“Come and See”. True Reality of War Photos by Peter Van Agtmael

Peter van Agtmael (b. 1981) graduated from Yale University in 2003 with a degree in History. Following graduation, he spent a year in China on the Charles P. Howland fellowship photographing the effects of the Three Gorges Dam. He became a freelance photographer at the end of 2004. Since the beginning of 2006, he has documented the consequences of America’s Wars, at home and abroad. A monograph of the work, “2nd Tour Hope I Don’t Die” was published in 2009. In 2008, he helped organize the exhibition and book Battlespace, a retrospective of unseen work from 22 photographers covering Iraq and Afghanistan. He is represented by Magnum Photos

1
Peter Van Agtmael began his first tour documenting the army at 24, the same age as many of the soldiers. A friend of this young Marine at FOB Delhi asked Van Agtmael if he wanted to see a picture that he’d drawn. It was of an angry pig with a giant pen*s dressed as a Marine, holding a machine gun. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

2
Van Agtmael says that the main difference between the two wars was that soldiers in Iraq stayed on mega-bases of 10-40,000 men, while in Afghanistan, soldiers were usually stationed at outposts of 10-150 men. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

3
While most photos of war are of fighting, the majority of time is spent waiting around. This helicopter medic waits for a call from a radio channel dedicated to casualty reports. His girlfriend gave him the teddy bear. Here: A flight medic rests and watches TV while waiting for a mission in the medevac section of FOB Falcon. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

4
Van Agtmael was fascinated by the fighting when he first arrived, but he quickly became more interested in the quiet moments of war, like an American patrol that visited an isolated village outside of Mosul. The villagers were not even sure a war was going on. The soldiers took turns riding the donkeys. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

5
The war was often full of monotony. Soldiers frequented the gun range to stave off boredom. Here, a soldier surveys the damage after shooting a target with a sawed-off shotgun. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

6
Moments of leisure are prized. Marines swim in an irrigation canal at their outpost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The same day, a patrol from another base was hit by an IED. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

7
Danger was one constant. As troops walked down this road in Helmand Province, soldiers spotted passerby eyeing them suspiciously. Moments later, an IED exploded. Luckily, no one was killed or badly hurt. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

8
In Iraq, the army drove through cities during “presence patrols”, which Van Agtmael says soldiers called “waiting to get blown up”. Raids for insurgents were also common. Unfortunately, most raids, like the one pictured here, were unsuccessful. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

9
American soldiers stormed this house after seeing two young men eyeing them and fidgeting. Though nothing was found in the house, the soldiers detained the boys after explosive residue was found on their hands. Explosives tests are notoriously unreliable. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

10
Shortly after he arrived, Van Agtmael witnessed the aftermath of this suicide bombing at a cafe that soldiers frequented in Mosul. Nine people died and 23 were wounded. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

11
One of the biggest struggles in the war was getting spooked locals to help the U.S. army. Here, a soldier wakes up after an unsuccessful search for an insurgent leader in an Afghan village. The lieutenant yelled at the village elders for not aiding the search. They told him they would help if the Americans could provide security, but they hadn’t seen an American patrol in months. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

12
“War encapsulates the whole range of human experience. That’s what is so seductive about it. It makes you feel alive”, says Van Agtmael. Here, a Marine rests after a firefight with the Taliban in Helmand, one of the most dangerous provinces of Afghanistan. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

13
A soldier is treated after being shot in the chest during an ambush. Another soldier was killed during the same ambush. In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, army medics and doctors saved an unprecedented 90% of wounded soldiers. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

14
Specialist James Worster (left) and Sergeant Brandon Benjamin take a cigarette break while in the Baghdad ER. Two months after this photo was taken, Worster died of an overdose of a sedative, propofol. Drug abuse was widespread in the hospital unit. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

15
The military is constantly improving the realism of its training courses. This mannequin, used in a lifesaving course, pumps fake blood that only stops when you apply enough pressure from a tourniquet. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

16
This is a combat life-saving course. Soldiers mimic serious injuries while recruits attempt to bandage them and get them out of the kill zone. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

17
Upon returning home, Van Agtmael realised that the war doesn’t end when you get off the plane. He soon resolved to follow the “long tail” of the war – what happens when soldiers return to civilian life. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

18
Here, families catch their first glimpse of loved ones returning home from Iraq in 2011. These soldiers, from the 1st Cavalry unit, were some of the last to return from the war. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

19
Lieutenant Erik Malmstrom looks at photos of three fallen soldiers from his brigade. His brigade lost more men than any single unit in Afghanistan. “To have a hope of succeeding (in Afghanistan) you have to be part warrior, part anthropologist, part diplomat, part development worker”, Malmstrom told Van Agtmael. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

20
Many didn’t make it home. This is the funeral for Sergeant Seth Ricketts in 2010. Ricketts was killed in a remote area of western Afghanistan that had been mostly peaceful. It was his fifth tour of duty. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

21
Seth’s wife Rosie wakes up her son Aiden before her husband’s viewing. He had been killed in Afghanistan the previous week. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

22
Ricketts was buried near his hometown at the Corinth National Cemetery. After his coffin was lowered in the ground, a small crew shoveled dirt over the grave, pounding it with a mechanical dirt-packer. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

23
This is Ricketts’ grave. His 3-year-old son Aiden poses like a ninja while his grandmother takes photos. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

24
Many soldiers had difficulty coping with what they experienced. On the night before a memorial service for Army Private Andrew Small, members of his platoon got wasted at the hotel bar. A brutal fight between two of the soldiers ensued and they had to be forced into bed. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

25
This is Specialist Scott Jones of New York, a month after returning from Afghanistan. His unit was going through a tough transition home – several had been arrested for drunk driving and another was committed to a psychiatric hospital after beating a civilian. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

26
Raymond Hubbard was shredded with shrapnel in Baghdad in July, 2006. After being hit, Hubbard was in a coma for a month. He recalls a recurring hallucination of a old man with long white hair whose left leg was replaced by a wagon wheel. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

27
Hubbard plays with his kids, Riley and Brady, in 2007. Both sons got straight A’s on their first report card after Hubbard returned. They didn’t want him to worry about their schoolwork. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

28
This is outside Hubbard’s room in Mologne House, an outpatient ward at Walter Reed Hospital. The ward was like a comfortable motel, furnished with flat-screen TVs and Apple computers. The soldiers gathered every night on the breezeway to get drunk and swap war stories. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

29
Hubbard at a medical appointment to determine the benefits he would receive for his injuries in 2008. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

30
Van Agtmael took this photo after a night of drinking with Raymond Hubbard and his friend Alvin. In 2008, Hubbard was granted 100% disability for the rest of his life. Four years later, Social Security revoked his benefits after it declared he could function adequately without a leg. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

31
A stranger playing a video game notices Hubbard’s prosthesis and takes aim. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

32
Hubbard with his wife. They separated and divorced two years after this photo. (Photo and caption by Van Agtmael/Harrison Jacobs/Magnum Photos)

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave Your Comment Below

More Inspiring Stories