The life of an eighteen-year-old girl in Israel is interrupted when she is plucked out of her environment at an age when sexual, educational, and family values are at their highest exploration point. She is then placed in a rigorous institution, where individuality becomes a secondary matter, making room for nationalism. She enters the two-year period in which she will change from a girl to a woman, a teenager to an adult, all under a militaristic, masculine environment, and in the confines of an army that is engaged in daily war and conflict.
I decided to portray female soldiers in Israel during their mandatory military service as a way for me to revisit my own experience. I served as a photographer in the Israeli Air Force between 1988-1990. It was a period marked by continuous depression and extreme loneliness, and at the time I was too young to understand these emotions.
Rather than portraying the soldier as heroic, confident, or proud, my images disclose a complexity of emotions. The soldier is often caught in a transient moment of self-reflection, uncertainty, a break from her daily reality, as if questioning her own identity and state of contradiction. She is a soldier in uniform but at the same time she is a teenage girl who is trying to negotiate between these two extreme dimensions. She is in an army base surrounded by hundreds like her, but underneath the uniform there is an individual that wishes to be noticed.
These thoughts and feelings constitute the frame of this body of work, and the core impulse for my decision to go back. With this project I wish to seek answers to matters that were left unresolved, and to shed some light on a side of the Israeli Army that is less obvious and predictable and more vulnerable than the way it is commonly portrayed.
We look forward to seeing Rachel Papo's upcoming book this spring being published by powerHouse.