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Ms. Armed Forces
February 13, 2018
by Peter van Agtmael
Open to female veterans of the US military, the annual Ms. Armed Forces event is a beauty pageant, talent competition, test of physical strength, and measures the participants’ commitment to raising money for homeless women veterans and their children. Now in its sixth year, the pageant gives participants the opportunity to embrace the femininity they had to shed during their time in the military. Some use the platform to share their experiences at war and also the abuse they received while in uniform.

Peter van Agtmael, who spent 12 years photographing Americans at war and their return to civilian life, photographed the 2017 pageant in Washington, D.C. “What attracted me [about the competition] is that you’re taking two seemingly polar opposite worlds and kind of very conspicuously mashing them together,” he told assigning client, TIME. “But how do you do this in a thoughtful and complex way?”

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