Join me for an artist talk at Yale University as part of the Humanities in Medicine lecture series.
January 16, 2014
The Anlyan Center Auditorium, TAC N-107
300 Cedar Street
New Haven, CT
5pm – 6pm
©Photo by Nina Berman, 2004
From the Purple Hearts series
Iraq war veteran and U.S. Marine Tyler Ziegel, who was wounded in a bomb blast and overcame the most horrific injuries, died Christmas Day after slipping on ice in a parking lot of a local restaurant near his hometown in Illinois. He was 30 years old.
I photographed him in 2006 and 2008 and became friends with his mom, Becky. Some people find it too difficult to look at the pictures maybe because his facial injuries were so severe. I kept wanting to look at him. His strength, his odd and dark sense of humor, his lack of self-consciousnesses in front of a camera, and his determination to live a “normal” life was amazing and inspiring to me. My deepest sympathies in these sad days to the Ziegels and the many Marines, caregivers, relatives and friends who loved him.
Photo ©Nina Berman, 2oo8 “Ty on the land of his dreams”
All Rights Reserved
Forty-five members of a U.S. veteran anti-war group threw off their service medals in a gesture of defiance against US military policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during a demonstration at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Sunday May 21, 2012.
It was the first public mass protest of this kind since 1971 when hundreds of Vietnam vets threw their medals at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C to denounce the Vietnam War.
These medals “mask lies, corruption and abuse of young men and women,“ shouted Alejandro Villatoro, a U.S. Army veteran.
“I’m giving back my medals for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. May they be able to forgive us for what we’ve done to them,“ said Army veteran Steve Acheson, before hurling his two medals towards the barricaded NATO summit headquarters.
The veterans were supported on stage by female members of Afghans for Peace and military mother Mary Kirkland, who held a photograph of her son Derek who was found hanging in his barracks, having committed suicide following tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For video of the event, watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ctEQqlf2xw
Photos ©Nina Berman 2012 All Rights Reserved
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
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
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