Portraits of Soldiers Before, During, and After War

Private Chris MacGregor, 24

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. Similar to Claire Felicie's series of monochromatic triptychs, 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."

Update: See more triptychs and read our exclusive, one-on-one interview with Lalage Snow, here.


Lance Corporal Sean Tennant, 29


Private Ben Frater, 21


Corporal Steven Gibson, 29


Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham, 24


Private Fraiser Pairman, 21


Lance Corporal Martyn Rankin, 23


Second Lieutenant Adam Petzsch, 25


Private Jo Yavala, 28


Lance Corporal David McLean, 27


Private Sean Patterson, 19


Private Steven Anderson, 31


Sergeant Alexander McBroom, 24


Private Matthew Hodgson, 18

Lalage Snow website
via [Visual News]

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Tags: Lalage Snow, We Are The Not Dead, photo

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Comment by Bloupbloup75 on April 9, 2014 at 4:23am

Look also at the Israeli Soldiers of same artist (Rineke Djistra)

Comment by Bloupbloup75 on April 9, 2014 at 4:21am

It reminds me of this photo of artist Rineke Djistra : http://betheluphoto.blogspot.fr/2011/10/another-series-from-rineke-...

Comment by dbp on April 8, 2014 at 4:04pm

There is a lot of variety but to me the commonality of the columns is 1. Innocence, 2. Alertness, 3. Wisdom

Comment by Becca Ellison on February 12, 2014 at 8:58pm

As a Veteran and Spouse of a Soldier I would say that these photos are not an accurate representation necessarily of what a person is feeling about being in the military or being deployed. This sort of expose serves little purpose. Anti-war activists would have everyone believe that all Service-members are miserable and that simply isn't true. My husband has deployed a number of times and while the separation was certainly tough we, as a family, understand the dedication it takes to serve our country and how privileged we are to be Americans. We would both gladly serve again, even if it meant we had to deploy.

Comment by Ruth Francis on February 1, 2014 at 7:11am

Yes, Katherine, the lighting is different. I'd say in war torn Afganistan you take what you get. The lighting does not necessarily take away from the message. Eye expression is not just pupil dilation. Whatever lighting, it is clear the changes in the softness of the faces. The guys are more lean afterwards. There are lines too, and a difference in understanding that can be read - like a readiness. I don't see conformity - but I do see pain, alertness, fear, sadness, retreat, relief, determination, anger, grit, death and openness.

Comment by Katherine Williams on December 22, 2013 at 3:14am

This really pisses me off!!! Why? Because there are soldiers out there who truly have gone through something life changing and this shit is so incredibly retarded! It makes a mockery of something that (if real) would be incredibly profound. The fact that it is obviously not real is just gross! Ick! Look at the pupils in all of these sets of photos and it will immediately become apparent to you that every single one of these so called before, during, and after photos are in fact medium lighting, bright lighting, and then low lighting photos. LAME!

Comment by John Russo on May 7, 2013 at 5:16pm

These pix show a definite transformation of the visage. The technical details like lighting could have been handled better but the pix are very good just the same. The author/photographer makes the point.
Combat transforms the direct participants like no other activity. WAR is hell. What's it good for? Nothing.
Thank you for this insightful contribution.

Comment by Gianni Gin on April 3, 2013 at 5:24am

Lidé co prošli frontou,mají pronikavý pohled."Duchapřítomnost", jim kouká z očí.Je to nezbítné,šlo jim přeci o život.

Comment by Dani California on January 15, 2013 at 6:16am

The inconsistent lighting is a little distracting; a trick in itself. You can't argue the men's faces have changed due to war experience, but the lighting, I believe, plays a huge part in convincing the viewer of a stronger narrative.

Comment by Tawny Clochard on December 18, 2012 at 5:41pm

Sorry to correct you, ladies, but the correct sequence is: 1. Kill? 2. Kill! 3. Kill.... ?

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