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Monday, February 12, 2007

World Press Photo Awards

Nina Berman, Wounded US Marine returns home from Iraq to marry

The 2007 World Press Photo Awards were announced last Friday. Nina Berman's picture of returned Iraq War veteran Ty Ziegel and his wife Renée Kline won first prize in the Portraits category. A warning: you'll probably want to spend a lot of time at the link. Among the many things you won't want to miss is Denis Darzacq's series of Parisian street dancers, which won first prize in the Arts and Entertainment stories category.

Nina Berman's site

More pictures of Ty and Renée's wedding at the ReduxStock site

Book (click on the cover):

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, with a tip o' the hat to Stan Banos


Blogger Chris said...

Yeah, I saw this over the weekend. If this isn't the Nick Ut "Napalm Girl" of the Iraq debacle, I don't know what is... (not sure I'd like to see the competitors, either.)

12:28 PM  
Blogger thechrisproject said...

It's been a while since I've seen a picture that made me cry.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

That's a heck of a combination. Darzacq's photos are excellent, a joyous series done with a light touch. He doesn't play up what he's doing, he keeps a straight face (so to speak), which makes his subjects look weightless and effortless, rather than contrived and demanding attention.

As for Kline's photograph, I can't remember seeing any other picture that has awakened such intense sympathy in me (I almost wrote empathy, but that doesn't seem appropriate, as I can't begin to feel what the couple must be feeling). The groom's life, and body, are irreparably scarred. Beyond the physical toll, such an ordeal exacts an unimaginably high psychological price as well. In his shoes I would constantly wonder "Why me?" I have seen people with far less serious injuries and illnesses collapse in an understandable pit of self-pity that literally drags down everyone around them, destroying the best of intentions and the strongest relationships.

From this perspective, I can only wonder whether the bride appreciates what awaits her. Her courage and loyalty in marrying her fiancee are admirable, but her age, her vacant stare and the fact that she does not appear to be able to meet the gaze of either the camera or her husband, do not bode well.

I'm projecting, of course, and there is no way of knowing what either of these two individuals are actually feeling, how their relationship will work out, or to what degree we are being manipulated by the photographer. Moreover, the fact that the groom is not only alive, but out and about rather than in self-isolation, speaks well for his will to live and support network. And yet...

All I know is that I see what appear to be two individuals, caught in a world of hurt that is unlikely to end (and is likely to get worse) engaged in a noble and naive act of protest that is likely to be futile.

My heavy heart goes out to them.

Best wishes,

12:58 PM  
Blogger Player said...


I think that's the most powerful portrait I've ever seen. It implies so much about the world. Hate. War. Evil. Courage. Survival. Hope. Love. About trying to perservere and carrying on a normal life. And the girl, it represents to me what true love is about, perhaps loyalty, and the hardships she will endure in the future because of her decision.

Politics. Service. Love of country. Everything. I will never forget that image.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Blinder said...

I think it's a so-so photograph of a beautiful couple.
Had that been just another bride and groom we'd be very critical of the image itself.
For some reason we feel compelled to err on the side of praise in this instance because this groom has almost become a sacred subject and the face of a war.
I could be wrong but to me it is at best an average image.
But then I could be wrong because maybe the manipulation of the photographer has been to make me feel sorrow for the couple on two levels - for the soldiers misfortune and for the photo itself.

3:12 PM  
Blogger ChrisAZ said...

As someone who has been fortunate enough to get to know Nina Berman a little bit through some workshops, and who has seen her other portraits of returning Iraq war vets in her book Purple Hearts, I can tell you that she is one of the most committed people I've ever met and her work speaks volumes not only about the war but about the kind of person she is. An amazing photograph.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I have to disagree with you. I think its use of the conventions of the standard formal portrait make it more powerful, not less. To my mind, it's meaningless to say something like "had that been just another bride and groom...." That's a little like saying "If the Hindenburg hadn't been burning...." It's the tensions between the formal-dress, posed "special occasion" tropes with what the picture is actually showing of Ty's disfigurements and in his wife's exquisite expression that makes the picture work so profoundly. Just my 2 cents.


4:12 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

I don't know the background behind this picture, but from what Mike and chrisaz have said, I gather there is more to this than meets the eye. Can someone fill me in (or point me to a source where I can read more)?


4:16 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Thanks, Mike. I have to say, the ReduxStock pictures do a lot to reinforce the positive aspects of my first post: Ty's will to live and support network are both obviously strong.

Let's wish them luck, love and compassion.


4:59 PM  
Blogger Blinder said...

Mike says - To my mind, it's meaningless to say something like "had that been just another bride and groom...." That's a little like saying "If the Hindenburg hadn't been burning...."

I knew you would disagree Mike!
I don't entirely disagree with you but I'm looking at the photo through professional eyes not merely sentimental. And this isn't a photograph snapped quickly in the middle of a disaster like many excellent world press photos are - it's been carefully lit and carefully composed in front of a carefully placed back drop - or has it?
Through the chosen camera position - The bride has receded to the side, in darkness. Both their legs and feet are missing. They're standing incredibly close to the backdrop. The harsh light doesn't flatter them.
Mike I think I always agree with you. I've been reading your excellent blog since the beginning. I've learnt so much from it. I understand more now about the breaking of rules in photography because of your articles - of looking beyond the photo and seeing the art beneath but this is not a photo I would choose as a winner. I think it is merely a winner as a humanities lesson to us. That's the conundrum.
As a photo it leaves me cold.
As art it warms me up.
Maybe that's the point!?

5:32 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I'ver added some more links to the posting.


6:18 PM  
Blogger jim_h said...

Maybe it comes down to this - is this award given to a photograph, or to a photographer? A news photograph is an event. The universe does something - a photgrapher is there, he acts, and a photograph results.

This isn't a beautiful image or a demonstration of skill. This is a photo that puts its hand into my chest.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Robert-Paul said...

On a slightly different topic, I thought the choice for the photo of the year was pretty mediocre. I can't help but think that the choice was driven by political, rather than artistic/journalistic motivations. I happen to agree with the politics in this case (criticizing the bombing of Lebanon), but it still bugs me. Besides, it looks like there are some better photos from Lebanon anyway.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Charlie Didrickson said...

Thanks for the reminder Mike

The French street dancers are completely off the charts.

Fantastic stuff

7:44 PM  
Blogger Mark Roberts said...

I don't think you're going to have any shortage of comments on the featured photo for this blog post (I'll note both sadness and anger on my part), so I thought I might offer something on the World Press Photo Awards. I haven't looked through it all yet but there's a lot of great photography there. But I'm wondering if I'm alone in being *very* annoyed by the presence of captions that describe the subject of each photo. I'd like to be able to judge the image on its merits *as an image* without having the knowledge of what the picture is *of* influencing me.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Yuda said...

Here's a local news story about Tyler and Renee.

10:43 AM  

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