Christopher G. Scherer was a 21-year-old marine corporal from East Northport, New York. He was killed by a sniper in Karmah, Iraq in 2007. (all images by and courtesy Ashley Gilbertson)

Tomorrow, New Yorkers will flock to the newly opened National September 11 Memorial & Museum in lower Manhattan to remember the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost on that day. In the long, controversial “War on Terror” that’s followed, many more men and women have died, both soldiers and non-combatants. The bedrooms left behind by some of those soldiers have become their own de facto memorials, as documented in Ashley Gilbertson’s series Bedrooms of the Fallen, to be exhibited at Photoville later this month.

A member of the award-winning photo agency VII, Gilbertson photographed the bedrooms of 40 troops — the same number in a platoon — in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Little distinguishes them from the private rooms of other young Westerners, save that many have been untouched for years.

The California bedroom of Army Private First Class Karina S. Lau, whose helicopter was shot down in 2003 in Iraq.

Among them is the bedroom of 20-year-old Army Private First Class Karina S. Lau, from Livingston, California. Insurgents shot down her helicopter in Falluja in 2003. In 2009, when Gilbertson photographed it, Lau’s floral bedspread was smooth, her stuffed animals carefully arranged below her pillow. Photographs and tchotchkes cluttered the shelves. Her parents were likely too pained to repurpose the room — their only addition was a conspicuous American flag folded into a triangle and protected in a glass display case.

In a foreword to a monograph of these images published by the University of Chicago Press this past June, New Yorker writer Phillip Gourevitch poignantly explains why these images matter:

These wars really are ours — they implicate us — and when our military men and women die in far off lands, they do so in our name. [Gilbertson] wanted to depict what it means that they are gone. Photographs of the fallen, or of their coffins or their graves, don’t tell us that. But the places they came from and were supposed to go back to — the places they left empty — do tell us.

Take a look at a few more photographs from the series below.

Army Specialist Ryan Yurchison suffered from PTSD after serving in Iraq. The 27-year-old overdosed on drugs in 2010 in Youngstown, Ohio.

Luigi Pascazio was a soldier from Italy. In 2010, at the age of 24, he was killed by a roadside bomb near Herat, Afghanistan.

Army corporal Matthew J. Emerson was 20 when his vehicle rolled over in Mosul, Iraq, killing him in 2007. His bedroom in Grandview, Washington was photographed in 2010.

A roadside bomb in Helmand, Afghanistan killed 20-year-old Private Robert McLaren in 2009. His bedroom at his home in Isle of Mull, Scotland was photographed in 2011.

Allesandro Pibiri was a 24-year-old primo caporal maggiore from Sardegna, Italy. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Naseriya, Iraq in 2006. Gilbertson photographed his bedroom in 2011.

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, the Tonga eruption as captured from space, Boston gets a big gift of Dutch and Flemish painting, 30 years of New Queer Cinema, an important Marcel Breuer house is demolished, and much more.

Hannah Lee’s Dreamlike Realism

Being bowled over by an unknown artist’s first one-person show does not happen often but when it does, it renews your faith that the art world is not just about buzz and hype.

Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

One reply on “Soldiers’ Bedrooms Become Makeshift Memorials”

  1. Wow, what an interesting project! These pictures, even if they are about boys from different countries, tell a similar story: stories of young boys who died for their country (but their country has earned such an extreme sacrifice?), boys of normal families (perhaps we can say even modest): nowadays it’s unlikely that rich kids end up at the front. It’s very sad think about so many young lives lost and theirs broken dreams. God bless you and your families!

Comments are closed.