Wired has published a fascinating photo essay on the targets used by the world’s militarys. German photographer Herlinde Koelbl worked with militaries around the world to gain access to their shooting ranges and explore their target systems.
Koelbl faced significant bureaucratic hurdles in her quest for the images. In fact, many militaries were surprised that she was interested in their targets and not their weapon systems. However, the results, and their commentary on resources, training, and future wars is telling.
With a provocative series of images rarely captured on film, acclaimed photographer Herlinde Koelbl offers us a unique glimpse of what soldiers around the world are trained to see as they learn to take aim at the enemy.
In a career spanning nearly three decades, Herlinde Koelbl has firmly established herself as Germany’s most acclaimed photographer. From intimate scenes of private life, to the corridors of power, Koelbl’s eye for detail allows us to see the world we think we know in ways we never imagined. In her most recent book, Targets, Koelbl has focused her lens on the phantom battle scenes used by armies worldwide to train their soldiers to shoot to kill. In the vast expanse of barren deserts, in labyrinths of concrete bunkers, and in mock Arab villages created by Hollywood set designers, soldiers are being taught to take aim at a great range of targets, all for the same deadly purpose. Over a period of six years Koelbl has visited military training camps in more than 20 countries across the globe, to see how soldiers learn their trade. The result is a compilation of portraits—surprising, disturbing, and fascinating—of the lifeless targets used in practice to simulate an enemy in order to prepare for wars yet to come. Accompanying the photographs are texts from Koelbl’s conversations with soldiers along with insightful essays on the increasingly diverse and perplexing conditions confronted by military populations throughout the world.