Many enduring images of soldiers in the American Civil War were made using one of photography’s earliest methods, the wet-plate collodion process, wherein the relatively long exposure times (up to minutes per sitting) and the highly detailed renditions had a way of making the subjects appear frozen in time. It is this sense of otherworldly timelessness that has led photographer Ellen Susan to use the collodion process on contemporary subjects — soldiers who are being deployed to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In her studio in Savannah, Georgia, Susan is shooting a series of portraits of soldiers for an exhibition and book project, as described at soldierportraits.com. “All soldiers who want to be photographed will be,” she says in the site’s casting call. “The only requirements are three and a half hours of your time at my studio in Savannah, and the ability to sit very still for up to 30 seconds. You’ll receive a unique, one-of-a-kind photograph to take with you when you leave.” Many hauntingly solemn portraits, with soldiers’ written comments, appear on the site.