Photojournalist Damon Winter won a Pulitzer for his photos of Barack Obama on the campaign trail. Now he's turned his attention and considerable talent to the daunting task of documenting a year in the life of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division in northern Afghanistan. The first photo and video installments of "A Year at War" are up at the New York Times website. Everything is embedded in an elegant player. All you have to do is load the page and you're thrust into the emotional lives of what seem to be mostly reluctant soldiers. It's the portrayal of that reluctance that makes the project so unique. You can get a feel for Winter's work at the New York TimesLens blog, where his photos of the battallion's last tearful and uncertain hours before deployment are collected in a slideshow. There's also an interview with Winter. Here's an excerpt:
Q: When there was a draft, like in the Vietnam War, a lot of people knew soldiers who were fighting. But now, because it is a professional army, the pain of war is less spread out. Fewer people know the people fighting.
A: It is a challenge to cut through the uniform and the conceptions about what it’s like to be a solider and what it’s like to serve in the military. We have spent so much time with them. We want to convey that sense that each person, while part of this huge machine, is an individual, leaving wives, children and loved ones behind, and making a really tough life decision to go spend a year at war.