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Soldier Billboard Project Stalled

Portraits of soldiers pulled before RNC

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The Soldier Billboard Project, which features portraits of soldiers between tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was about to go live on St. Paul, MN billboards before being cancelled on the eve of the Republican National Convention. The images, taken with permission, depict living soldiers after they returned to Fort Drum in upstate New York.

CBS Outdoor owns the billboards. Executive Vice President of Marketing Jodi Senese explained the cancelled contract: “[The reason] we cannot post these as billboards is that, out of context (neither in a museum setting or website), the images, as standalone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces.”

Photographer Suzanne Opton, who took the images, and some mothers of the soldiers, disagree, having said the images force viewers to think about solders in a more personal way, and to contemplate their sacrifices.

The billboard project was launched weeks earlier in Denver on a sign also controlled by CBS Outdoor. The images are included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

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