claire felicie: here are the young men (marked) interview claire felicie: here are the young men (marked) interview
jan 04, 2012

claire felicie: here are the young men (marked) interview

jasper, age 21 from ‘here are the young men (marked) by claire felice image © claire felice 

amsterdam-based photographer claire felicie has created a series of portraits of dutch marines. as part of the project, felicie has gotten to know the young men one by one. for the first image, she spent time with them before their tour of duty, trying to understand their personalities and motivations. afterwards, on a trip to afghanistan, felicie met them once again, this time while the men were serving in the war. this is where she took the second photograph, capturing the marines after patrol.  the third photograph, taken a year after the first, was back on the base at doorn.     

although there were clear changes in the atmosphere, the differences in the faces and expressions of the young men were not necessarily obvious at first. felicie reflects: ‘it was only when I saw the contact sheets, and compared them with the first shooting, that I saw the profound differences.‘    

— designboom has recently spoken to felicie about her project. —

did you notice differences in the process of photographing each of the young men? what was it like meeting and taking pictures of them the first time, versus the second and third?

the first meeting with these young men was exhilarating. they were laughing and joking about on their base in doorn, in the netherlands. however, when I took their portrait, I wanted them to be serious, so I had to be alone with each of them, or else they kept on joking. the first time I took half an hour with each of them, and talked with them about their profession and why they had chosen it.

second time was in afghanistan, and the atmosphere was changed. they were still sometimes joking with each other, of course, but I saw that the experience of combat and the death of their comrades had had an impact on them. I wanted to take their portrait after patrol on their combat outpost tabar. it was a severe surrounding, and the boys were fatigued from the every day and night patrols.

third time I saw them for the last portrait, they were less exuberant than at our first meeting on their base in doorn, but I didn’t notice a great difference at first. I took their picture again and went home. it was only when I saw the contact sheets, and compared them with the first shooting, that I saw the profound differences.

emiel, age 26

how did the idea of this project come about? how did you decide upon the format that you selected, of three similarly framed close-range portraits?

the idea came about when my son enlisted as a marine, and a friend of his visited our home in amsterdam, and told me that he was going to afghanistan to fight. this friend was only 18 years old at that time, and I remember thinking: ‘how would his face change? will it change? will there appear something of the experience of a warzone on his now young and enthusiastic face?’ so I decided then to begin a project photographing young marines who would be sent to a warzone for the first time.

I decided upon the format of close-range portraits when I lay down all the photographs together. I knew I had to present them in triptychs, but I could have chosen to reveal more of their head and hair. I decided not to, and to crop it very tight, so it would have more impact on the viewer. you are now forced to focus entirely upon the eyes and mouth, with no diversion.

tuur, age 24 image © claire felice

your oldest son is a marine. how has this impacted what you see through the lens?

I feel a special concern for them, due to my son being a marine also. these marines are in a way my son too. I think that I have become more empathetic through the experiences with these marines in a warzone. I’m more aware of their sacrifices and those of their families. it’s with more compassion that I look at the world and people now, than before.

sven, age 20 image © claire felice 

you have had personal interaction with the men in the photographs. can you talk about the changes you saw in these men over the course of your meetings? were there particular things that you sought to get across in the photographs, or would you consider your approach a more objective, documentative one? there were no particular things that I sought to get across in the photographs, however I wanted the marines to be serious about the project. they wanted to joke a lot, and laugh at each other when their portrait was taken. but I didn’t want them to appear joking and laughing on the pictures. I wanted as ‘neutral’ an expression as possible, because of the continuation that was necessary.

jeff, age 24 image © claire felice 

what are your own thoughts– from either your personal experiences or what you saw and spoke about with others or with these men– of the short and longer-lasting effects that the experience of war has on a person? I think that war has an impact on all the young men and women who serve, with no doubt. I think some of them are severely traumatized, others clearly not. the outcome, even in the triptychs, isn’t the same for each soldier. it depends on what you have seen and experienced in combat. what I truly hope and want is, that there is no taboo when it comes to PTSD: that it can be seen and be treated as ‘normal’ as physical injuries. we, as a society, send these young people to war, and we, as a society, have the obligation to take care of all of them as they return. they need our love and our respect. it helps them to heal from their tough and severe experiences.

due to my own project and its outcome, I have become more aware of the impact of war on soldiers. I hope that viewers around the world feel as compassionate about these men as I do now.

koen, age 24 image © claire felice 

luke, age 25 image © claire felice 

ramon, age 21 image © claire felice 

pascal, age 23 image © claire felice 

sjoerd, age 22 image © claire felice 

danny, age 20 image © claire felice 

arnold, age 21 image © claire felice 

jeffrey, age 23 image © claire felice 

nicky, age 22 image © claire felice 

  • great!

    pelis says:
  • Amazing. One wonders about about the editorial process, what conscious and subliminal choices were made and why, but these triptychs are nonetheless striking — and by no means predictable. Some have been changed by the horrors of war, some have matured . . .

    Mort D'Urban says:
  • @mort d’urban – i was thinking exactly the same thing, on both counts.

    okalexk says:
  • In any case , a very important work,to show everywhere.

    myface says:
  • I felt that this was an extremely worthwhile project, and that the boys to men transformation was sometimes startling- it seems that in most of the pix, the last one shows a marked difference i n the eyes particularly, and that they are changed in a radical way- they appear to be darker in almost every case. Kudos to the photographer- I only wonder if her son is perhaps included, or if she has plans to do a set of photos of him- that would be very interesting

    pasha7 says:
  • Like a sock in the stomach. While few of these young men look innocent of experience in their first photos, they certainly look touched deeply by life in the subsequent images. Eyes have become hooded and wary. Jaws have hardened, lips tightened. Cumulatively, it was hard to take. Bravo.

    Lorel says:
  • Wow. War certainly appears to have toughened them up, whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know.

    Jasper says:
  • Astonishing. I know my face sometimes changes, as if its recording and signalling my ability to cope with stress at any given time. Glad someone chose to explore this phenomenon in extremis.

    douglas says:
  • Powerful evidence of their experience. Would be really interesting to have a follow-up in another year’s time, to see whether being back home in their own culture and in a less stressful environment will bear fruit in their faces. An excellent idea, thoughtfully executed. Thanks for including d’-)

    Jetwax says:
  • Great beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a weblog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I were tiny bit familiar of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea

    Younger Women Older Men says:

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