Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lindsay Beyerstein Interviews Nina Berman

One of my favorite people in the blog world is Lindsay Beyerstein who, in addition to being an incredibly nice person, is also a very talented writer -- she blogs primarily at Majikthise -- and an amazing photographer.

Lindsay has just done a poignant and heart-rending piece for Salon in which she interviews fellow photographer Nina Berman, whose book Purple Hearts, chronicles in photographs and interviews, the experiences of Veterans wounded in Iraq. Lindsay's interview with Berman focuses on the story of Ty Ziegel, a young Marine lucky to be alive, but significantly wounded and disfigured in Iraq.

Here's Lindsay:
One of the most iconic images of the Iraq war was taken by Nina Berman in a commercial portrait studio in small-town Illinois. You've probably seen the photograph. A young couple stands side by side facing the camera. There are all the usual accouterments: the frosted, school-photo backdrop, the red bouquet precisely matched to the red trim on the bride's white gown. The groom wears a decorated dress uniform. It could be any couple in any town -- except that the groom's features have literally been melted off. He has no nose, no chin, no ears and no hair. His head appears to attach directly to his shoulders, and his face is so badly burned that it's a struggle to decipher his expression.

The bride's expression is equally opaque. Some people think she looks stunned. Others describe her expression as anxious, or even fearful. Her mouth turns down slightly at the edges, but her wide brown eyes gaze straight ahead and something about the set of her jaw suggests resolve. Some viewers strenuously deny that there's anything unusual about the young woman's countenance at all.
Berman's photographs of Ziegel and his post-Iraq wedding to high-school sweetheart, Renee, are at once beautiful and painful and one picture in particular resulted in an award for Berman at the prestigious World Press Photo Competition.

Please go and read Lindsay's effort to get the back story behind the award-winning image. You can also see more of Nina Berman's work here.

You'll be glad you took a look at both.