Suzanne Opton

A photographer the took my full interest in the introduction lecture was Suzanne Opton and her soldier series. Straight away i disagreed with how she had chosen to represent these soldiers. In my opinion soldiers should be represented as strong, powerful people after everything they have seen and done, i’m just not too sure Optons series was giving the respect to them that they deserve.

Listening to this audio interview has given me a lot of understanding as to why she chose to represent the soldiers in this way along with her choice of camera and model position.

Opton began to shoot the subject in their traditional military position, during this time she spoke to her models and got to know a bit more about them (participant observing) and why they volunteered to be a soldier.  She then moved on to take their photographs with their heads rested on a hard table. Suzannes aim was to represent these soldiers as vulnerable because it’s the opposite to how a stereotypical soldier appears. Thinking back on myself I am beginning to agree with her choice of representation because these people have seen things most of us have never seen or experienced before, they’re traumatised. This atmosphere has defiantly made an impact in the photographs and onto me. Whilst having their head rested on the table waiting for the photographer to get the camera and lighting ready the subject was able to relax and get lost in their own thoughts making the image ‘truthful’, vulnerable yet so powerful. As a viewer i can see the pain and trouble in their eyes and it makes me fully aware that yes they are strong, powerful people but one wrong move and they could be gone. I’m able to feel a connection between myself and the subject. The choice Opton made with placing the soldiers head on a table creates this connection, the viewer only tends to see people in this position if they are to lay on a pillow next to someone so we are  forced to feel this sense of intimacy towards the soldier as if we want to comfort them.

This series of photographs were printed onto billboards and put up all around highways and towns in the US. I found a blog where people are welcome to put up their own opinions towards this series, some are good and some are bad.

“I do not like the way that these billboards portray soldiers as vulnerable. I feel as if these images show weakness not only in the individual but to our country.” (Crogers, 2010)

Before researching into this series i could completely relate to the comment above but now i can see the power in the photographs rather than just vulnerability. I do believe that the photographer cannot control the way their images are interpreted but it does sadden me that viewers don’t take their time to read into them and try and understand why the photographer made the choice to represent the subjects this way.

“So moving. I stand for PEACE every week on a corner in our town – Delray Beach, FL. It is my hope that these young people can be brought home ALIVE and WELL. So far we as a nation, are failing to protect them. WAR is wrong, no matter how brave any individual is. They are heroes, but why not be heroic in saving lives, not taking them?” (Fonfa, Ann 2010).

Photography is a powerful media.Image


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