Of all the World Press Photo award winners announced Friday, the picture that seems to be generating the most word-of-mouth is one by Eugene Richards. Winner of the Contemporary issues category, the photo of the severely injured Sgt. José Pequeño and his mother is part of aseries of stories on Iraq veterans. Below, we've republished the post we originally ran on June 28, 2008.
"War all comes down to these little tiny stories about people's lives that will never be the same."
-- Eugene Richards
Looking back, I'm certain the depiction of trauma and loss suffered by Iraq veterans, as documented by so many fine photographers, will be recognized as playing a critical role in galvanizing the American public against an otherwise fundamentally sanitized war.
I wanted to share this photo with you from BNN contributer Nina Berman. Nina has been working on a project about the consequences of climate change.
The image "British Columbia Fire watching, Notch Hill" represents one of the hundreds of fires that have been burning across the province this summer. According to Climate Ark, over 1,700 square kilometers have burned this fire season, more than double the average over the past seven years. Global warming not only contributes to more fires by causing disease, drought and even spawning plant life that fuel flames but, in a vicious cycle, fires themselves account for a sizable amount of the carbon dioxide being released each year into the atmosphere.
With climate change contributing to more intense and disastrous environmental conditions around the world, including intense and free burning firestorms or "mega-fires", what's haunting about the image, perhaps prophetic, is how it simultaneously connotes a feeling of "nuclear winter" and also a sheep-like sense of "come what may."
The Iraqi refugee dips her head. Her child -- in the Winnie the Pooh hat -- clutches to her. The trees block a wide marine vista. The Texas flag doubles back on itself. The wagon ride is that way. The sign on the chain reads: "The Texas Pioneer Adventure is closed."
This photo, taken by contributer Nina Berman, shows an Iraqi immigrant on a group visit, with other Iraqi women, to a park and arboretum in Texas. It does not specifically show discouragement or exclusion. It does not specifically demonstrate Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S. in a pioneering spirit and being effectively denied access to our culture, history and pastimes.
Still, given the dire circumstances Iraqi immigrants are facing here in the U.S., this is effectively true -- the image, in fact, juxtaposing this hokey monument to the pioneer spirit with an Iraqi struggling with the recession, local indifference and limited if any support from the U.S. to help establish herself "in the homeland."
I recommend you go over Alternet to read Nina's report on Iraqi refugees in Dallas, and to see her accompanying slide show.
BNN contributer Nina Berman offers us this view of the Wall Street protest this weekend. (If you missed it, we ran Mario Tama's take-away on Sunday.)
Noting the relative lack of emotion, enthusiasm, anger, Nina writes:
Most demonstrations are this way now in the US, because of the security barriers in place, and the restrictions on permits. Demonstrating on Wall Street on a day when no one is working, definitely robs the action of any confrontational energy.
The irony here is overwhelming, including the stillness of "the canyon," the solitary policeman married to the unnecessary double- and even triple-barriers, and the hand-held banners juxtaposed with the fluttering Wall Street health club sign.
Photographed in the midst of the Bush 43 era, these folks are clearly right-wing Christian Conservatives. You get that just from the veneration of the flag (and its presentation as handiwork) as married to all the religious iconography.
But then, doesn't the current political climate (and/or the current narrative about that climate), as expressed by the Obama victory and the dispersal of the "values vote," make this composition much more ambiguous?
For example, what if these were "Yes On 8" Obama supporters and she, concerned with "sinful inequalities," was reading about the reform of mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders, while he, passionate about "creation care," was pouring over a volume on the moral imperative to combat climate change?
...Nina Berman's original caption, by the way, is available after the jump.
Fantasy isn't just for domestic consumption. Berman visited a military training facility at Fort Polk, La., known as The Box. The Box is a simulated Iraq, set on 100,000 acres, populated with Arabic-speaking Iraqi employees. The facility has 18 mock villages populated by 1,000 role-players who simulate Iraqi civilians and insurgents.
Many of the simulated Iraqis are, in fact, Iraqi immigrants. Berman explains that play-acting as insurgents can be a full-time job. You don't have be an immigrant or an Arabic speaker to play a role in the Fort Polk drama. Plenty of Anglophone locals consider it their patriotic duty to simulate terrorists to educate the troops about the real Iraq.
Welcome to the Iraq training simulation at Fort Polk, where -- in a thoroughly obsessive, if totally misbegotten notion about authenticity -- it completely matters to American national security whether exactly six, rather than eight, as opposed to ten goats should be let loose to roam around.
This election edition of the BAGnewsSALON, an on-line discussion series, included moderatorCara Finnegan; producer Ida Benedetto; host Michael Shaw; professors Paul Lester; Nathan Stormer and John Lucaites;photographers Alan Chin, Nina Berman and Aric Mayer, as well as members of the BAGnewsNotes readership. It took place onThursday evening, October 30th, from 5-6:30 p.m. PST, 8-9:30 p.m. EST.
“ The arc of my political coverage has been "demographic" -- in, who are the activists, the people who go to rallies? Most people, of course, are happy to watch it on TV. So who shows up?”-- Alan Chin
Considering the images above, we came to this discussion with the question:
While recent American elections have been governed by identity politics and moral concerns, Barack Obama's campaign has marked a notable shift toward an inclusive national project of change. As a result, do we read these photographs -- taken byBAGnewsNotescontributer Alan Chin in the final weeks of the '04 campaign -- in a different light than we did before?
Conversation about Alan Chin’s photographs from the 2004 election revealed shifting expectations about identity politics as well as continued concerns about enfranchisement and participation in the 2008 election. Discussants in this BAGnewsSalon often saw the visual landscape of the 2004 elections as awkwardly theatrical in comparison to the 2008 election. They commended the recent campaign for more nuanced treatment of issues like religion and socialism, even if others issues, such as gender, were disappointingly caricatured.
Alan Chin: what I liked about this image were the eyeglasses case and the ladies' handbag, obviously belonging to one of the older African-American congregates. ...It evoked for me, the older, civil-rights era, sense of religion being a politically progressive as opposed to right-wing dominated issue.
Cara Finnegan: Yes, especially in the context of 2004 you would think church=republican, but no.
Aric Mayer: I remember the 2004 election as giving a cartoon quality to religion in general. This time around there seems to be a much more diverse and nuanced conversation around faith.
Michael Shaw: Yes, in this election, we liberals wouldn't even think to make fun of the bible as a symbol.
Cara Finnegan: I keep thinking "failed youth vote?" even though my recollection of the numbers is that the youth vote was very high in 04.
Nathan: Her face has an energy to it. We will try again.
Cuban with Sign
Alan Chin: The guy holding the Communist sign is a Cuban-American, clearly part of a conservative community, but he's gone over the top.
Cara Finnegan: It/him/the sign is so coarse it seems silly, especially from 2008 perspective and obama/socialism stuff
Alan Chin: kind of like McCain calling Obama a socialist
Paul Lester: Socialism is the new communism!
Nathan Stormer: Even for 2004 this kind of stuff was just looney.
Cara Finnegan: gets at the question of identity, though: for whom is this an issue?
Alan Chin: in 04 it was looney. in 08 it's gone mainstream!
Early Voting In Car
Nathan Stormer: As a "demographic," the value of her vote is surely against Republicans. I see her voting as the front line in the struggle over effective suffrage right now.
Ida Benedetto: It's also possibly a literacy issue. The ability to read was a huge issue with who could vote in the 20's and 30's. Now it's technological literacy that's an issue.
Michael Shaw: I'm really proud of the Dems that I can't think of an '08 corollary for the MM image -- at least, not immediately.
Republican with Bush Signs
Cara Finnegan: Many folks are arguing the conservative coalition is cracking up, so maybe what we're seeing in this guy is the beginning of the end.
For a transcript of the full discussion, please drop us an email.
With the Wall Street bailout set for Congressional passage in the morning, I offer you an ironic counterpoint.
BAGnewsNotes contributer Nina Berman captured this image outside the NYSE a week ago Monday. What accounts for the look of resentment? It's because workers at the exchange were kept from entering so that His Highness, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, could enter to ring the morning bell.
The photo also offers an interesting blank and white contrast. I'm guessing most people would take for granted the second security guard is also black. Did you?
(image: Nina Berman. New York. September 22, 2008)
I wanted to direct you to an online auction for the benefit of the Obama campaign.
Titled Art For Obama, fifty of the country's most prominent artists and photographers have donated their work for this cause. The auction will run from October 3, 5pm EST through October 10th, 5pm EST. All proceeds from the auction will go to MoveOn.org which is supporting the Obama campaign.
BNN offers you a look at two of the works up for bid. The first is by Wendy Ewald, titled "White Self, 1997" from the series Black Self/White Self. Ms. Weald is known for her photographic collaboration with children on issues of race, class and identity.
The second is by BAGnewsNotes contributor Nina Berman, titled “Little Patriots,” 2003, from her new book "Homeland," due out next month. (Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction.) Nina has been working on the "Homeland" series since 9/11. The images address issues of militarism and security in contemporary America. If you've been a regular here, you'll probably remember our discussion of Nina's shot from the Atlantic City air show, as well as three rather troubling images from New York's Fleet Week. If you click to Nina's thread here at BNN, the (currently) third through the sixth post down offer those images from her Homeland series.
It’s interesting to consider these photos while watching the candidates grapple with the construction of winning identities to suit the demographic of the moment and the constant questioning of authenticity and purity on issues of race (is Obama white enough or black enough?) and patriotism (who loves American more?). As always, I'm interested in your reactions.