“Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses: a call for peace; a cry for revenge; or simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen.” Susan Sontag, “Looking at War: Photography’s View of Devastation and Death,” New Yorker, December 9, 2002.
The toll of war continues long after the last battle is fought. Mary McHugh, visiting the grave of her slain fiancé, Sgt. James Regan, on the first Memorial Day weekend after his death in 2007, is directly involved in the harsh reality of combat. While the violence and physical danger of the battleground are far away from this frame, Mary is a casualty suffering the direct and utterly unexplainable trauma of losing a loved one. Though this image cannot communicate the reality of such a loss, it reframes the manner in which war is seen and consumed through a carnal yet depressingly familiar barrage of smoldering ruins, bloodied victims, and brave soldiers. There is neither condemnation of nor justification to combat; only an evocation of the incalculable sadness marked with every tombstone.