When I was growing up in Columbus , Ohio in the 1970s, every image of war and American soldiers I had, came from my father, who served in Vietnam as a Medic. Years later, I found myself hungry to learn more about the current conflict in the Middle East : Why we were there? What is life is like for the average soldier on the ground? I applied to be an embedded photographer with the US military and visited Afghanistan twice in 2006. My first trip in September was self funded and I went as a freelancer. I spent a few weeks with the 10th Mountain Division at a tiny forward operating base called Kamdesh. Two months, later I returned on assignment from Men’s Journal, to a small firebase called the Korengal Outpost (the KOP) in the Korengal Valley .
Kamdesh is in northeast Afghanistan , five miles from the Pakistan border. It’s the furthest outpost the US has established in the region. There, the troops patrol the mountains on foot in search of the Taliban. The conditions of the KOP are unbelievably brutal. The average soldier was 21 years old. I found that most of them were not interested in politics, and would rather spend their time updating their “My Space” page or watch music videos. Not so long ago I realized they were at their high school football practice and worrying about grades. Now, here, in Kamdesh, the troops sleep in makeshift tents with no showers, no running water and no heat. At night the temperature is below freezing. Because of its remote location, water and food are air dropped by parachute to the base. The area is under heavy Taliban influence and the soldiers receive enemy fire almost every day. Some soldiers have been there as long as sixteen months.
Though I left Afghanistan without a scratch in my body armor, I returned home with deep respect and empathy for the men and women I spent time with. My hope is that when looking at my photographs, the viewer feels the same.
Chad Hunt (NYC) holds a MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design. In 1994 he was selected to participate in the Eddie Adams’s Workshop, “Barnstorm 7” and was both an intern and assistant for photographer Mary Ellen Mark. A member of the National Press Photographers Associate, Hunt’s images have appeared in The New York Times, People, Fast Company, Men’s Journal, InStyle, YM, Popular Mechanics, Inc., The New York Sun, City Journal, ABA Journal, and PC Week. He has worked as a staff photographer for Landmark Communications whose publications include Style Weekly, Home Style, Family Style, and Inside Business. In 2007 he was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography. A solo exhibition of Hunt’s work is currently on view at the Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art, till June 30.