Opton’s Soldier series takes a serious look at the faces of American soldiers, and consider the impact of war on their lives and the lives of their families.
The large-scale color portraits, produced with the cooperation of the military at Fort Drum Army base, depict the faces of young men and women who have served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Breaking with traditional portrait conventions, Opton photographs her subjects lying prone and with their face tilted towards the camera. By virtue of the slow process of working with a large format camera, the subject’s mind may wander during the session. In this fashion, although conscious of being looked at, the subject may be lost in thought when the exposure is made. Although the implication of being shot down was not lost on these young men and women, the pose also recalls seeing someone opposite you with their head on the pillow.
Opton explains her motivation for the series: “We all experience strategic moments when we feel most alive. Whether transcendent or horrific, these are the moments that we will always remember. I wanted to look in the face of a young person who had seen something unforgettable.”
The Soldier Billboard project presented billboards of the Soldiers in eight cities from 2008—10 along with the support of host arts organizations. More information on the project is available at www.soldiersface.com.
Suzanne Opton is a photographer whose work lies between documentary photography and conceptual art. The images in her work focus on portraits of people whom she works with over long periods of time and which often involve an interaction suggesting a performance between photographer and subject.
Opton’s series Many Wars was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Chrysler Museum of Art, VA in 2012. Decode Books published Soldier/Many Wars in 2011 which is distributed through Decode and DAP.