Attention Servicemember

Ben Brody

2003 - 2018

Northampton, Massachusetts, United States; Kandahār, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Mayorality of Baghdad, Iraq

I went off to war for a decade. I came home and everything looked different. The whole world looked combustible, ready to ignite during the tiniest lapse in focus. I have photographed Attention Servicemember to represent what that experience looks and feels like to me.

For five years I was a U.S. soldier primarily engaged in making photographic propaganda related to combat operations in Iraq. A few weeks after I left the Army, I received a postcard that read, “ATTENTION SERVICE MEMBER: TIME TO REENLIST.” The card made the absurd threat that if I failed to respond, I risked being no longer in the Army. I left the Army but not the wars - I headed to Afghanistan, unarmed and unaffiliated, to photograph the American war there on my own terms, using different visual strategies.

The black-and-white photographs in this work were all made in the course of my daily life as a journalist, a forager, a husband, a veteran, and all the smaller roles I’ve played in the past two years. Rather than construct a narrative in a linear timeline, I use sequence and emotional continuity to link the images.

The images here are a photographic expression of my sleepless nights, my constant vigilance, my unreliable memory and my drive to continue physically and emotionally returning to the wars.

There is no return to “normal life” after long periods in war zones, once you believe that war is normal. I see war at the gas pump, war in the political choices that otherwise peaceful people make, war in our drug use, war in our economic system, in our refugee and immigrant populations, war in our epidemic of gun violence. Service members are shooting and bombing people overseas, but it doesn't end there. War is integrated with our most ordinary daily actions.

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  • Hanging Cloud.

  • Jose's gun.

  • Camp Loyalty, 2005.

  • Sadr City, 2005.

  • Camp Patriot, 2005.

  • Camp Nathan Smith, 2011.

  • Kandahar Airfield, 2010.

  • Camp Hero, 2005.

  • Sadr City, 2005.

  • Camp Ahmadkhan, 2013.

  • Unknown Location, 2005.

  • Abandoned Camp, 2014.

  • Moses, 2005.

  • Mirror, 2018.

  • Anna, 2017.

  • Kandahar Airfield, 2014.

  • Camp Loyalty, 2005.

  • Fair, 2014.

  • Becca, 2017.

  • Sadr City, 2005.