Opton, Suzanne

Susanne Opton, New York, USA


The Soldier photographs take a serious look at the faces of active duty American soldiers, and consider the impact of war on their lives and the lives of those dear to them. Soldiers are traditionally portrayed as heroic, and of course that’s what we want them to be.

But in making these photographs, I wanted to look beyond the heroics, the glamour and bravado of the military. I wanted to present a quiet look at individual behind the uniform.

Wanting to make a vulnerable portrait of a soldier, I asked each person to lay his or her head on the table. The head is isolated. It becomes a simple object, a piece of fallen statuary. The photographs draw on the traditional power of photography, but they I am not a documentary photographer. This is a conceptual piece where I set the stage and soldier bringing himself to the situation. This performance of the soldier laying his head down creates a provocative structure for looking at a real moment in time.

The subtext of my photographs is people lost in thought. Due to the slow process of working with a large format camera, the subject’s mind may wander during exposure. My only instruction to them is to look at the camera or look away. The viewer’s experience is quiet and intimate because this is how we see our children, our lovers- head on the pillow or here perhaps on a stretcher.