War does a lot to people, much more to soldiers who are first-hand recipients of the effect of war. Not only does the impact of war affect their physical wellbeing but also their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Usually, after a war, most soldiers have nothing to say because they find it difficult to pen down their experiences. Whether they were on the losing side or not, the memories are usually unbearable for them.

Rather than gather the physical effect of the war in books, talented British journalist, photographer, and filmmaker, Lalange Snow, who is based in Afghanistan, embarked on an 8-month-long project that featured portraits of 14 members of 1st British Battalion from The Royal Regiment of Scotland soldiers.

Titled ‘We are The Not Dead,’ Snow uses this project to reveal the physical changes soldiers in a war zone go through.

While the portraits reveal changes in the soldiers’ expression, before, during, and after the war, Snow directly connects these expressions to the emotional burden the men had experienced.

From emotionally attached men to emotionally detached men, Snow reveals how the innocent appearance of these men transformed into sullen faces after experiencing war.

The Effect Of War As Seen In Images 

Just by showing the faces of these soldiers at different times, Snow purposed to reveal the physical, psychological trauma of war.

The echoes in the pictures reveal soft, innocent, and nervous looks before deployment, cold, serious, and survival mode looks during the war and a mix of emotionally detached, sad, and regretful looks after the war.

Snow has been able to reveal that words alone are not enough to explain each soldier’s transition. While the pictures were only taken within a period of 8 months, the difference says otherwise – a decade or more.

The after-war images reveal that some made it out with a huge feeling of relief while others appeared to be broken and displaced.

In addition to the photography which reveals the state of these soldiers, Snow’s project was accompanied by quotes from interviews he did with each of these servicemen.

The interviews revealed that many of the soldiers came home with post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD – a condition that affects people who have been exposed to bad and violent situations.

They were filled with regret, but many of them also found it difficult to readjust to life as civilians.

Excerpts From The Interview

In his first portrait interview, Sergeant Alexander McBroom said:

“I am not worried about going out – It is my job after all.”

However, in his second portrait interview (three months later), he told Lalange that “it has been an eye-opener.” And in his third portrait interview (after four months), he said, “It is always that fear, that apprehension, what is going to happen if I get blown up?”

In another interview, Private Chris MacGregor stated before his deployment on March 11th,

“Obviously, I’ll miss family, but other than that, I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressors and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too, though. I try not to think about the worst-case scenario.”

In his second portrait interview on June 19th after an IED accident, he said:

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 that 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 anymore. That Afghan soldier was losing his legs just now… I don’t know…”

In August, after returning home, he explained in his third portrait interview,

“My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept it. 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 folks. The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the misses and my bairn was to go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles, not caring where I stepped.”

Other after-war interviews with these soldiers revealed the doubt and sympathy these soldiers had for people they killed while carrying out their duties.

Many of them revealed that they do not know what they fought for; neither do they understand why they were at the war front.

Lalange Snow did not only start this project to honor the bravery of people who decided to give their lives for others, but she also wanted to draw attention to their psychological transformation.

In an interview, she revealed that this project stems from the personal relationship she has had with the military for the past four years.

“It was a very personal project, and it stemmed from having embedded with the military on and off for four years in Iraq and Afghanistan and bearing witness to how many young men return as shadows of their former selves and in many cases, with deep, psychological scars.”

As the body count of British service members killed or wounded rose and the political ramifications of the British army’s presence in Afghanistan became increasingly convoluted, more and more soldiers felt like they didn’t have a voice or at least weren’t being listened.

We are The Not Dead is an attempt at giving the brave young men and women the chance to explain how it is.

Has The War Ended?

Since October 7th, the United States and Afghanistan have been at war. It has been heard that the Trump administration plans to end the war with Afghanistan, but many of the President’s advisors stood against it.

This rumor came from the US presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who claimed that the United States had signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove 5,000 American troops in 135 days.

The envoy further revealed that the only thing needed to carry out the agreement is President Trump’s approval. Amidst all these, a press release has been issued by some US diplomats.

NBC reported that the press release issued by the nine former senior US diplomats contains warning that stands against the withdrawal of the US army as the withdrawal can cause a significant impact on the Middle East and allow ISIS to build a stronghold.

What Next?

Soldiers not knowing why they fight, who they fight, and why they have to kill and sustain injuries because of an ‘order’ reveals the senselessness and lack of empathy behind wars. We hope to see a world where everyone will live in harmony without a reason to fight. In that world, these soldiers will be our shining heroes.

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