Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war

'Silence, a sense of reflection," is the response that Bryan Adams hopes his portraits of wounded British Armed Forces personnel will inspire in those visiting his exhibition at Somerset House over the coming months. But, as tends to be the case with simple ideas expertly executed, one is equally left thinking 'Why has this not been done before?'.

In Wounded: The Legacy of War, he presents servicemen and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the injuries they have sustained, matter-of-factly. Their missing limbs, prosthetics and scar tissue are seen by the viewer as part of the subjects as they are now.

It may come as a surprise for some that, as well as building a career as one of the biggest-selling musicians of all time, Adams is also a respected portrait photographer. His first commission in the UK came from Marie Claire magazine in the early 2000s. Wounded came about when he was approached by Caroline Froggatt, an ITN journalist, in 2008. After four years of shooting, the portraits came together as a book. Adams used this time to first build his subjects' trust. What results are honest, human portraits accompanied by unflinching accounts of what it is like to live with the sorts of wounds that many would preface with 'life-changing'.

"When I'm out, I feel vulnerable," says Private Ken Facal, who was injured in Afghanistan at the age of 24 while clearing an IED. "I'm always anxious about other people. I don't know if they're looking at me, or if I can protect myself if something comes up."

 "I've had people cry on me because they're upset with what's happened to me," says Corporal Ricky Furgusson MC, who stepped on an IED while also aged 24 in Afghanistan. "I'm not into all that crying business, so I just say, 'Listen it's fine, it happened to me, not you, leave it'."

As a whole, the project tells a story of human sacrifice that, due to the extensive use of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, is unprecedented in this country in the second half of the 20th century. "I don't think anyone expected to see so many wounded people coming back," Adams says.

Asked if he felt a weight of responsibility in capturing such heroic personal narratives, Adams says, "No. I just thought I should try and be as honest with them as possible, because they were being honest with me"

'Wounded: The Legacy of War, Photographs by Bryan Adams'. The book is published by Steidl, and the exhibtion is at Somerset House, London WC2, 12 November to 25 January 2015; somersethouse.org.uk, admission free

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