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16 posts categorized "Nina Berman"

Sep 22, 2008

Wall Street Nightmare



Looking at these photos through the lens of the current financial convulsions, they read much differently, I'm sure, than when they were shot in 2003.  Right now, however, BagNewsNotes contributer Nina Berman's photos anthropomorphize, and give nightmarish expression to my worst fears of a Wall Street disaster.

In the first shot, as if a sequel to "The Night Of The Living Dead," it feels like these financial monsters -- their intelligence derived from overly complex, computer-driven programs -- have gone completely haywire and now roam the concrete canyons in a lobotomized state.

Although the figure in the second shot is moving left-to-right, I can't help but read it as a skyscraper-like zombie, moving right-to-left in an autistic gate, the American flag forming a head (or a hood, like the kind forced over the heads of prisoners in Iraq).

Modern society, if we wish to call it that, lives with fears of all kinds of potentially devastating, man-made forces, be they biological, chemical or nuclear.  Akin to the YK2 panic, however, the degree to which our financial system -- and the assets of most Americans -- are thoroughly susceptible to insatiable power players and their automated instruments, Wall Street, too, has its own very real nightmare scenarios.

... We'll have a less supernatural take on some of Nina's Wall Street images later in the week.

(images © Nina Berman, New York, 2003)

Nov 18, 2007

Your Turn: War Time America

(click for larger view)

My first association....

Right after returning from Spain in August, I remember turning on the TV to watch a bit of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.  Having been away from the States for nearly a year, I remember being jarred by the super-sized and jingoistic display of the session's opening festivities.  An American flag was stretched out that literally spanned the footprint of the stadium court.  Liza Minelli was called upon to ring (wring?) out a painfully long and overwrought rendition of America the Beautiful.  Then, a squadron of fighter jets blew violently over the top of the stadium in perfect coordination with the end of the song.

In her continuing look at militarization and the security of the homeland, contributer Nina Berman offers us a set of images tied to Atlantic City's "Thunder Over The Boardwalk" air show this past August.  As she writes:

There are many of these shows all around the country done by all branches of the military.  They are huge productions costing millions of dollars and usually have a very robust, aggressive energy.  They now also have a big recruitment component.

I am interested in your reflections on the photo, as well as either or both of its companions (1, 2).  Because Nina was more interested in the areas of the beach which were off from the main viewing ground, there are elements here that lend a particular twist to the themes of power and defense.  In general, however, I feel the shot conveys a unique mood and aura of post-9/11 America, America under the "terror war," or what the Administration constantly refers to as "America at war."

I'll be happy to join you in the discussion thread.

(image: ©Nina Berman.  New Jersey.  August 2007.  Used by permission)

Jun 13, 2007

It's Not A Hand Gun, It's Military: Fleet Week #3



(click for full size)

Girls and guns. Kids and guns. Teens, sex and guns.

Today, I offer the last in a series of posts featuring images by photojournalist Nina Berman of this year's Fleet Week naval extravaganza in NYC.

In the first post, I noted the public's unremarkable response to American militarism and the public display of weaponry.  In the second post, I focused on military recruitment and race.  Today, I'm interested in a more narrow aspect of these gun-saturated images, which is the prevalence of hand guns in these exhibitions.

I was interested in how these three images, all emphasizing the hand gun, have a slightly different pull.  In image #1, are we witnessing a loss of innocence, or, in our violence-saturated culture, simply the lack of it?  In #2, factoring those facial expressions; the girl's "girlish" and incredible "Go Nuts" top; the face paint (kids love face paint); and the fingers on the triggers, I'm wondering, is this the new cover of the American family album?  And, in #3, besides the appeal to gangster chic, there is no escaping the double entendre of "a boy's equipment."

Granted, the military came to NY for a (PR) show of hardware.  And who could deny that the small arms weapon is a necessary implement in any military arsenal.  What I'm curious about, however, is how -- just weeks after the Virginia Tech shootings (and the lost opportunity to have a public debate about hand guns) -- neither the military, the police, nor the anti-gun Mayor seemed to have much reservation about discouraging the public (no just looking?), and especially, children, from getting their hands on a piece.

>>If you have questions or comments for Nina, she is available to answer in the discussion thread<<

Other Fleet Week posts:
Asking Questions About America:
Fleet Week #1
Black Boys With Guns:
Fleet Week #2

Nina Berman website.
Nina's Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

(image: Nina Berman/Redux. NYC, New York, May 25, 2007.  Used by permission)

Jun 12, 2007

Black Boys With Guns: Fleet Week #2

    Ninaberman-Fleet-Recruit-1 Ninaberman-Fleet-Enlisted-12, 3
(click for full size)

Yesterday, I posted the first of a three-part series from Fleet Week.  Photographer Nina Berman's images record the week-long festivities in New York involving the presence of naval ships, sailors, and military demonstrations and exhibitions all over the city.

In yesterday's post, I noted the lack of irony in the photos, wondering if the display of militarism and weaponry has simply become matter-of-fact in post-9/11 New York, and perhaps, in America, in general now.

The young men in #1 and 3 are both new Marine recruits who just recently signed up and are heading off to boot camp.  The kid in #2 is a 14-year-old who is part of a  youth cadet group.  In #5, a group of white NYPD officers watching over an African-American kid letting loose his imagination on a fixed machine gun.

In this middle set of pictures, besides the message of how deep war has permeated the American psyche, I'm interested in questions, and perceptions, of race.

Overlaid in these images, we have the documentation of the military's luring of urban black males.  We have the "disconnect" of knowing these kids are safe (to us, as well as to and among themselves) because they are under the supervision of an officially-sanctioned killing machine, or have already been conscripted.  And, with the guns and face paint (#3), or the guns; no shirt;  and gung-ho expression juxtaposed with "the man" looking down (#5), we have allusions to something I'm sure is commonly felt but rarely openly discussed (at least, not across "tribes" or beyond academia), which is the sense and fear of the (urban) black man as savage.

>>As before, if you have questions or comments for Nina, she'll be available to answer in the discussion thread<<

Other Fleet Week posts:
Asking Questions About America: Fleet Week #1
It's Not A Hand Gun, It's Military:
Fleet Week #3

Nina Berman website.
Nina's Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

(image: Nina Berman/Redux. NYC, New York, May 25, 2007.  Used by permission)

Jun 11, 2007

Asking Questions About America: Fleet Week #1

(click for full size)

About two weeks ago, photographer Nina Berman sent me a series of photos she had shot during Fleet Week, and I've been studying them ever since.

Not familiar with Fleet Week?

Held yearly since 1984, 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen disembark in New York City to celebrate the sea services.  In that stretch, there are dozens of military displays and demonstrations, as well as public tours of various naval ships. This year, according to, there were six ships involved, including multipurpose amphibious assault ship Wasp at Manhattan’s Pier 90, and guided-missile cruisers Hue City and San Jacinto, guided-missile frigate Groves, guided-missile destroyers Churchill and Oscar Austin, and Coast Guard Cutter Katherine Walker moored at Staten Island’s Stapleton Pier. This year, more than 76,000 people visited the ships alone.

Given the robust schedule, Nina moved across the city, catching a helicopter demonstration; a Times Square demonstration of "static displays," martial arts and military dogs by the 10th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune; and Marine Corps Day in Central Park, incorporating vehicles and weapons used by Marine infantry battalions and sniper teams.

What makes the photography almost endlessly compelling is the way it cover so much territory.  Woven through are themes and issues involving militarism, security, NYC, 9/11, race, class, guns, youth, identity, the uniform, and more.  Just like Nina's "Marine Wedding" image, which circulated so widely last February, raised so many questions about the impact of our involvement in Iraq, I find these images equally determined to investigate the current state and status of post-9/11 America.

What I'd like to do, barring major news interceding, is to post an image or two over three days, asking a different question of each.

In the article I linked to above, a Manhattan resident, Matthew Sheller, is quoted as following:

“I think it's encouraging having the [Sailors and Marines] here in town.... “I think sometimes New York needs a rejuvenation of American spirit.”

Nina wrote me that, from Central Park, to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, to Times Square, she never heard a word of dissent about the military displays --  except one woman in Times Square who said to her friend: "Let's get out of here, this is wigging me out."  My thoughts move in the same direction.  The primary question I have, looking at this shot from Times Square of a Marine Corp exhibition (as well as all of the photos Nina showed to me, in fact), is: Where's any irony?

>>Note:  If you have questions or comments for Nina, she'll be available to answer in the discussion thread<<

Other Fleet Week posts:
Black Boys With Guns: Fleet Week #2
It's Not A Hand Gun, It's Military:
Fleet Week #3

Nina Berman website.
Nina's Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

(image: Nina Berman/Redux. NYC, New York, May 26, 2007.  Used by permission)

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)

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