30 April 2013
Last updated at 04:12 ET
Working in Afghanistan, photographer Laura Lean noticed the wide variety of camouflage patterns used by members of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and set about capturing as many as she could.
"Each nation’s camouflage is unique," said Lean. "Despite the uniformity of their clothing, the camouflage fabric divides the soldiers that wear it into distinct groups. A lot of the designs have been formulated for the Afghan environment and yet the difference in patterns is extraordinary."
The term "camouflage" became widespread during World War I, though its military use had proliferated in the 19th Century as firearms became increasingly effective at longer ranges.
The aim is for the wearer to lose themselves within the terrain. Varied areas of light and dark tone are used to break up the shape of the body.
"At the start of hostilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan, most countries had a desert pattern of one sort or another," said Maj Ric Cole, of the Land Warfare Centre. "For the British it was the same pattern that had been worn in 1991, although the cut of the uniform had been improved."
Maj Cole said the UK’s new "multi-terrain pattern" used six colour tones blended to be effective in both desert and forest or jungle environments. But it retained a distinctive British look by using shapes from "disruptive-pattern material", the Army's previous design.
"Some patterns do use satellite and aerial images to capture tones and shades and it is certainly a science, a far cry from employing artists during World War II," said Maj Cole. "Many countries have continued to develop camouflage patterns, sometimes at great expense, while others buy theirs from companies."
"With the camouflage images, I have not shown the soldiers wearing uniforms, but their presence is hinted at," said Lean.