Military graffiti in Kandahar

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    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “One of the reasons some of these tags are so inspiring is because they’re so funny,” Toler says. “It’s definitely not easy to maintain your sense of humor in a war zone, but these guys obviously found a way.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “Some of the most meticulous and beautiful works came from these guys who were obviously already established street artists outside the military,” Toler says. “A lot of the best stuff came from a guy who went by ZeroSix, who tended to do stuff around the British side of the base.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “You can tell some of these tags were just for fun, or just guys messing around,” Toler says. “But then you look at stuff like this. The image of this girl with the gun is art, and it has a real story to tell.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “Statement didn't always cross my mind when I saw the tags,” says contractor Arte Munoz. “A drawing of a naked woman, for example, might have just been the artist missing his wife or girlfriend – or just wished he had one to write to. Maybe he just felt like drawing. It’s hard to say.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “Each tag says a lot about the artist who painted it,” Toler says. “You can see what’s going on in their head, and where they go to escape from their surroundings.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    "No matter how you decide to channel it, all forms of art are a form of therapy for people caught up in traumatic events," says Toler. "No matter what you do or how you need some sort of escape from your reality, it can always become a thing of beauty."

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “A lot of the tags carry political messages,” Toler says. “Like this one, where the hand is gripping the barbed wire and it says ‘Give War a Chance’. To see that in a war zone, that’s pretty powerful.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “Another thing I found incredible was the artistic differences between British and American soldiers,” he says. “A lot of it was about the colors they were using. But a lot of it had to do with the messages you were seeing. For example, all of the Tyler Durden quotes, and a lot of the grittier messages, were all found in the U.K. parts of the base.”

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “Command didn’t see it as art – only a defacement of government property,” says Toler. “But to me it always seemed a lot more like enhancement. It was a great show, and a display of the soldiers’ defiance to their current situation."

    Military graffiti in Kandahar

    “When you think about what these guys have to work with, you’ve got to admit, what they can do is really incredible,” Toler says.

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