, the new book out by Peter Van Agtmael, is not to be missed. Buzzing at the Sill
It’s a grim optic journey through America’s inner soul. This is not a comfort photo book. Through his use of the visual complexities of life, Peter has, in essence, exposed America’s inner raw nerves — nerves that are frayed at the edges.
As a viewer I feel the scrapping of a razor blade on my conscience, a true uneasiness starts to overcome my senses with his images. All through his metamorphic symbolism, of visual sequencing and story telling, he takes you on a acute traumatic journey into American society, with a relentless attack on your senses.
I’m not writing any of this lightly, for I’ve spent years traveling across America, attempting to capture with a honest photographic anthropological style. Always looking for symbolism that can convey a deeper message, a message of the mood of the nation, during that time period. Constantly looking for these moments with photographs that could stand the test of time. Looking for timeless photography for generations to look back and feel, through these images, a time and a place. Attempting to achieve this without the use of visual gimmickry. This is why I’m so taken back by Peter’s work: he has succeeded where I have tried.
He has succeeded through his earlier books,
2nd Tour I Hope I Don’t Die and Disco Night Sept. 11. And he has succeeded now with Buzzing at the Sill, which could form the latest opus in his American Trilogy. is a dirty, dark and real study of America, offering up slivers of time that expose the diversity of the current American condition. Strange life layers, with their complexities of meaning. It’s all here to see. Providing a clearer view of an American Identity. Buzzing at the Sill Buzzing at the Sill is a true timeless masterpiece. Coming of Age in Combat: Peter van Agtmael’s Disco Night Sept 11 A flight medic rests and watches TV while waiting for a mission in the medevac section of FOB Falcon.
The medevacs are usually off the ground within ten minutes of an emergency call coming in. Their quick reaction time to injuries is a large part of the reason the 95% of American soldiers that make it to the hospital end up surviving their wounds. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A mannequin used in an Army combat lifesaving course. The military constantly improves the
realism of its medical training to ensure more instinctual reactions in combat. The mannequin
pumps fake blood which only stops when enough pressure is applied from a tourniquet. Realistic
training has also changed the act of fighting. In World War II, an estimated 25 percent of soldiers
fired their weapons at the enemy. The remainder felt an insurmountable resistance toward killing.
More vivid and true-to-combat training has now brought the number close to 90 percent.
Fort Jackson, South Carolina, USA. 2011 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Graffiti written by soldiers on the walls of bathroom stalls. Kuwait, Ali Al Salem. 2006 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A Marine after a firefight with the Taliban.
Mian Poshteh, Helmand. Afghanistan. 2009 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A Marine with a village elder from Mian Poshteh, a rural village in southern Helmand Province.
Mian Poshteh, Helmand, Afghanistan. 2009 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Marines on patrol minutes before an IED was triggered. Although the patrol had cautiously swept
the road with metal detectors, they’d failed to find the device. Many of the improvised bombs
in Afghanistan contained no metal. They were made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, both
impossible to detect. Sometimes insurgents would bury screws and other small piece of metal
to confuse and exhaust the advancing Marines, while masking the true location of the bombs.
Mian Poshteh, Helmand, Afghanistan. 2009 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A soldier surveys the damage after shooting a target with a sawed-off shotgun. Frequent trips to
the range helped battle boredom as the Iraq war wound down.
Baghdad, Iraq. 2010 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Marines swim in an irrigation canal at their outpost in Helmand Province.
South of Garmsir, Helmand. Afghanistan. 2009 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum I was sleeping in a nearby Army base when the echo of an explosion from Mosul startled me
awake. I walked over to the motor pool as a column of Stryker armored vehicles rolled in. A
few men hurried past me, their faces tightly drawn. I joined the next patrol heading into town
and was told there had been a suicide bombing. Nine people had been killed and twenty-three
wounded in a crowded café during the breakfast hour. The Strykers stopped down the street
from the blast site, and we walked to the gaping hole in the block of buildings. The soldiers had
stopped by the Abu-Ali restaurant many times for sugary tea or a chat with the friendly owner.
Now bits of flesh and scorched food, splinters of furniture and crockery choked the floor. The
streets were empty except for a few curious bystanders. The patrol moved to the hospital to
check on the victims. Ali, the owner, lay on one of the beds. Only his nose and lips were visible
beneath the bandages, and they were caked in dried blood. He did not survive the day.
Mosul, Iraq. 2006 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Sergeant Jeff Reffner, minutes after being wounded in an explosion. He had been on a convoy
sweeping for IEDs when his commander ordered the driver to speed up. They were moving too
fast to see the bomb on the road. When he recovered consciousness moments after the blast,
Reffner tried to lift his leg and it just “folded in half.” He spent several years at Walter Reed
Hospital and has had thirty-one surgeries on the leg. Although he is in good spirits and able to
walk, doctors have told him that he may suffer from chronic pain for the rest of his life. He has
no regrets, saying, “I’d rather me get hurt than one of my friends.”
Baghdad, Iraq. 2006 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A soldier waking up after an unsuccessful search for an insurgent leader in a village in eastern
Nangalam, Kunar. Afghanistan. 2007 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division arrive home from Iraq.
Fort Hood, Texas. 2011 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Raymond Hubbard at home in Darien, Wisconsin. He was injured in Baghdad on July 4, 2006, when a Russian-made 122mm
rocket crashed twenty feet from the guard post where he was stationed. Shrapnel tore into his
body. One fragment entered below his left knee, severing the leg. Another cartwheeled through
his neck, cutting through the carotid artery. He was still conscious as he hit the ground. He
remembers staring in confusion at the horrified faces of his comrades gathering above him. A
medic arrived on the scene moments after the blast. He plunged his hands into Raymond’s neck
and clamped the artery hard to stop the hemorrhage. His intervention saved Raymond’s life, but
he had already lost fourteen pints of blood, and suffered a massive stroke. He was evacuated to
Landstuhl, a huge American military hospital in Germany.
Darien, Wisconsin. USA. 2007 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A soldier visits Section 60, the burial site of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan at Arlington
Arlington, Virgina. USA. 2010 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Rosie Ricketts wakes up her son Aiden before the viewing of her husband Seth, killed in
Afghanistan the previous week.
Glen, Mississippi. USA. 2010 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum The funeral for Sergeant Seth Ricketts, a week after he was killed in Afghanistan. Ricketts died
in an ambush on February 27, 2010, in Badghis.
Corinth, Mississippi. USA. 2010 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Specialist Scott Jones at Fort Drum in upstate New York, a month after returning from
Watertown, New York. USA. 2007 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A memorial next to the light rail station in Lafayette, California, marks the American dead from
Iraq and Afghanistan. A cross represents each casualty. At the time this picture was taken in
April of 2011, more than six thousand American soldiers had been killed in the wars.
Lafayette. California. USA. 2011 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A sign outside Arbor Ridge Catering and Banquet Hall advertising a 1970s-style Disco Night. An ad for the event promised: "Dress your retro best and boogie on down!" Break out your bell-bottoms and polish your platforms!" There will be prizes for Best Dressed and Best Dancer." Hopewell Junction, New York. 2010 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Simone Ferrara before her brother Matthew’s funeral. Lieutenant Matthew Ferrera was killed by
insurgents while commanding a platoon in the remote Waigul Valley on the Af-Pak border.
Torrance, California. USA. 2007 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum An Afghan security guard in his quarters at the Ranch House in Nuristan.
Waigul Valley, Nuristan. Afghanistan. 2007 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A young Marine at FOB Delhi. One of his friends asked if I wanted to see a picture he’d drawn.
It was of an angry pig with a giant, engorged phallus, dressed like a Marine, holding a machine
gun. A dream bubble coming out of the pig’s head showed a reclining naked female pig.
Garmsir, Helmand. Afghanistan. 2009. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum A gardener of a small health clinic. American Marines were visiting to check if medical supplies were needed. The Captain and a doctor had a conversation about okra. The Marine praised the Afghan way of preparing the vegetable in a stew with tomatoes and caramelized onions. He told the doctor that at home in South Carolina he just deep-fried it. Garmsir, Helmand. Afghanistan. 2009 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum 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 Peter van Agtmael—Magnum is an award-winning TIME contract photographer since 1990 and is a founding member of the Christopher Morris . He is the author of VII photo agency My America and Americans. Natalie Matutschovsky, who edited this photo essay, is a senior photo editor at TIME. Peter van Agtmael is a photojournalist represented by Magnum Photos. His latest book, Buzzing at the Sill , is available now on Amazon. ( Read TIME’s affiliate link policy.)
USA. Manhattan, New York. 2010. Playing in a busted fire hydrant on the 4th of July. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Detroit, MI. 2012. Treasure's family at their home in Detroit.
Shelley 'Treasure' Hilliard was murdered by a drug dealer after acting as a police informant following an arrest for marijuana possession. The police convinced her to act as an informant on her dealer and after she set him up, the police arrested him. They allegedly leaked her name to him for unclear reasons and released him several hours later. Within hours, Treasure was dead. Her case is part of a rash of murders of police informants as law enforcement increasingly relies on their use to apprehend criminals without exercising due diligence to protect them from revenge killings. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Branson, Missouri. 2015. The parking lot of Dollie Parton’s Dixie Stampede. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Bethesda, MD. 2013. My dad covers the master bedroom in plastic in preparation for a renovation. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Bethesda, MD. 2015. My sister and niece Victoria and a bubble gun. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Louisville, KY. 2015. Wyandotte, the neighborhood on the outskirts of Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held each year during the first weekend of May. Taken during Derby weekend. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Louisville, KY. 2015. Wyandotte, the neighborhood on the outskirts of Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held each year during the first weekend of May. Taken during Derby weekend. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Louisville, KY. 2015. The scene outside Churchill Downs after the Kentucky Derby. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Des Moines, Iowa. 2010. The Iowa GOP Ronald Reagan dinner headlined by Sarah Palin. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Louisville, Kentucky. 2016. During the Kentucky Derby. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Maryland. 2015. A member of the KKK after a cross lighting/burning. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Brooklyn, New York. 2015. Washington Cemetery, a predominantly Jewish burial ground and the densest in New York City. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Nashville, Tennessee. 2010. The streets of Nashville. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Detroit, MI. 2012. Treasure's family at their home in Detroit.
Shelley 'Treasure' Hilliard was murdered by a drug dealer after acting as a police informant following an arrest for marijuana possession. The police convinced her to act as an informant on her dealer and after she set him up, the police arrested him. They allegedly leaked her name to him for unclear reasons and released him several hours later. Within hours, Treasure was dead. Her case is part of a rash of murders of police informants as law enforcement increasingly relies on their use to apprehend criminals without exercising due diligence to protect them from revenge killings. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Detroit. Michigan. 2015. Dilapidated house in Detroit. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Batiste, Oklahoma. 2014. The home of the grandmother of Joey Tom, an outreach director and stickball coach very active in the Choctaw nation. His grandmother oversees well over a dozen children and grandchildren living with her. She speaks some english but her primary language is Choctaw, a dying tradition. None of her children speak it well. She is also renowned as a tracker and a hunter. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos USA. Molalla, Oregon. 2015. After the rodeo of the Molalla Buckeroo Association. One of the longest continuously running rodeos in the country, it began from the town's desire to celebrate the arrival of the train connecting it to the outside world. Peter van Agtmael—Magnum Photos