The Canadian War Museum officially launched their newest exhibit on Wednesday which illustrates, through photography, scars both physical and mental suffered by Canadian forces members who served in Afghanistan.
Dubbed “The Wounded,” the exhibit features 18 photos taken by photographer and former journalist Stephen J. Thorne. The black and white photos show the soldiers in their civilian attire with scars from wounds sustained in combat on display.
“I find black and white is the most powerful medium, said Thorne. “We’re bombarded with information every day and it’s the rare image that actually makes a difference.”
Many of the images feature soldiers with physical scars, such as missing legs or scarred hands. Some feature the subjects wearing their prosthetic limbs and others feature subjects battling psychological scars as well.
According to Thorne, the civilian clothing, the showcasing of scars and even the dark black and white photography all serve to represent the struggles that these men and women have faced after suffering their wounds.
“These 18 images represent more than 2,000 Canadian soldiers who were wounded either physically or mentally in Afghanistan,” said Thorne. “I feel that all of these folks have lived, since their wounds, in shadow.”
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“In the process of recovery, they are emerging from these shadows into the light. Recovery for these folks is a process, not a destination.”
One of the soldiers featured in the images is MCpl (Ret.) Mike Trauner, who suffered the loss of his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. Trauner was on hand at the announcement and spoke to not only how these photos have helped his process of healing, but also his hopes that they will have the same effect on others.
“As a former soldier I’d like to reflect it back to what other soldiers could use it for,” said Trauner. “Many soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder can’t normally express it in words, but with an exhibit like this it allows them to express their feelings without having to speak about it.”
According to both Trauner and Thorne, in today’s world of people consuming multimedia at a breakneck pace, the still image still holds a lot of power in its ability to elicit a powerful emotional response from its viewer.
“Photos like this are powerful because they are timeless,” said Trauner. “They’re always going to be here and people are always going to remember what these soldiers have sacrificed for Canada.”
“I think photographs, especially at a venue like this, gives people the opportunity to stop and process what they’re looking at,” said Thorne.
The Wounded will be on display at the Canadian War Museum from February 15 to June 2, 2019.