“There is an inherent beauty in humanity. A beauty that transcends the glossy, mass-produced images force-fed by the media. We recognize it instantly: The human condition. Hope, despair, love, loss, courage, fear.”

Have you ever seen an image that brings you to your knees? A photograph that stops you cold and grabs hold of your heart so that you can’t walk away. David Jay’s photographs have that power and weight.

Revealing the often unseen consequence of war, The Unknown Soldier is a series of large-scale, black and white portraits by photographer David Jay, documenting wounded warriors who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. These portraits are haunting and heartbreaking but so stunningly beautiful for their honesty and courageousness, that it takes your breath away.

Army Staff Sgt Robert Henline
MAJ Matt Smith US Army
MAJ Matt Smith US Army

Jay, both a fashion and fine art photographer, says he chose men and women for The Unknown Soldier, spotlighting wounded service members from the United States Armed Forces who sustained injuries that left them severely burned and limbless. This moving series of portraits includes Shilo Harris as well as Bobby Henline, the sole survivor of a roadside bombing in Iraq. “Several soldiers were recovering from their injuries at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. Others, I photographed in their homes across the country,” said Jay.

When asked about the spirit of men and women he photographed for this project, Jay says he was in awe of their courage to fight for our country in the first place, their strength, and resilience in overcoming their injuries as well as their openness in allowing themselves to be the subjects of this series.

“These men and women are warriors. They are the bravest and yet most humble individuals I have ever had the honor of meeting. I am forever grateful to them for their honesty and willingness to bare their scars and their story to the world.”

Captain Nicholas Vogt US Army 2
Jay has received extraordinary feedback, including hundreds of emails from people of all walks of life reaching out as a result of the series. The response he says has been both inspiring and humbling. “These emails are often deeply moving, relaying to me the personal struggles they have faced in their own lives…and often, how seeing the images had catalyzed a sense of self-acceptance, dignity, self-worth and love within them.”

Jay says he hopes that these images “transcend the narrow and simplistic confines of war and encourage us to examine the way we engage each other, both friend and stranger, on the most basic, day to day level. It is these subtle, seemingly innocuous interactions that will ultimately lead us either to peace or to the continuum and carnage of war.”  As with most of his photographs, Jay believes the images of The Unknown Soldier are not so much about the subjects themselves as they are about the viewer, “as in some distant way, we are all responsible,” says Jay.

“The Unknown Soldier is not about war, it is about us. We recognize our shared emotions and scars—the soul of mankind. I hope the portraits reveal the immense power of our every interaction and the future they create.”

Editor/Camera: Lorian James Delman

GLAM4GOOD is proud to platform these important images and debut the behind-the-scenes video by Jay and Lorian James. The Library of Congress has acquired The Unknown Soldier series for their permanent collection as a visual documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Unknown Soldier recently won The Lucie Award for Photographer of The Year, IPA’s Deeper Perspective, LensCulture’s Juror’s Pick Award, and is a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. 

To the warriors in this series, words can not appropriately express our gratitude, but we will say them nonetheless, thank you for your service and the sacrifices you have made. We salute you.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Such an amazing post. These photographs and the video are mindblowing. THANK YOU Mr. Jay and GLAM4GOOD for spotlighting these incredible men. So humbled and inspired by this post.

  • Jo Flemings says:

    We prayed for months for Nick Vogt after he was injured, so delighted to see him in this feature! These are exquisite-

  • Robert Bernier says:

    The photo of the young soldier with his daughter, is my son Bobby Bernier and his daughter Layla. The day I got the phone call from his mother, my ex-wife, I was devastated.

    • GLAM4GOOD says:

      Thank you for your son’s service and the sacrifices Bobby and your family have made. Hope that he is doing well and getting the support he deserves. We are honored to post this story and the photograph of Bobby and Layla is such a powerful and moving one. Thank you for your comment.

  • Tiffany says:

    Thank you to all of those who served for our country 💕

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