The New York Times ran quite a good article about female vets with PTSD.
I don't know what to make of the accompanying photographs by Katy Grannan. The photograph on the left is the largest and most prominent of the images accompanying the PTSD story. The picture shows 21-year-old Army specialist Suzanne Swift reclining on a black, rocky beach with her hand on her inner thigh. The article explains Swift went AWOL to rather than return for a second tour of duty in Iraq.
If there's a message here, I don't get it. What is Grannan trying to say? Why would you get a woman in jeans and a t-shirt to pose like a swimsuit model on a beach in order to illustrate a story about how she got PTSD in Iraq and went AWOL? I'm not saying it's a bad photograph. Actually, I think it's very good technically and aesthetically. It just doesn't make any sense.
Here's another portrait from the same series. The subject is a naval construction worker whose war-related PTSD in Iraq was exacerbated by the fact that she was also raped by fellow Americans. There's something weirdly sexualized about this image. Look at the angle of the shot. She's wearing a knee-length skirt, but she's positioned so that her bare legs and daintily flexed ankle command as much attention as her face. Like Suzanne Swift, the construction worker is reclining on one arm, this time on a white couch rather than a beach. Her other hand is on her thigh, like Swift's.
Here's another subtle variant on the lounging pose , in which the barefoot Keri Christensen leans back into a corner with one leg slightly bent at the knee and flexed ballerina-like at the ankle.
I can't find a way to link to the individual stills within the Flash presentation. So, I'll just explain where to find the relevant shots: The traditional portrait is image #3 in the series. Image #4 is a beautiful picture of Army Sgt. Jane Bulson in the door of her camper, but again with the thigh-clutching.
Grannan is well-known for fine art photos influenced by pinups and other vintage erotica--her website is probably not safe for work, but definitely worth a visit. She is internationally famous for applying fashion and commercial photography methods and aesthetics to intricately composed informal-looking posed portraits of non-models.
Maybe in her assignment for the NYT PTSD story Grannan is parodying pinup photos to make a point how these women soldiers were regarded by their male colleagues. After all, it doesn't seem like Grannan intended to make her subjects appear to happy or comfortable in the positions she chose for them.
Would the New York Times run a picture of conscientious objector Ehren Watada awaiting his court martial like a faun in repose? I'm guessing they wouldn't, even if Lt. Watada was willing to indulge the photographer.