NPR logo The Writing on the Wall


The Writing on the Wall

Click to watch. Warning: These images contain extremely strong language. Photographs of latrine graffiti by Steve Featherstone. hide caption

toggle caption Photographs of latrine graffiti by Steve Featherstone.

Steve Featherstone was headed to Afghanistan to do a story on a new army unit when he found himself stranded at an airbase in Kuwait for a week. For lack of anything better to do, he started reading the graffiti on the latrine walls.

In the graffiti, soldiers expressed their growing fatigue and anger-mostly with each other. When they weren't scribbling Chuck Norris jokes or questioning the fighting ability of other units, they were slamming soldiers who dared give voice to their dissatisfaction.

Featherstone began photographing the graffiti when he realized it would soon be erased by the cleaning crews who regularly swabbed the walls. He visited every latrine trailer on base and took more photographs at his next stop Bagram Airfied in Kabul, Afghanistan.

We spoke to Featherstone on the show today, and you can read an essay he wrote to accompany his photographs in The Walrus.



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it's pretty sad that they have nightly graffiti cleaning crews. it seems to me a form of censorship shrouded in the guise of maintenance. i wonder what kind of messages the women's latrines have if any.

Sent by seymour | 2:33 AM | 3-28-2008