Ben Brody is an American conflict photographer who has worked both as a soldier and as a civilian. He is currently an MFA candidate at Hartford Art School’s low-residency photography program. From 2003-2008, Ben was an enlisted combat photographer for the 3rd Infantry Division and completed two tours in Iraq. From Sadr City to the Triangle of Death, he jumped from battle to battle, photographing without restrictions on his access. After leaving the Army, he joined the nonprofit startup The GroundTruth Project and began a six-year project photographing the American war in Afghanistan. Along with several of his colleagues, Ben used this body of work to produce an award-winning multimedia site, www.foreverstan.com. Ben continues his work with GroundTruth, frequently exhibits and lectures, and is developing a series of photo books about his time during the wars.
I went off to war for 12 years. When I came back, my home looked different to me. Attention Servicemember is a photographic representation of my newly unfamiliar life in rural Massachusetts.
In 2003, I enlisted in the Army as a combat photographer. I thought the Iraq war would be a pivotal moment for my generation, and I wanted to bear witness. I had no money or experience to photograph the war on my own terms, so I enlisted.
Just after Christmas in 2004, I went to Baghdad. Something like 25 of the next 36 months were spent fighting in the city streets, sleeping under incoming and outgoing artillery fire. I would sleep through the outgoing, and dash to a bunker under incoming, then continue sleeping amid the thunder on the hot concrete.
Of course, my original motivations for joining the Army did not survive first contact with the enemy. Witnessing the Iraq war did not affect its outcome, nor sway its architects toward greater wisdom or compassion. Less than one percent of my generation got involved at all. And my coming of age was largely a process of weaponizing my instincts and reflexes.
I left the Army but not the wars. The Iraq war was on a temporary hiatus while American troops retreated, so I went to Afghanistan as a civilian to photograph what I saw as an equally unresolvable conflict. Now the Americans have largely left Afghanistan, and so have I. Yet the war is still with me, and with America.
Attention Servicemember expresses my strange dissonance of returning home from the wars, and I hope that it will resonate with viewers regardless of their experience with the military or with conflict. Having spent so much time and energy making ephemeral news imagery, I seek a product of some permanence with Attention Servicemember – something that will be a point of reference on the subject of the post-9/11 wars. The book is coming soon.
To view more of Ben’s work please visit his website.