Suzanne Opton’s intimate series, Soldier, pictures American service men and women who have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, and preparing to deploy again. Opton asked them to simply rest their head on a table and look into her 4×5 camera. Opton recalled, “Some of them looked serene, some looked shell-shocked. They’re all terribly vulnerable.” The caption for each is simply the soldier’s last name, the country and number of days they served thus far. Such a close view is usually reserved for loved ones—a wife, husband, brother or sister. It is a unique kind of military portrait for a new century, especially since “we are inured to pictures of war,” Opton says. “Soldier is a conceptual project based on a documentary situation. I’d see these young soldiers with their gear representing the U.S., and I wanted to strip that away to look at them like I would my own son. I wondered what they had been through.”
The series has been celebrated and collected internationally, from the Musee de l’Eysee, Switzerland, to the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Library of Congress. Opton has received Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts grants, and teaches at the International Center of Photography, N.Y.