The Dark Legacy of War

jacket imageMore than 300,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other major depression and an estimated 550 to 650 commit suicide every month. In the fall issue of The Virgina Quarterly Review, Ashley Gilbertson, award-winning photographer and author of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War , zooms in on one young man who comprises part of that terrifying statistic. “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce” examines the suicide of a twenty-three-year-old Iraq vet who took his life with a handgun in July 2007. VQR‘s Waldo Jaquith interviewed Gilbertson about what it’s like to write about and photograph difficult topics. The audio can be heard here.
Gilbertson’s reporting is not the only notable achievement in that issue of the VQR. Time magazine recently announced its list of the top ten magazine covers of 2008 and the Fall issue, featuring Gilberston’s portrait of Pierce’s sister’s tattooed shoulder, made the cut. The art director of Time, Arthur Hochstein, had this to say about the cover:

Often cited by professional organizations for its content, The Virginia Quarterly Review also has consistently inventive covers. One of its secrets is the simple, strong format, which never varies from issue to issue. This particular cover isolates, for maximum effect, the stark black-and-white photo of a woman sleeping, dreamily out of focus. In focus is a tattoo on her shoulder of her deceased brother, who committed suicide after his second tour of duty in Iraq. And this focal shift turns reality inside-out: The dead victim is vivid and alive in the dream of his sister, whose life may have lost focus because of her profound loss. Regardless of one’s position on the Iraq War, this is a searingly sad cover that provokes equal parts sympathy and outrage.

For more from Gilbertson, check out more of his work featured in the VQR and a website devoted to WTF.