General Question

rojo's avatar

Can you see the differences in these photo portraits?

Asked by rojo (22066points) October 18th, 2012

This morning I found this article Photos and it struck a chord.
After looking at the before, during, after photos, what differences, if any, are apparent to you?

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38 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Wow, that’s amazing. It’s in the eyes. They go from normal to hunted animals to dead. The faces change a little but that’s time. It’s amazing what it does to them.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The only factor that really jumps out is the clarity of the eyes in each middle picture, other than possibly Subject #7. The rest sparkle more. Could that be due to lighting, mood, other factors?

Sunny2's avatar

Different lighting, slight change in the position of the face. As was suggested with the photos, we can make ourselves believe that there is a definite change in the eyes because we imagine the effects of going through what these men have gone through.
I’m not convinced by just the pictures. (my internal skeptic talking)

Pandora's avatar

I really don’t see the difference. Some of them simply looked away and that was going to make it look like they were worried or scared. But to me it looked like they were wondering when is this going to finish. (The photo study)
Skin texture does change in the places you go so the middle photos didn’t tell me much. Only some of them looked more intense and aware. But you would have to be.
There were two who looked like possible psycho killers but they managed to keep the look from beginning to end. That would be the guys in 4 and 7. But 7 looks like my brother in law and that is his, I will pretend to listen but I am really not listening, look.
Number 6 looks guilty in the end picture, but you don’t know if he simply forgot to pick up milk on his way home. The first guy actually looked better in the last photo.
I think the author is going to see what they expect to see.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I don’t notice just the eyes, I notice the entire faces. The first row of before faces look carefree and innocent

The second set of during faces look rough, dominant, aggressive, ready to fight It’s the only way I can explain that

The row of afters looks experienced, burdened and lost with hard emotions.

I am very thankful for these brave men and women. <3

wundayatta's avatar

A lot of the after one appear haunted, I would say. Others are much more guarded. The eyes squint more. The mouths are sourer. You can almost see PTSD in some of their eyes. Be interesting to see if I was right about that.

The one in the middle often seem more distant and guarded, too.


DigitalBlue's avatar

I’m surprised that someone could look at these and say no. I thought the difference was profound, I actually choked up a bit. It’s like the life has been taken from the last photos.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I can see differences but there are also so many factors that go into it, including my own biases, I’d hate to make a judgement on just the pictures. I’d like to see what responses people would give with just the first and last shot and no context, just to see what they’d see and what they’d attribute it to.

Each looks like they lost weight. The first, fourth, and sixth aren’t looking at the camera which makes me really curious as to if it was just an ill timed shot or something more. The second and third appear to be looking through the camera. No one seems quite as “eager”/at ease, except for maybe number seven but I keep vacillating between if his expression is slightly “forced” or not (I’m leaning towards not). The lines around the eyes, nose, mouth all seem a little more pronounced at the end for each, but hard to say if that’s “real” in all instances or a quality of the shots. But yeah, I’d really like to know about the ones not looking in their last shot. I’ll be even more curious to know what they look like, a fourth picture, after a year “stateside” as it were.

Interesting find @rojo.

Coloma's avatar

What an interesting concept to photograph. No soul could undergo that sort of stress and not lose the light in their eyes unless they are natural born sociopaths to begin with. Profoundly sad.

thorninmud's avatar

It would be interesting to show these to viewers with no accompanying explanation, and perhaps with the order reversed, and see how differences are perceived. I agree that our expectations about how war would change a person enter into what we see here.

Coloma's avatar

I’ll tell you what, and you can blacklist me if you so choose, but…if I had a child that was drafted I would have spent my lifes savings to hide him away from going to war. I lived through the Vietnam scene as a kid and teen and saw many families devastated close to home.

rojo's avatar

Thanks to all so far!

@wonderingwhy The suggestion about the 4th shot in the series in another year is exactly the same thought I had.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You can see it in the lips as well. Except the fourth guy kind of scares me.

tom_g's avatar

I don’t get it. You could take 3 photos of the same person in burst mode and get the same result. One of those snaps will capture the person looking off to the side. If there was no context, would anyone read anything into this at all?

Unbroken's avatar

I have lived in, military towns for the majority of my life. I have seen people with ptsd. I have also seen them before and after and usually should they come back mid tour. I usually avoid being around them after they come back. But for the most part they heal and get some perspective and that experience shifts them a little like it should but doesn’t change them.

Also I would like it noted that ptsd is something that only deployed or military people get. It is not something they own alone. It doesn’t make it better.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

How can anyone not see a difference? If you think about what the “models” have actually been thru, how can you not see that portrayed in their facial expressions. I mean mentally physically and emotionally we know soldiers go thru hell, you’d have to expect some of them to show features of this in their expressions.

Think of all the innocence lost, I see that progression in the faces.

deni's avatar

Yes, the middle pictures stand out the most to me. The “during“s….they all looked shocked, most of them look at least a little scared.

glacial's avatar

There’s no there there, I’m afraid. Definitely a lighting difference in the middle shot, but other than that I see no differences that can be attributed to their experiences. I’m kind of surprised that Slate printed this.

Linda_Owl's avatar

As an Artist, I can clearly see the differences in these photos & I agree with @ wundayatta , to me they look haunted. I might suggest that you read a new book by a young author who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. The name of the book is “The Yellow Birds” & the things that these young military personnel have to endure is absolutely horrifying & this includes being required to shoot civilians who have nothing to do with the war. I don’t know how anyone can be deployed & come back undamaged…. and a lot of them never get over the experience & these are the ones who end up committing suicide. I also agree with @Coloma , I would do anything within my power to keep the military from getting its hands on someone that I loved (I remember Viet Nam very well also). War should NEVER be the first answer or the only answer, but jobs are still hard to come by & the military is ALWAYS hiring & the military never hesitates to lie to the enlistees about “defending our freedom” – but that is exactly the lies that are being told to the young people who enlist & nothing could be farther from the truth.

gasman's avatar

Sorry, but I don’t see any real changes, other than random differences in lighting and camera angle. I think viewers who see profound, systematic changes in the faces would ascribe the same “metamorphosis” even if sequence of images were scrambled. In other words, it’s mainly observer bias.

marinelife's avatar

Oh, yes. In their pre-deployment photos, they all looked relaxed and carefree in the eyes. In their during photos, they all look very alert an focused. And in their post-service photos, their eyes all look wither haunted or dead.

DigitalBlue's avatar

It could be lighting, I suppose. I don’t see it that way. I didn’t actually read what was written, I just looked at the photos, for starters.
I also see the same emptiness in their eyes in the last photos that I see in current photos of myself. When I compare a photo of me now to a photo of myself when I was younger and happier, there is a difference in the eyes. Like the twinkle is gone, and it isn’t the lighting. I know it isn’t the lighting in my case, since I can see it in the mirror, as well. I also see it in the eyes and on the faces of my friends that have come back from war. It looks the same to me, in these pictures. It’s familiar to me. It could be bias, it could be lighting, but I didn’t see that at all.

wundayatta's avatar

Perhaps it’s observer bias, but I don’t think so. It would be easy to test, if we could have folks write down impressions, and then get data about the soldiers.

However, it is well known that humans can detect a lot from facial expressions. We see things that we don’t even know how to explain. But I think some people are more sensitive than others to the expressions on others’ faces.

glacial's avatar

Try looking at the first set backwards, and tell me you don’t see that lack of twinkle in the first picture… it’s very easy to imagine that the last picture in the set is the pre-war photo.

Likewise, there are several in the series that look backward to what one might expect – if you remove your own expectations, it will change the outcome, to the point that the exercise is meaningless.

ucme's avatar

The thousand yard stare, that old chestnut.
They look more or less the same to me.

Pandora's avatar

This person obviously has never been to see the difference in how guys look coming out of boot camp. The majority look so serious after 3 months of hard work and not much sleep and stress. They do not all keep that serious demeanor after being home for a while. My son looked so different. But when he did smile or laugh, I could see the twinkle in his eyes. I can give that far away stare as well when I’m simply not in the mood to take pictures, and my daughter is queen of that look since she hates taking photos. But in real life she is always smiling and laughing.
Just look at DMV photos. Many make us look sad, angry, or vacant because DMV doesn’t want people to smile.

Sunny2's avatar

@rosehips “ptsd is something that only deployed or military people get” is not true. Anyone who has had to go through a harrowing experience may get it. People who have been kidnapped and mistreated by their captors; being in a very perilous situation such as a mine accident awaiting rescue; being hopelessly lost for a few days etc. may cause the same symptoms and be diagnosed as ptsd by their doctors. It can happen to civilians too.

syz's avatar

I saw that article, and I tend to think it’s all bias. If I look at them backwards, I can imagine that I see the same things.

Unbroken's avatar

@Sunny2 I misspoke, I meant the opposite.

Any way I am glad you brought me back to this question. It has been on my mind.
I agree that most of the pictures would be different a year after the event. I view it as a rite of passage they signed up for. I am not by any means minimizing the pain and suffering they experienced. But growth even physical growth doesn’t come without pain. I am not advocating war and absolutely not this one.. However now that we are in it, we are morally stuck to pull out responsibly But not only did our troops sign up for this, the majority knowing they would be deployed. Many were eager to be deployed. I almost liken it to a youngster consumed with the idea of losing one’s virginity Yes, there is a loss of innocence. And that by it’s own right is sad. But it is also healthy. In a society that has few rites of passage this is important. When I see people pre and post deployment, given time to balance of course. I would term them as more mature. Sheltering and the need to shelter is understandable but taken to the extreme it becomes sick. We end up with a society of adult children.

Not to say that there aren’t people who have trouble coping; physically and or mentally with the events that transpire. We should help and support those people. It speaks of our nation well and I am reminded of the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I went back and looked at them backward. I still see it. I’m extremely observant though and I pick up on things a lot of people don’t.

glacial's avatar

Yes, I’m sure that’s it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@glacial I grew up and I was able to identify 80 different holstein cows all the time and tell which one was which. How many people can tell other animals apart? I can see it in almost all of these pictures. One I can’t see backwards. Just one. The difference is there.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I think that if people were shown these pictures with no backstory, few if any would point out a difference. But throw in the war hero context and out come the “haunted eyes” and “hardened stare” observations. The differences are no more significant than those in multiple photos of any person over any period of time. I’m not saying war doesn’t change you, but this is like 90% observer bias.

augustlan's avatar

Since I read this thread before I looked at the pictures, I purposely looked at all of them backward first. In two of them, either the 1st or 3rd pic could have been the ‘before’ shot. For all the rest, the third pics seemed very obviously ‘after’ shots, to me. In the ‘during’ pictures, there are striking differences when compared to the befores and afters.

Silence04's avatar

The before photos use softer lighting. the after photo used harder lighting and used photoshop to sharpen the Blue channel before converting to black and white.

Other than that, there is absolutely no difference. Just another instance of an article/ad trying to deceive people with photo manipulation.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I looked again backwards and forwards. I see it. Your lighting doesn’t affect the face, especially the lines and the eyes. The differences are there.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Look at the lower eyes of the first and second shots. Especially #4. Notice the difference? I would have thought the bags would be bigger. They’re not.

Shippy's avatar

The photos do look manipulating to me by an edit program. But yes I see haunted eyes in the last photos of each. Their eyes looks softer and more jolly in the first. The middle photo looks hard. Even if they are Photoshopped they do depict what war does to a person. Maybe we need to see the pain in photographs to see the pain inside.

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