spacediver at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I looked that up with a quick Google, spacediver, and nothing. I'm not sure either.
posted by sweetkid at 1:15 PM on November 12, 2012

It looked like the Afghanistan portraits were done with more daylight - it's not just the pupils are smaller in the middle image, but the eyes also reflect more light.

I don't think it's a good idea to draw psychological/physiological conclusions when the lighting the photos were taken in changed.
posted by jb at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

I wouldn't read too much into that, it's most likely a function of varying lighting conditions from one shot to the next. That said, wow, a lot of lines gained, a lot of thickened brows and a lot of subcutaneous fat lost in 1 year.
posted by Mister_A at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Previous related FPP: Marked -- "Photographer Claire Felicie photographed the marines of the 13th infantry company of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, before, during and after their deployment in Uruzgan."
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on November 12, 2012

I may not be a good physiognomist but, with a few exceptions, I could not see signs of a devastating experience in most after war pictures. Only those taken during their service look somewhat different, the men look rougher and more alert - and these pics were taken in different light.
posted by helion at 1:25 PM on November 12, 2012

In photo sets like these it tells the viewer more about their perceptions of what they should be feeling and thinking more than anything else.
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

I believe the author is suggesting the dilated pupils are indicators these men suffering from lingering effects of battlefield fear/trauma exposure , which may be true, but no mention of controlled photographic exposure conditions weakens the correlation. Stunning nonetheless.
posted by How2BHuman at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder, if we were presented with these photos so that we didn't know which were the before, during, or after versions, would we* be able to tell which was which?

* Where "we" is mostly people who haven't been in combat and/or worked closely with soldiers and veterans.
posted by rtha at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I strained to find a difference in these until I realized how ridiculous that was, and that maybe the story is that you can't tell by looking.
posted by availablelight at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only difference I saw with consistency was that many seemed thinner in the middle picture.
posted by obol at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2012

And, actually, one thing I (thought I) noticed when I first looked was that the in the "during" portraits, most of the men look more relaxed, and somehow younger. But then I started thinking about that and now I don't know.
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2012

Well at least they didn't go running
posted by Lanark at 2:15 PM on November 12, 2012

The lighting isn't just different in the "during" photos, it's obviously different in the after photos as well (at least as far down as I looked). The "thickened brows" and "subcutaneous fat lost" in the first one, for example, seem due to harsher lighting coming from the top. You can see the shadow on his neck. It makes his brows look thicker because there is a shadow there too, and the cheekbones stand out more, same reason.

I really detest photographers who make their own points of view known rather than honoring the subjects they photograph. It's *using* people, and very very unattractive.
posted by parrot_person at 2:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Like others, I saw the most difference in the "during" photos. It does seem that the lighting is substantially different in those photos, but for whatever reason the men seem to be in a very different state of mind, more alert and focused.
posted by Max Udargo at 2:56 PM on November 12, 2012

Terrible mobile interface. Completely booked on my tablet, chopped the top off the photos. Photos were interesting, commentary not so much.
posted by arcticseal at 3:08 PM on November 12, 2012

U.K. Man arrested for burning a poppy on Armistice Day : 2012, 2011, 2010, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:15 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey sweetkid, thanks for posting this on Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day.
posted by snsranch at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't tell the difference.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:21 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a lot of pseudo-scientific pop psychology bollocks to me. But, interesting photos nonetheless.
posted by wilful at 5:00 PM on November 12, 2012

I guess this is an all male unit?
posted by Miko at 8:38 PM on November 12, 2012

Miko: more photos on the photographer's website.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:51 AM on November 13, 2012

In many of the "after" photos, the "round edges" have been worn away when compared to the "before" - this may be a result of military physical conditioning, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:50 AM on November 13, 2012

And/or stress.
posted by Miko at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2012

Not sure if its the lighting but their eyes look much bluer in the middle photos, though that could be all the spice in Arrakis.
posted by Damienmce at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2012

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