Eric Michael Johnson

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Location: Shanghai
Nationality: American
Biography:     Eric Michael Johnson is from the San Francisco Bay Area and currently works in Shanghai where he divides his time between commercial photography and long-term personal projects. He has received honors in still photography from... read on
Public Project
The Afghan Syndrome
Credits: eric michael johnson
Updated: 12/16/12

I began the project 'The Afghan Syndrome' to reflect on the legacy of war and call into question the concept of healing. In mid 2011, almost one decade into the United States' war in Afghanistan, I visited one of Russia's veteran treatment facilities, otherwise known as sanatoriums. Between 1979 and 1989, the former Soviet Union fought a war in Afghanistan, leaving tens of thousands of troops wounded, similar to the United States today. Drawn by this parallel, I want to tell the stories of these combat veterans that continue to heal 20 years after a conflict has ended.

Originally opened as a VIP resort for top Communist Party functionaries, the sanatorium, called "Rus" near Moscow, now serves as a treatment facility for Russian veterans of the Afghanistan Chechnya wars. The transformation began in 1989, the same year the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. Ownership was completed in 1991 by the Russian Association of Veterans Disabled During the War in Afghanistan. Sanatoriums were established as medical facilities for long-term illness, most typically associated with treatment of tuberculosis. Today, this facility provides physical, psychological and social services to both veterans and their families. In addition, the sanatorium provides alternative treatments for those who cannot use certain medications because of their illness, for example, hirudotherapy or leech therapy, acupuncture, dry carbonic acid gas bath, electropuncture diagnostics and bioresonance therapy. At the time of my visit, the facility hosted 250 patients, most of whom suffered their injuries more than 20 years ago.

As a photographer, I can only hope to explore the different methods in which we as humans cope with the aftermath of war. What drives me is knowing that long after ruling parties change and borders are redrawn, the effects of war remain.