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Many Wars: Photography by Suzanne Opton provides a new look at veterans through penetrating portraits
Suzanne Opton (American, b. 1954), Mike Brennan—The Cold War, 2009. Chromogenic print, 50 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
NORFOLK, VA.- The Chrysler Museum of Art presents Many Wars: Photography by Suzanne Opton. In this new exhibition, the acclaimed photographer portrays veterans who served our country in World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The exhibition opens September 19 and will be on view through December 30, 2012. Admission is free.

Opton’s are not typical military photographs. There is no action, no heroics, no gore, no glory. They are penetrating, personal portraits of former soldiers, now uniformly draped with a textured cloth. Some pose theatrically, defiant and proud. Several shroud themselves like ancient prophets with an understanding beyond their knowing. Others, visibly vulnerable, cloak their pain. For her latest body of work, Opton worked closely with a group of veterans being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Vermont, photographing the former soldiers and recording their testimonies. Their shared experiences span generations and battlefields, but each shows an individual view of the ambiguities and aftereffects of combat service.

“Suzanne is an incredibly talented photographer, who has become internationally recognized for the unique ways in which she personalizes the subject of war,” said Dr. Amy Brandt, McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Her deeply powerful and evocative portraits connect veterans—and the communities that support them—across generations.” The Chrysler worked with members of the local military community to shape the interpretation of Many Wars and its programming, which includes a special audio tour designed to enhance the viewing experience in the galleries. “Opton’s work has already inspired many significant conversations,” Brandt said. “We hope this will continue throughout the exhibition.”

Through the photographs themselves and audio recordings of their subjects, Many Wars offers those with a military background the chance to meet 19 remarkable men and women—and to compare their own combat experiences and lives. For everyone, the show is an opportunity to reflect on the ultimate costs of sacrifice and service.

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