SPC Melvin Moore

Ellen Susan

Soldier Portraits

Using the wet collodion process — popular in the 1800s during the American Civil War — Ellen Susan takes portraits of U.S. Army service men and women who have deployed to Iraq. The unique plates made from long exposures provide an intense gaze — a counter point to the anonymous representations of soldiers in the media. The portraits put a face to men and women who are repeatedly sent into a war zone.

One of the reasons portraits made with the wet plate process look so intense and interesting is that the exposures are so long. My exposures for the Soldier Portraits project range from five to 60 seconds. While the lens cap is off, I’m not looking at the subject, so there’s some strange social tension in the air as the person concentrates on being still and stares at an enormous lens attached to an enormous camera that’s sometimes only a few inches from her face. Because the direct positive produces a revers image, a viewer may also consider the concept of themselves ‘mirrored’ by a soldier.
— Ellen Susan

You can see more and read about the Soldier Portraits series in Volume 3 of INSIGHT magazine.