War changes you. This has been said time and again, but Lalage Snow has sought to document it. The photographer based in Kabul, Afghanistan began an 8 month long task to snap shots of soldiers before, during and after a tour of duty deployed in war ravaged Afghanistan. Her subjects were all from the British Armed Forces. As expected, the three-part photo journal of each soldier revealed a certain degree of innocence and eventually, a more brooding, serious demeanor. Some changes were more obvious, while others more subtle. Most of the time, the eyes reveal the most trauma.
The horror of combat and exposure to the arid Afghanistan outdoors etches itself in each of these young soldier’s faces. Snow calls this study We Are The Not Dead. Her intention is to call attention to the psychological toll each soldier has to bear in fighting these wars. It is a strongly worded title that implies all soldiers die in a way, and that no one really comes back home totally unscathed. They may be “the not dead,” but casualties of war nonetheless.
“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.”
One serviceman, 20-year-old Private Michael Swan relates how a mere 4 months away altered him. He noticed some fundamental changes when he returned home. “Being back is strange. You are away for so long and you think about how you lived so basically. It makes you appreciate things a lot more. Makes you appreciate life more, but find I get frustrated easily and lose my temper. My family says I am a lot more aggressive. I used to be a really placid guy, you know, really hard to upset but now it is quite easy.”