There are a number of portraits within the body of photos to date, but I'd make a lousy reporter: I'm just too self-conscious and shy to insinuate myself into the life of the battalion to the degree necessary for human interest stories. This might be a reason I went into the insular world of visual art production.
A couple of weeks back, I met Louie Palu briefly. I walked away from the encounter thinking, "Man, that guy is confident and gregarious." It seems very easy to understand how a ballsy dude (and I think his photos attest to both those qualities) could find a home with the Grunts and Jarheads. I was mentioning this (my own awkwardness) to Amanda Nedham and she suggested I take up smoking, or take up pretending to smoke, as a means to start chats with the troops. It'd work for sure. The Army still holds dear its smoker core.
But at the same time I'm a proponent of honesty in the medium. Paintings should demonstrate the mark, a fart should always be acknowledged by the dealer and awkward relationships between soldier and (this) artist should seep into the imagery.
I'd like to think there are numerous readings and entry angles to the above images but one of them is the lack of engagement between them and myself. That's one of the great contradictions/tensions of documentary photography – the objective nature of the image (a moment caught, not judged) versus the attempt to use the photo to bring light to some greater truth or unknown quality. This tension is an understandable by-product of human interaction, even if one of them is pointing a camera at the other without asking permission.
The saying goes, "Once a Patricia, Always a Patricia" so it should be reasonably easy for me to sidle up and snap some cozy shots. No viewer needs to know this, but all of my shots with actual faces, especially ones where the subject engages the camera were taken by an anxious me.
But let's pull this back from the inevitable navel gazing and suggest that from an objective POV these images suggest the separateness that is part of soldiering, of the inevitable and needed distance between combat soldiers and civilians. There is a fundamentally utopic element to the infantry. Utopia requires an inversion of social norms and an idealized view of its principals. Distance is crucial and when that distance is breached awkwardness seems an unavoidable by-product of the equation.