“In a hushed voice, Carlos, who’d lost his Marine son, Alex, in Iraq, struggled to tell me that his second son, Brian, had taken his own life.”

In 2008, renowned photographer Eugene Richards received a Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography for ‘War is Personal,’ his project examining the effects of the Iraq War on veterans and their families. After publishing a book of the work, he again applied for the grant in 2013, and received it. Here, he describes why he felt that he had to continue the project:

“In 2010, with assistance from colleagues, I published ‘War Is Personal,’ which addresses the consequences of the Iraq war. The book was praised as an unadorned look at the human cost of conflict, yet even with this project behind me, I felt no sense of closure.

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Then months ago, I received a call from Carlos Arredondo that put what I’d been feeling into perspective. In a hushed voice, Carlos, who’d lost his Marine son, Alex, in Iraq, struggled to tell me that his second son, Brian, had taken his own life.

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It’s been eight years since Alexander Arredondo was killed, since the grief-stricken Carlos set himself on fire. Finding purpose in tragedy, Carlos became a significant figure in the U.S. anti-war movement, carrying a photograph of Alex in his coffin to demonstrations, though hecklers often spit at him. There were parades and candle-lit memorials in memory of Alex; all the while Brian struggled with a lack of identity, with depression. In December 2011, following the announcement of the official end of the Iraq war, he hung himself.

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This project is more correctly a response to changes in the American social landscape: the return of thousands of soldiers from Afghanistan, the rise in suicides among military personnel, in the numbers of homeless vets, jobless vets, veterans being sent to prison. I have no choice but to do this, what with one violent attack on a population invariably leading to others, one killing leading to myriad killings, one isolate war evolving into global war, with apathy and silence leading the way.”

Watch Richards speak about the grant and ‘War is Personal’ in this video: 

 

Find out more about the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography