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Feb 11, 2007

Your Turn: Rites Of Passage


Nina Berman's photo of Iraq veteran Ty Ziegel and his wife, Renee Kline, won a first prize in the portraits category in the 2007 World Press photo awards announced Friday.

What are your first reactions?


... I ask because I'm interested in what initial assumptions you made that were mostly that, and what new thoughts and questions you had after reviewing Nina's extensive photo gallery of Ty (led off by a sweet "before" picture of the couple) here at the Redux Stock photo site. (Note: these images are for commercial sale only).

Nina Berman website.
Nina's Digital Journalist "Purple Hearts"
Purchase the book: Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq.

(image: Nina Berman/Redux.  Metamora, Illinois. Oct 07, 2006)


He looks sad. She looks as though she has no emotion whatsoever. The photograph made me feel a combination of sad and OH-MY-GOD, WHAT HAVE WE DONE!

it's a horror show.

I was struck by the sense of futile bravery. Ty gazes at his bride with almost a puppy-like tenderness, as if certain he will lose her eventually. She, for her part, seems resigned to a show of braveness. Her faraway gaze and air of detachment speak volumes.

One cannot look at this and not have grave reservations about the couple's future. The forces they face are huge, and they will not always have the poignancy of this wedding photo, with the groom dressed in the psychologically salving military uniform, to draw strength upon.

I've just seen the rest of the photos in the gallery, and I'm pleased to say my initial impression was off. Many of the pictures are uplifting and show a genuine connection between the two. I still think they've got it all before them, especially in this day and age. Good luck to both of them!

My first reaction was repulsion -- embarrassed as I am to say it, wounded humans provoke a visceral and fearful reaction in me. A "there but for the grace of Cheney go I." The politics follow -- the anger and sadness.

But these are all my own context. The photos provide their own -- and its great. They could be candids from any photo album -- and the seriousness in the BAG-chosen picture could be the soul-freezing nervousness that comes with any oh-my-god-this-is-happening wedding photo shoot.

I've always been amused by the fantasy world of weddings -- they're so rich in nothing-else-like-it symbolism, of royal accoutrements and expensive one-time-only purchases that the photos are, in many ways the most important thing. If you are spending on these dresses, those suits, you better have perfect representation for the future.

The man's wounds shouldn't stand out so much when I look at the photos under that context. It's all out-of-time. Out-of-place. Whatever suffering he went through -- whatever challeneges they'll go through, should be as absent there as they are in any fantasy world wedding photo.

And yet, obviously, they can't.

I don't want to comment on these particular photos and these particular lives but rather to express my gratitude for the people, including the photographer, who have the courage to negotiate the intrusion of the camera for a public purpose. More of these photographs are now finally appearing -- ones that show the true effects of this war on particular lives. This is what we are doing.

Some of the pictures make you think that the couple were just fufilling an obligation. In a couple of pictures Renee looks quite detached and distant. These initial impressions are overtaken by the rest of the portfolio where you start seeing the love between the two. Then you realize that they were in love before Ty's injuries and that underneath the wounds is the man who was there before, different but probably possessing the humor, warmth, hopes and aspirations he has developed through his life's journey, and what helped forged the bonds of attraction between the couple. I wish them the best.

It's hard to contemplate how many Ty and Renees there are as a result of this war. Quite enough of a reason to stop.

The above reacton to this picture and the others reflects the superficial manner in which we Americans judge people, simply according to appearance. In a country which has not seen constant reminders of the maiming of war, such as Europeans after their wars, or Middle Easterners with their constant tragedies, instead being constantly bombarded with images and ads of "perfect" people living idealized "happy" lives, it's no wonder that folks here have such trouble wrapping it around their heads that men and women might love each other for their intrinsic selves, rather than the packaging. The worst thing we can do is pity them. We should envy them for being able to love so deeply!

I immediately thought of the photo as depicting an archtype: beauty and the beast, hunchback of notre dame, the elephant man,etc. Our society seems to be creating a lot of these archtypes lately.

Seeing these photos, I hate Cheney, Bush, Rice and Rumsfelt even more than I thought possible.

My first reaction was to think a critic of the war had Photoshopped the image. Then I remembered what site I was on.

Second reaction was to think how brave these young people are—and what love they must share.

My most lasting reaction will be outrage and determination that Americans face the horror of what our leaders…no, strike that. Not "leaders," but elected representatives are inflicting, not just on Iraqs, but on our own people.

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is:

I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah.

eh. it's deliberate chosen for shock value...and to tell a story about how monstrous and unlovable a disabled or disfigured person is.

it's bigotry.

anti-war, sure. but you really want to sink that low to make the point?

Sly civilian, what a heartless cynic you are.

I love that she loved him and went through with her beautiful wedding. It's an honor and a tribute to her new husband.

I wish them both all the best.

My first reaction is not what I want to say, but what I want to do to those truly responsible. It is also my second and third.

It reminded me what the true cost of this war is. How many people we've hurt and damaged. How this generation of young men will be with us, maimed and in need of help, for decades.

War and the products of war are shocking. No one ever needs to create anti-war images. They create themselves...but we never learn.

This couple has a long hard road ahead. I weep for them. I hope they find many happy times.

First reaction: Is this a Hollywood setup?
Second reaction: The BRIDE looks shell shocked.
Third reaction: The red on the dress and bouquet are very appropriate
Fourth reaction: When these soldiers are rehabbed, no attention seems to be paid to their general fitness.
Fifth reaction: unprintable thoughts about W
Sixth reaction: the loss - hundreds of thousands of lives

I am struck by the expression on Bride's face. She looks so sad and lost. All through the photo album there are only couple of times where she was smiling. The groom was smiling more times than she did. Especially image 33, where almost everyone seems to be smiling at some joke except her.

Although she seems brave enough to carry on, she still seems to be grieving for what happened to him, more for his sake.

I wonder if they invited Cheney or Feith? After all, it was Cheney's war that made this possible. Maybe he got them something nice from pottery barn.

I could look at the one picture at the top of this post. I don't think anything of it. I think a lot of things about it. I don't know.

It hurts.

I also don't understand why the personal was made political in this way. Photos for their wedding are normal. Submitting them for a photo competition is something different. If someone wishes to make a political statement, okay, sure. Does the family want to do this? I feel like it is a cheap shot for some reason, including actual wedding photos in a competition. I mean, it could be an interesting piece of art, for some. But it doesn't feel right for it to be both.

Would the picture be submitted if a man was similarly burned, but in a house fire? What about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, killed?

"awwww" was my first reaction / and then i wept

As a Civil War re-enactor, my research has gone to the early days of photography. I learned that many soldiers, despite their grieveous wounds and diseases, welcomed the photography in that their experiences, and the scientific recording of it, would allow doctors of the future to develop treatments.

I think the present-day Americans, folks in the United States, live too much of their lives inundated with entertainment and so their first reaction to extraordinary things, is to say, "It was just like a movie!"

It makes me think of my reaction to Murderball and it's theme of: the art of healing is giving someone the will to live!

For once...I have nothing to say....

I hope they have a very long, happy and properous life together. After what he has endured, and what he will endure--it isn't as if burn wounds of that degree just heal up forever--he will be very grateful to be alive and, I hope, a very doting husband.

That's about my seventh reaction. I have always found burn wounds the most painful of all injuries to observe, so my first reaction was to recoil. But that's because I know nothing about him. My father in law was blinded and terribly scarred on the right side of his face from a horrific accident with acid when he was a toddler. The first time you met him you were shocked. But we who knew him didn't really notice. I imagine Renee sees the Ty she always loved and that she is very, very thankful that he is alive. The hardest times will be when outside eyes are on him, gawking. My second reaction was to feel awe at their courage. They are so young.

my first reaction was oh my god....the rest of the pictures tell another tale at least for now. only time will tell how these two will work out their marriage.
more to the point..why did these two people and their loved ones have to endure this tragedy? this was`t a horrible traffic accident or work injury. this was a result of one man`s deliberate intention to start and carry on a war that was based on a lie. wounds. god will judge us for our silence

Funny how nobody here expresses any anger towards the person who actually maimed this guy, isn't it? Was this soldier murdering people? I highly doubt it. No, he was there to protect Iraqis and whoever maimed him is repsonsible for his injuries. But just ignore that because most of you suffer from very transparent Bush Derangewment Syndrome. Did GWB force "insurgments" (random murderers is what I call them) to maim this guy? No, plain and simple. Did the person who maimed this guy want peace for all Iraqis like he did? No fickin' way - he was killing someone who was there putting his life on the line TO PROTECT IRAQIS. So, make up your minds, either this guy deserved to be attacked or he didn't. But it sure as heck isn't Bush's fault that some crazed fanatic tried to blowe this guy up. Step away from your irrational hatred and look at the facts. I wish this gentleman and his wife a long and prosperous life. I doubt he wants your pity - he certainly doesn't need it.

To the previous commenter.

It is appropriate to expect adults to take responsibility for the predictable consequences of their actions. George Bush is directly personally responsible for this man's pain, and for that of so many other. Whether the President who ordered the invasion intends these outcomes or criminally negligent, outrage very properly belongs towards him, his cabinet, and the congress of the USA. It's not a matter of hatred, it's a matter of simply expecting leaders to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, something that G.W.B. as a person, and tragically as a Presidency, is simply incapable of doing at any level.

Of course sir you forget who put him on that battlefield to begin with. So yes somebody else fired the shot, but the real question is, what was he doing there in the first place? And the answer has nothing to do with the safety of Iraqis, or democracy or WMDs or honor or duty. But then you don't want see that, you just want more war...and the insurgents are anything if not organized, those injuries are rarely cause by "randomness".

This sir is the price for the lies, misdirection, ambition and greed. And it is a heavy price indeed.

My God!!! My God!!! What have we done to our beautiful children?

How could we have allowed the psychotic George W. Bush and that piss stain yellow coward bastard Richard B. Cheney to maim our beautiful children?

When will we as Americans put a stop to this depravity and jail these two for crime against humanity. At least Hitler had the balls to off himself. Not these two gutless slugs. Wake up fellow citizens before it is too late. IMPEACH AND IMPRISON!!!

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