Photo exhibit reveals the effects of war and survival

Corporal Gorden Boivin suffered terrible injuries in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. Though he still has metal fragments in his body as a reminder, counselling has helped him overcome depression and addiction brought on by the trauma. Photo by Stephen J. Thorne/Legion Magazine

Corporal Gorden Boivin suffered terrible injuries in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. Though he still has metal fragments in his body as a reminder, counselling has helped him overcome depression and addiction brought on by the trauma. Photo by Stephen J. Thorne/Legion Magazine

Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs ~

A new photography exhibit at the Canadian War Museum features haunting portraits of wounded Afghanistan veterans. The photographer, Stephen Thorne, says they show Canada at its best.

The exhibit, entitled The Wounded, consists of 18 large-format black-and-white photos by Thorne, an award-winning photojournalist and writer. It was originally commissioned by the Legion Magazine in 2016. He also wrote the stories behind the subjects’ battlefield injuries, travelling across Canada to meet with each one.

Speaking at a media preview of the exhibit, Thorne thanked each of his subjects, saying, “You represent the best of Canada.”

In his three decades with the Canadian Press, Thorne added, “I saw and did a lot of extraordinary things, and nothing came close to what I saw and experienced in covering what these people did in Afghanistan.”

Carried wounded soldier despite own broken pelvis
One soldier depicted is Captain Hélène LeScelleur, who was wounded while travelling in a military convoy in October 2007. A roadside bomb blast broke her pelvis, and, despite the injury, she carried a wounded comrade 200 metres to safety. Cut off from the rest of the convoy, she stood guard through the night.

In the aftermath, Capt LeScelleur experienced suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. She was later medically released from the military and is now studying social work with an eye to helping other Veterans.

Father and son served at same time
Master Warrant Officer André Renaud and Corporal Martin Renaud are a father and son who served simultaneously in Afghanistan. When Cpl Renaud was travelling in a vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device, his father was just 15 kilometres away and heard the blast.

Cpl Renaud’s spine was broken in the blast and doctors later had to amputate both his right foot and left leg. The long healing process involved the whole Renaud family.

The wounded is a more precise term than injured, says Thorne.
“Injury doesn’t do justice to what happened to these folks. It doesn’t convey the profound, life-changing nature of what they faced. To be truthful, no words can do that, but at least ‘wounded’ tells people that what’s happened has been inflicted upon them with the intention to kill.”

His subjects, Thorne says, didn’t want the attention.

“They did this [agreed to be photographed] out of a sense of duty and service. It was one more sacrifice for the sake of their fellow soldiers, for the thousands who were wounded, physically and mentally, and for the public to know.”

Legion Magazine General Manager Jennifer Morse said properly portraying the profound sacrifices soldiers make is no small challenge. Thorne has “proven to be an elegant and effective ambassador for these veterans” through his work, she says.

“Stephen chose to create the portraits in black and white. And in doing so he has captured the truth of war, and survival.”

The Wounded opened Feb.15 and is on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, through June 2.

The stories featured in this exhibition describe serious physical injuries and psychological trauma. They also show the toll rehabilitation can take on individuals and their loved ones.

If you are reading this, and are suffering, you are not alone. Help is available. Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service: 1-800-268-7708; Operational Stress Injury Social Support: 1-800-883-6094; Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566.

Filed Under: Top Stories

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