Claire Beckett
Portrait photo of military woman holding a gun

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Lead Insurgent Sergeant Ariel Combs
Collection of the artist

This photograph of Sergeant Ariel Combs is from Claire Beckett’s series Simulating Iraq (2007–17), which depicts American military training for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, Combs is performing the role of “the bad guy,” as she had in a recent drill. Beckett made this photograph and the others in the series while embedded on domestic military bases, many of which are in California. The settings are training environments that replicate war zones. Beckett explains: “To me, the places I photograph for Simulating Iraq take on a kind of amalgamated identity, not American, not Iraqi, not Afghani…but something entirely different.” In these “nonplaces,” drills are conducted against terrorists and enemies of all kinds.

Beckett’s series raises questions about perceptions of cultural difference in constructed, alternate realities that blur the lines between fantasy and reality, much like Civil War reenactment sites or virtual game worlds.