Dressing for a revolution

Chicago, Nato summit, the city enforces a several mile exclusion zone, leaving protestors with no target but the police. They chase each other in circles, a kind of urban sport. Frustration builds as those on the street can’t help but realize that their chants will fall on deaf ears. Trained for restraint, yet dressed to kill, the police are simultaneously frightening and absurd. With so much at stake — will the world’s wealth continue to be used for war and destruction — and so little hope for change, the events are more like rituals, with each side dressing for the occasion.

For an all together different edit, visit my work from Chicago on BagNewsNotes where Michael Shaw provides the visual commentary.

All photos ©Nina Berman 2012,  All Rights Reserved

Remember the Iraq War – Part 3 – The Refugees

Somewhere between victory and defeat is dislocation. The Iraq War, like most wars, creates refugees, which is a simple way of saying that millions of people were forced to flee for their lives. They are scattered around the globe, most living undocumented in Jordan and Syria. Several thousand came to the USA, a strange destination, as this was the country that started the mess in the first place. In 2009, I spent some time in one neighborhood in Dallas. Expectations were high upon arrival, but the reality after a few months was something quite different. They arrived poor, just when the economy had crashed, few had English language skills, many were traumatized by their lives in Iraq. They are given a small allowance for six months, and then it’s sink or swim. The people I met were terrified of ending up homeless or in health care debt. I wrote about it here .
All photos ©Nina Berman 2009 To see more images, visit

Remember the Iraq War – Part 2 Purple Hearts

In October 2003, I met Sgt. Jeremy Feldbusch. He was an Army Ranger, 24 years old at the time. Three weeks into the war he was wounded in an artillery attack near the Haditha Dam. Metal sliced through his head and left him brain damaged and blind. “He sees nothing but darkness,” his mother said. Feldbusch had been the first in his class of 228 rangers. At one time in his life he wanted to be a doctor. Filmmaker Richard Hankin made Home Front about Jeremy and his family.

Two days after meeting Jeremy, I met Sam Ross, 21 years old, who was wounded in Baghdad during a mine clearing operation. Sam lost a leg, half his hearing, and his eyesight. He had shrapnel in his body, and a hole in his right hand. He was living in a trailer in southwestern PA. His mother was out of the picture. His father was incarcerated for murder. Years later, the New York Times, wrote about him. I think about Sam a lot. I’m hoping to see him soon as he just got out of prison.

Alan Jermaine Lewis, 23, lost both his legs when his humvee struck a mine. He was delivering ice to other soldiers at the time. He grew up with an intimate knowledge of violence. His father was killed in a robbery when he was seven. His sister and his best friend, a 6 year old boy, were both killed by stray bullets. I always thought Alan joined the Army to save his life. His dream when he returned was to become a middle school teacher. It didn’t happen for him.

Jose Martinez, 20, was injured in Karbala, three weeks into the war when his vehicle hit a mine and he was trapped in the explosion. He spent a year at Brooke Army Medical Center recovering from his burns. He said the injury was a revelation for him. He had always been a “pretty boy” and relied on his looks. But now he realized it was who you are and what you say that’s important. Some people might recognize Jose. He became a

Remember the Iraq War – Part 1

Ever year since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, I have been making photographs, videos, exhibitions and books about the impact of the war as seen in the U.S. For those who want to revisit this history, I invite you to check this blog over the next few days. I will be posting highlights and summaries of these projects.

caption:
A Columbia University Law student screams in favor of bombing Iraq, at a demonstration held days before the invasion. At the rally, people held signs urging the nuclear destruction of Baghdad. Times Square, NY, USA, 2003
©Nina Berman, 2003, All Rights Reserved

Occupy Wall Street – The Future Belongs to Crowds


Occupation Wall Street, if nothing else, is about access to public space.
As thousands of demonstrators marched to Times Square to mark the 10 year anniversary of the bombing of Afghanistan, the police shouted through bull horns, “clear the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic,“ to which the demonstrators replied, “We are pedestrian traffic!
Once in Times Square, the NYPD set up the familiar cages, forcing the crowd into geometric pockets so cars could pass and the crowd could be contained. It hardly mattered that thousands of people were crushed together with no place to move, while double decker tourist buses sailed south, uninhibited, their passengers, waving and snapping pictures.
The surreal aspect was amplified by the fact that the only time masses of people are permitted to crowd into Times Square is on New Years Eve. It’s an event usually avoided by New Yorkers but familiar to all from television footage showing festive and expectant throngs looking skyward, huddled together in the cold, waiting to be entertained, waiting for the ball to drop, waiting in a fundamental way, to be released. But on Oct 15, people were not waiting for anything. There was no signal, no speakers. They weren’t there to receive instructions. They weren’t there to shop. They were simply, and undeniably, there.

To see them with hand made signs, surrounded by huge advertisements of the furry penguin from Happy Feet, or the red Bank of America sign, or the giant Mama Mia poster, was so strange it made Times Square into something all together stunning. At one point, a man climbed on a pole, lit a sparkler, and the crowd sang, “This Little Light of Mine.” There amid the most intense neon per square foot perhaps in the world, someone lights a sparkler and the crowd starts singing.

Curious to see how the NYPD responds in the days ahead to Occupy Wall Street’s use of the intentional crowd in a city fully crowded. I am reminded of

Occupy Wall Street – October 14

The dramatic showdown between thousands of demonstrators and NYC Mayor Bloomberg was averted at the 11th hour when faced with overwhelming force, the Mayor decided the inhabitants of Zuccotti Park had sufficiently tidied themselves up, at least for the time being, and Occupation Wall Street continues. Feeling their power and wanting to celebrate, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and sidewalks of lower Manhattan Friday morning. In the end, the creativity and sheer numbers of the demonstrators was too much for the NYPD. A few scenes from Friday morning.

There was at least one grotesque moment of police rage captured here See 1.41 seconds. And I noticed two occasions when plain clothes suit and tie higher ups, with no visible identification or badge number, bolted from the crowd and got physical.

Saturday October 15, Occupation Wall Street moves to Times Square.
All photos ©Nina Berman 2011, All Rights Reserved

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing demonstration in Lower Manhattan — a bold and audacious act to create meaningful public dialogue about economic inequality and human rights in the USA and beyond. It began September 17 when a group of young people set up camp in a small city park, normally home to construction workers on lunch break from the former World Trade Center construction site. In 21 days it has grown fantastically, and virally, spanning similar movements in the USA and beyond. Their occupation is a symbolic act, yet their demands are quite specific. Entering Zuccotti Park, where they are encamped, is a beautiful experience. People are kind, they are talking as opposed to texting, they are reading, drawing, sharing stories, listening, being human. Food is free. Help is offered. People are taking care of each other. Where in all of this is the enemy? Egyptians had Mubarek, the New York demonstrators have….. Wall Street. As Mayor Bloomberg correctly said (and he should know) Wall Street is no longer on Wall Street. The money makers and masters of the universe are spread out, holed up in their trading bunkers and investment banks all over town. Wall Street is more of a theme park now, a place for tourists to snap pictures of the gated NYSE, or a community of high priced condos where people see the demonstrators as a public nuisance. See NY Times story. here My own visual prejudices have been challenged photographing OWS. I am used to seeing the man in the suit as a symbol of the elite class, and then I saw men in suits marching with the demonstrators. I am used to thinking that when people take off their clothes and shout greed is bad, to not take them too seriously, and then Michael Shaw at Bagnewsnotes opened my eyes to my own picture. Personally, it’s been inspiring to see this energy and creativity, especially in New York, which hasn’t felt this free in decades. Here are a few images from some evening visits. For a complete set, visit NOOR . All photos ©Nina Berman 2011, All Rights Reserved