Portraits of Soldiers Before, During, and After War

For her project titled Marked, photographer Claire Felicie shot close-up portraits of the marines in the 13th infantry company of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps before, during, and after their deployment from 2009-2010. She then arranged the portraits into haunting triptychs that show the toll war has on a person’s eyes and face.

Marked by Claire Felicie (via lensculture)

Image credits: Photographs by Claire Felicie and used with permission

  • Anonymous

    So war doesn’t change you too much?

  • Andrew Ferguson

    No consistency to processing. Why is the contrast amped so much in every middle photo? Darker faces & brighter eyes.

    It’s a good idea for a project, but I don’t think this photographer did it justice.

  • Eduardo MPS

    look at the expressions, not the details.

  • Zefanya Hanata

    All I see is different facial hair. So war doesn’t let you shave too much eh?

  • Zefanya Hanata

    Yea, different lightings beats the very purpose of this.

  • John Milleker

    Sorry, I don’t see much either. At least not enough to justify just a triptych alone. Give me a story, a bio, something to read to prove your point.

  • Natalie

    I guess it’s not so hard being a solider in the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps. The processing is not good, but a very good and moving idea. Take the idea to American soldiers. 

  • Daniel Yu Suzuki

    This is an amazing series. The soldiers look like completely different people in the after photos. They’re eyes look lifeless, cold and beaten down. The first guy looks kind of inhuman and soulless. Very powerful work.

  • Guy

    Good point Andrew Ferguson… throw it all out…  total waste of time…

      If this were meant to be a scientific experiment your criticism would be valid but this doesn’t seem to be presented that way.  Claire may or many not have an agenda but there are characteristics in these men’s eyes and faces that survive basic inconsistencies in processing.  It would be most suspicious if the “after” pics showed the greatest processing alterations.  As a photojournalist I don’t see any ethical issues in the image’s variations.  In the least this project can help us see that even “survivors” of war aren’t left untouched by the horrors of war.  Wars may become necessary but there is nothing glorious about them…
      Thanks Claire for spending the time, heart and effort to put this together.  The resulte are haunting.


  • Anonymous

    I think this is one of those sorts of projects that is more concept than tangible output. It doesn’t really matter what the images look like or actually show/don’t show, people will project their beliefs and preconceptions on to them.

  • Scott Mains

    Congrats to all those that ‘don’t see it’. It’s all in the eyes and micro changes of the expression. If you want to see how this has been done before please READ the photos by August Sander, specifically “Young Mother”, not just gloss over them at them and go “Meh, the third Reich didn’t do too much to them.”

  • James Davidson

    They are darker because they have tans from the desert..

  • GT

    How can anyone NOT see these photos?! Look at those eyes in the third set. They’re flat, they’re distrustful, they’re like pinpoints. Compare them with the first set, and they look almost lifeless. 

    Very evocative images. 

  • Cor Oskam

    Hey, don’t blame the Dutch army guys. I even don’t see big difference but that don’t say much about the things they did.

  • Anonymous

    This project is slightly one sided. All of the first images, are kind of smiling and then not smiling, the lighting changes. The angles of the faces are higher and lower resulting in shadowing. Some people here are assuming the darkening of the faces add an ominous sad feeling, but its just desert sun.

    Why is the third man looking away in this last image? The photos need to have the same gaze every time.

    I do not want to take away the emotions the men have in their micro expressions because war is hard, and they see things i do not ever wish to experience.  I love the troops but this project shows the creators intentions and position

  • Cor Oskam

    The difference I can see is in their mouth. The mouth is less ‘smiley’.

  • Jamie Weir

    It’s slightly alarming to me that a website focussed on the topic of photography (and in that length, “seeing” things) has so many people not only unable to notice differences in the faces, but then feel like they should rag on this.

    In every one of these, the first photo has at least a slight smirk going on.  Most of them are noticeable at the far sides of the mouth.  That little upward angle.  The slight fold happening near that cheek that occurs during a smile.

    In every one of these, said smirk, be it coming originating from joy, or cockiness, is not present in the after photo.  The second from the bottom is the most impacting to me, because it’s the least drastic.  In his first one, he doesn’t look happy, but he looks confident.  There is the tiniest of an upward slant on the right (our left) of his mouth.  That is removed in the final one.  There is no charm of confidence.  It comes off as a transition from “I can do this” to “I had to do that” to me.

  • Erwin Rademaker

    I agree with you Andrew, the middle photos are processed too much to make a point

  • Scott Mains

    Thank you. I fully second this post. It’s alarming that people aren’t reading this properly. 

  • Mattshu

    Have any of you ever been at a photoshoot before? During a simple headshot session I could pick any number of expressions that match ANY of the expressions above. It’s all about the selective editing & processing. 

  • Steve-o

    i agree with most of the above… pictures like this should be caught on the spot in the moment.. with their true expressions.. when they look trough the scope at an enemy or closing danger.. and when they meet their families again..

    the lighting aswell it makes the “war” picture looks so different from the rest

  • Haley

    Some of you people need to actually be apart of a family that’s gone through a member of the family going to war. whoever says that these men aren’t any different are heartless and just plain stupid. go ask someone that has seen death or actually killed someone how they feel now. do some research before you say that “war doesn’t change anyone.” they look completely different.

  • Sportyky

    He isn’t looking at the picture most likely because he doesn’t want to.  He has gone through so much that the whole point is to show how the “gaze” changed from beginning to end.

  • Haley

    go some research or actually talk to a person who has had to kill someone so that they don’t get killed themselves. Have some compassion. They are completely different men.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    Reading facial expressions fail

  • Sportyky

    This has got to be one of the most unsensitive remarks i have ever heard.  My mom deals with the returning soldiers and there is so much more than facial hair that has changed about them.  In the 2nd and 3rd picture on all of them, their eyes have lost the glow of the first one.  Their faces show a sense of “I can’t believe what is happening.”  They have a smirk in the first one and that is gone in the others.  These young men have put their life in danger for the US to get a job done.  Something I hope to say I have done one day.

  • Sportyky

    It’s hard to be a serviceman or woman in any branch.  You have to give up the right to safety and to be protected to acutally protect those at home.  War is hard whether you are from the Netherlands or America.

  • Anonymous

    This idea is original and amazing. I get it. The first picture is happy, the second is fearful, the 3rd is cold and untrusting. But as someone mentioned earlier in this stream the processing appears biased. The photographer should TRY to duplicate the expression and lighting during the capture (catch light in the eyes can be duplicated), and have an objective third party do the post processing. Again, very creative idea. Don’t give up on it. Unfortunately there is always ongoing wars to poll from, and young people assigned for slaughter.

  • William Howell

    Hey I come to this site quiet often, it’s the one place that doesn’t politicize everything. So please Michael Zhang if you don’t like the wars we’re in please go some where else and protest!!! I happen to be in support of our actions over seas, I think their necessary for world peace, thats right I said world peace.  Si vis pacem, para bellum

  • a_reader

    Though I won’t disagree with what you say I will disagree with where you say they are from; The article said they are from the  Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, sounds like they’re European to me…. 

  • Jamie Weir

    Yes, and the NMC have been deployed in Afganistan over the past years, essentially “helping the US get a job done”.

    The US isn’t all alone in sending their troops overseas.  Sportyky never said they were from the US.  Merely that they, like friends of mine in the Canadian Forces, have put their lives in danger for the US to get a job done.

  • Jamie Weir

    You are asking the owner of this website that you choose to come visit to go somewhere else to “protest”?  Think that through for a second.

    This is a photography blog.  This here is a series of interesting photos, fitting the criteria.  The most potentially confrontational thing he did was point out how this gives an interesting look at what being involved in war can change in someone.  That’s not some slanted belief being preached.  It’s something that is well known.  Only instead of looking at cases of severe Post Traumatic Stress cases, this showcases some of the subtler changes.

    With that in mind, it is Michael’s blog, which he paid for, built, and maintains.  He is free to do any say whatever the hell he wants, because it’s his.

    You don’t go to someone else’s home simply because they let you in, and tell them they’re living in it wrong, because you prefer neutral colours in the bedroom, and they went with colourful ones.

    This isn’t your internet.

  • Dave

    Agreed, and I also believe that the soldiers, knowing what the project was about, simply could have subconsciously changed their expressions. Except for the facial hair and some temporary facial blemishes (see first image), these images could have been taken at the same sitting. Great art project though.

  • Dave

    Well said, and I agree with you on the soldier looking away. I think it looks contrived. Even if it was hell over there for you, you can look into the camera.

  • Dave

    If you think soldiers from one country fight harder than another, you have been listening to too much US propaganda.

  • Dave

    You are the first and only person to politicize this blog post.

  • Leisl

    You’re being snarky, right? You’ve never known anyone that’s been to war if you were serious with that statement. 

  • a_reader

    I stand corrected, remind me to never post to the internet while not fully awake, didn’t read that sentence correctly the first time

  • anne

    the eyes are really getting into me too. 

  • Blackiwidow

    Another term for Soldiers are Paid Killers. World peace my a**. 

  • Dave

    I’m not being snarky and I know lots of people that have been to war. They all have one thing in common…..they still know how to smile when they want. One of my closest friends has PTSD so bad he has trouble sleeping, and he is a Viet Nam vet. He still has his full range of expressions. They don’t walk around with permanent 1000 yard stares like you are imagining (do YOU know anyone who has survived war?). A persons expression can change many times in the matter of a second. This project seems to have been forced by the photographers agenda.

  • Jess

    In all honesty, I think it all depends on the lighting conditions that really illuminate the eyes to give them their facial expressions. 

    You can’t really tell in a photograph. |:

  • Diana Lundin

    Wow, incredible. The first set, there is a glimmer of hope. The second set, so fearful. The third… dead eyes. Very powerful.

  • William Howell

    Make that the second, see Blackiwidow, I suppose but I don’t think I was politicizing. All I’m saying is don’t f*ck up a nice site. Full exposure I’m a Conservative politically. As to the second point, Michael has built up one of my favorite sites and I’ve never seen anything I consider overtly political until now. Advertisers don’t like political controversy. I have discovered numerous sites from Petapixel, such as FStoppers and I believe Photoshop Disasters. But maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, we’ll see.

  • Dave

    OK, my bad. I didn’t catch Blacwidows post. I think if you look at this post objectively it is about photography. And even so, who is saying that photography can never evoke a political mood or emotion? I mean, it would almost be expected that the triptychs would progress as the photographer is showing that they did so how can that be the site owners issue. What if the images were reversed, as in 3,2,1? What emotion would that evoke?

  • William Howell

    These pictures aren’t anything special in fact their tripe. I see no drama or insight whatsoever. They are quiet hackneyed. No spark of originality at all, in fact I would like to see proof that these guys where even soldiers!!!

  • William Howell

    Hey I appreciate that Dave really I do but when I come to this site and I do come here quiet often at least three times a week, like you I feel that this is a premium content site with no charge other than advertising so my concern is if you go political then its either left or right and I think this site is I don’t know too entertaining to be tainted by the political. I posted my review of the series a little while ago and I don’t really know as to how I would review it in reverse order, I guess because I’m biased in my view politically but I hope I could be honest with myself.

  • Dave

    One of the problems with politics today is that it seems like you need to be either far left commie anarchist, or far right hob-nailed boot nazi. It was never like that in the 70’s, 80’s or even 90’s. I had you pegged for right wing from your first comment… just so happens, I lean left. The right wing is better known for favoring warfare, while the left wing is better known for appreciating art (including photography). This is not a criticism, it is just the way it is. For this post I think you need to step way, way back to look at it. After all, anyone can reach back in the archives of photography and pull out countless images that you may interpret as having a political agenda because images revolving around war are inherently negative (people dying, people killing, people suffering…..and even peoples expressions changing due to their involvement with war). I think this project has a forced look about it and do not buy the validity of Ms. Felicies experiment. I think these expressions could all be made in the same sitting before, during or after the war. It seems to be the way of journalism today to create a story, and then go out and make your photography fit your story. In no way does the site owner show any political leaningsjust by blogging what is 99.9% a photography related post. To find it political you really need a good imagination, no offense.

  • 3ddana

    Watch a documentary called Tattooed under Fire, you will see the difference of how combat changes people, and none for the better.

  • Anonymous

    By highlighting a lesser known fact doesn’t always mean someone is politicising it. I agree with you Dave.
    In some way, the following tweet came to mind, after reading both your comments…

    “‘Madam why you are taking photo of poor children?’ ‘Sir why do you only
    notice poor children exist when you see someone photographing them?'”