Faces of War: Portraits of Soldiers Before, During and After War

I would do anything not to have my children ever experience war firsthand. I can barely explain the concept of stranger danger and the fact that there are mean people out there who want to hurt them, so I’m at a loss as to how to eventually explain the things humans do to each other in the name of religion, politics, money, greed, power, land, and all the other reasons generally given as cause for war and the resulting deaths of millions.

War not only ends the lives of those who don’t make it, but slowly kills the survivors, if not their bodies their souls. It alters people forever. Millions of American men and women are suffering from PTSD because of things they experienced in the war. I don’t want my children to ever experience those things. Call me unpatriotic, call me whatever you want, but I don’t know that I could ever get behind sending my child off to war unless the situation was ultimately as clearly spelled out as what happened during World War 2. Blind patriotism is a dangerous thing. I certainly am not disrespecting those who choose to go to war, I’m simply saying that the thoughtful, informed decision not to go to war should be as respected as much as the one to go.

Gone are the days when war was as black and white as it’s been in the past.  America was a good guy and Hilter was the ultimate bad guy. It’s more complicated than that now and I would have a hard time supporting the possible life sacrifice of my son or daughter for a cause that may or may not be legitimate. Who’s to say? As was illustrated after the war in Iraq, we civilians are never given all the answers and so how can we justify taking a life? Blind faith in God and country? What about the faith in God of the millions of people in the country we’re invading? In the end aren’t most of us ultimately just pawns of a few powerful people with often sinister ulterior motives?

A gallery from a talented photographer caught my eye and does a beautiful job not only capturing the thoughts and feelings of some of those men and women who chose to go to war but how disillusioned they became during the war…The photos also illustrate why I don’t want my children to ever experience such things. Lalage Snow took a series of portraits of British soldiers over a period of eight months, before, during and after their deployment in Afghanistan.

Here is what Lalage told ABC about the project:

I began working with A Company, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots) in January 2010, 3 months before they deployed and joined them on the end of their training, thereby building friendship and trust with individuals. The ‘before’ portraits were taken the day before they deployed. The ‘during’ shots are almost exactly 3 months into their deployment in Nad-Ali and the ‘after’ shots were taken the week they returned almost 4 months later apart from those who were sent home with injuries. 

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.

Below you’ll see some of the those men and women. Before, during and after they’ve seen things no human being should ever have to see. I study each photo, wondering if the hardened, haunted expressions I’m seeing in the during and after photos are really there or if my perception is skewed because I know which photo is before and which is after. I wonder; if you handed me the before, during and after photos and asked if I could pick which was which, could I do it? What about you? Would you support your child’s choice to go to war or would you do anything within your power to convince them otherwise?

You can click over to Lalage Snow’s website to read the thoughts and feeling of each soldier depicted below.

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All photos used with  permission from Lalage Snow whose work  you can find at

Read more from Monica on Babble:

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