South Carolina, USA, 1998

The women gradually come to respect, even adore their drill instructors, but for a terrifying 15 minutes recruits are forced to take off masks in a gas chamber to learn to overcome panic at being engulfed in tear gas.

Stoddart skillfully merges the known and the unknown in this image: the soldier is a universally acknowledged symbol, while the gas mask undercuts all familiarity and humanity. As a result, the effect of the picture is a feeling of alienation and estrangement, especially in the way that the women are all dressed and posed alike. In the context of Humanity, this image is a powerful indication of wartime, but also about the uncomfortable way in which masks rob us of our identity and render us unknowable.

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