Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Wounded in Iraq: Portraits by Nina Berman
"Sam Ross, 21, blind & missing a leg," Nina Berman, All rights reserved
Nina Berman's photos of wounded veterans, currently at Jen Bekman's gallery, got some much-deserved recognition in a review by Holland Cotter in today's Arts section of the NY Times (review is here).
When Nina presented this work to a photojournalism class I was co-teaching at Empire State College two years ago she was having trouble getting the work looked at, though she had managed to publish a book and video: Purple Hearts. She was undaunted, as she had been throughout the multi-year project (she had done it by herself with no sponsorship or financial help). The students saw the value -- and the difficulties -- of picking really important stories that might never find a market. Nina was completely matter-of-fact about this. It was just what she does.
I was impressed by her refusal to be used by anyone -- pro or anti-war -- in the raging media debate about Iraq. She made it clear to our class that she had been strongly against the Iraq invasion from the start, but her primary commitment in this project was to the vets -- damaged & in some cases completely isolated & forgotten. Most of the vets still supported the war.
There were no raging denunciations or underlining of tragic ironies. She showed the pictures, read aloud the words of the men that she had recorded & transcribed. That was the story. Her opinions weren't the story.