Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The look in their eyes

The effects of war on the environment and the land is a devastating sight, but what we need to also see is that the soldiers have their own aftermath of devastation. 
And it's plain on their faces. 
Photographer, journalist and filmmaker Lalage Snow took a series of portrait photographs of British soldiers before, during and after their deployment in Afghanistan that I think the whole world should see. War is a horrific.

It's plain on their faces...

Private Chris MacGregor, 24
 11th March, Edinburgh: “Obviously I'll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”

19th June, Compound 19, Nad Ali, after an IED incident: “Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here. But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and there's nothing you can do about it. If the big man upstairs could do anything, there'd be no dead soldiers. They'd all be alive. It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying. You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here. I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier losing his legs just now… I don't know….”

28th August, Edinburgh, after being evacuated due to sustained knee injury from Iraq: “My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop. When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them. I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs. It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk. The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the missus and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”

Private Fraiser Pairman, 21
Private Jo Yavala, 28
 9th March, Edinburgh: “I am going to miss my family. I have been to Iraq before but not Afghanistan. I don't know what to expect but am looking forward to getting out there now.”

Compound 19, Nad Ali, after an IED: “I had a funny feeling about this patrol. heard the bang and heard on the radio ‘man down’ It was the first casualty I have seen. It was pretty awful. I saw the medic treating him, He had no leg. I went back to where it had exploded and then saw his boot floating in the water. Just an empty boot.”

10th October, Edinburgh: “ I pray in the morning when I wake up and in the evening before bed. But out there I was just praying all the time, thinking of my family at home. Sometimes I'd pray during during a patrol itself. I was scared. Especially when in contact, you don’t know what will happen. I was expecting the worst. Right now I feel a little bit angry, sometimes my temperature rises very quickly especially if I stay too long inside. Sometimes I miss being with all they guys. For the first few days I had difficulty sleeping. I dreamt about different things that happened in Afghan. A few nights I woke up crying.”

Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham, 24
 9 March, Edinburgh: “I am looking forward to getting out there. This is what we have been training for.”

12th June, PB Zeal, Nad-Ali: “It is important to be confident on the ground so there is no room to be scared to be honest. Training doesn’t allow for fears. The Afghans we are working with are good and it is satisfying when they take on what you teach them. We are lucky that we have a good tolay to work with here though. Not everyone does. I don't really miss anything. Wait no, I miss rain and having cold water literally on tap.”

14 October, Edinburgh: “In a contact you don't have time to be scared or excited, you just have to ride it out. In two and a half months I lost four men to injury. The first time I wasn't on patrol at the time and it’s weird; you feel responsible that you weren't out and you can't do anything to support or help them. You're just listening to it on the radio. Helpless. It’s almost worse than being in the contact yourself. Another time we got severely ambushed… that was the only time I thought, ‘this is it for me’. Now that I'm home, I think I’m a lot more calm. I’ve seen the worst and I've seen things I do not want to see again. You're fighting for survival at the end of the day. I think being in those kind of situations makes you realise you are pretty lucky with your life, with what you have already so why flap about the most simple of things.”

Private Sean Patterson, 19
Private Steven Anderson, 31
March, Edinburgh: “I think its going to be horrible to be honest. The work will be intense and there are going to be a lot of casualties. I am scared not of dying but of losing my legs – that would be the worst.”

June, PB Pimon, Nad-Ali: “Its hard to explain the conditions, how dirty it is. Often when you phone your girlfriend or something and she asks why you aren't talking normally, it’s… you're drained, you're tired, you're dirty, you've not eaten properly for a few days. Lack of water. You're just drained. I was scared on the first patrol but you think back to the training and remember all the drills. I haven't been in any fire fights and am happy for it to stay that way and to go back home with all my fingers and toes intact.”

October, Edinburgh: “We try and go there to win their hearts and change their minds… but those people are living until 45 and dying as there’s so much poverty and not the medicines to treat them. And they put different value on life. A child got killed, it was nothing to do with the Army it was just ill. They brought the body of that child to an army camp having shot it saying that it got caught in a firefight and demanding money. How can you change the mind of someone like that?”

Alec McBroom, 24
11th March, Edinburgh: “I am not worried about going out – it is my job after all, but I’ll miss the family so much and also carpet and slippers – it sounds weird but it is the little things that make a difference.”

12th June, PB Pimon, Nad-Ali: “It’s been an eye opener – especially the limitations of the ANA. But now we are in Pimon life has a routine. I miss my wife and kids though. I miss their characters – their comfort. I just miss them and I think it is worse for them waiting for us to come back. Oh, and I do miss walking on carpets, too. I haven't been scared – the last time I was properly scared was Northern Ireland and that was a long time ago.”

12th October, Edinburgh: “It is always that fear, that apprehension, what is going to happen if I get blown up? When it happened, straight away it was the world’s biggest surprise, the world’s biggest scare. The whole reason I went to Afghanistan was to justify the soldiers who went before me. Why should I sit with my comfy slippers on any my carpet, not having done my bit. But it’s as though i've got two lives: one where everything is dangerous and everyone is trying to kill us and the other one where you look out of the window in Edinburgh and there are people with pink hair, proper civilians. It’s just a different world. I've always been quite religious and I've spoken more to the big man lately. I’m thankful that someone is looking after me.”

They all have this hardness, this weariness to them in the photos during and after their deployment. The during though... 
The look in their eyes, it's rather unnerving actually. It's like they're wordlessly saying, "I've seen things no person should ever have to see in their lives." The horror they must have witnessed, it's inconceivable.

Have you noticed that all of their eyes changed colour and turned very light while deployed?

I've searched all over the Internet to find out about this phenomenon, but I've come up with a blank.

Any theories?

Anthea
P.S. This post was contributed by photographer Greta Rybus via The Telegraph.