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Disco Night Sept 11

Peter van Agtmael's new book "Disco Night Sept 11" deftly interweaves images of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with scenes from the homefront; veterans struggling to recover from debilitating physical and emotional injury, families struggling to cope with loss and a society's often clumsy attempts to honor these soldiers. Van Agtmael explores the gulf that opens up between those fighting our wars and the culture they've sacrificed so much for. The surprising title comes from a banquet hall in upstate New York advertising an upcoming dance event. Contacted while on assignment, van Agtmael said "When I photographed this sign it seemed like a perfect symbol of the creeping disconnect of our society from the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. Four years later, that detachment is even more pronounced. This work reflects that void. Between society and these wars. Between American civilians and soldiers. The soldiers and the Afghan and Iraqi people. The soldiers and themselves."

In text that runs alongside each photo, Van Atgmael adds context to the scenes pictured but also provides vivid description of the moments before and after the shutter was clicked.

ABOVE: "A few minutes earlier, Marines on patrol had noticed some suspicious activity. A motorcycle had driven by slowly, the driver staring at them intently. From a nearby ditch there was clearly someone watching their movements. As the troops walked down the road, an IED exploded and several men disappeared into the cloud, but no one was killed or badly hurt."

Mian Poshteh, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2009

Peter Van Agtmael

Rosie Ricketts wakes up her son Aiden before the viewing of her husband Seth, killed in Afghanistan the previous week.

Glen, Miss., 2010

Peter Van Agtmael

"American soldiers on a foot patrol noticed that two young men were eying them and fidgeting. Anticipating violence, they stormed their house. During the search the soldiers teased a young medic about his virginity. The soldiers had already searched hundreds of houses during their deployment, and the banter was casual as they swept the family's possessions onto the floor.
In the next room they were questioning a boy. 'Have there been any new faces around the house lately?' 'Are your brothers coming and going at strange hours?'"

Mosul, Iraq, 2006

"Bobby Henline didn't realize how badly he was injured until he returned home. When that sank in, he prayed for God to take him in his sleep. He didn't want to be a burden on his family."

Houston, Texas, 2013

A Marine after a firefight with the Taliban.

Mian Poshteh, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2009

"Raymond Hubbard with his children Brady and Riley. Since his injuries, Raymond has become an avid collector of Star Wars memorabilia. This is one of several family photos I took at Raymond's request."

Darien, Wis., 2007

"The wary inhabitants of this isolated village in Nineveh had never seen an American patrol, and asked what country they were from. They had heard of America, and served sugary tea to the soldiers but otherwise kept their distance. The troops took turns riding the donkey and posed for pictures holding lambs. In the Bible, Nineveh is described as a wicked city. God sent the prophet Jonah to preach there, and its inhabitants repented. God decided to spare the city."

Nineveh, Iraq, 2006

"Usually the stray dogs hanging around Patrol Base California were welcomed by the soldiers. But I was told that a few weeks earlier when one of the dogs urinated on a soldier's cot he and his buddies taped a grenade to the dog's jaw and pulled the pin."

Pech Valley, Kunar, Afghanistan, 2007

A sign outside Arbor Ridge Catering and Banquet Hall advertising a 1970s-style "Disco Night."

Hopewell Junction, N.Y., 2010

All images are copyright 2014 Peter van Agtmael from the book "Disco Night Sept 11" (Red Hook Editions).Van Agtmael is a member of the prestigious Magnum agency.