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Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq Hardcover – August, 2004
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About the Author
Nina Berman's work has been extensively published and exhibited around the world. Purple Hearts was her first book. 'I've been a documentary photographer since 1987 working in a dozen countries including Afghanistan, Bosnia, India and Vietnam, but most of my time has been spent traveling the USA trying to understand the American Way of Life.'
Top customer reviews
To post a review of a book one has never even seen here on a book review site is curious, ridiculous and a dogmatic political act, the very tar with which the "reviewer" pretends to paint Berman. The review, such as it is, parrots the now very weary and increasingly diluted words "patriotism" and "heroes" with the now prerequsite sense of insult and outrage. One of the more remarkable things about the photographs (which are available to see when actually looking at the book) is how dispassionate they are. That is, removed of the photographer's own passions. You simply see the physical manifestation of the damage to each soldier. And that is their power. Viewers are left to imagine what kind of peace each of these formerly anonymous casualty figures will be able to make with the war that will be with them the rest of the days of their lives. Don't the best books rest in one's hands more as questions than answers?
This is a subject very close to me. I am a photographer who has worked in combat zones, as has Nina Berman, but in the end I was attacked in the United States by a half-dozen young men and nearly kicked and stomped to death. Like some of the soldiers in this book, I suffered a traumatic brain injury, which in my case left me unable to walk or to recall three simple numbers recited by my speech therapist. Like everyone else with a brain injury my emotions were no longer completely under my control and I would begin crying for no reason at all.
But I soon understood that there were reasons to cry. The worst thing about being injured by violence is how lonely it is, something survivors can recognize when we see it in each other's eyes. If you stare into the eyes of the wounded people on these pages you might see it yourself. When we are called heroes or "inspirations to everyone we meet" (only if we are fortunate enough to have a support system that will help us help ourselves back on our feet), we hear empty words spoken by people who think that surviving is something glorious.
What Nina Berman has done is to unflinchingly expose the human flesh that suffers along behind a comforting, fluttering, star spangled curtain. In that way, Berman's photographs ask each viewer if we, as a nation of very diverse people, are prepared to make peace with what each one of the people in this book has lost in war.
Well Elisa I listened to the interview and the only motive I heard was Nina's desire to try and show how these brave men and women are dealing with the horrible injuries. The mainstream press has failed to do it so people like Nina have taken the time to provide them with an opportunity to show how they are coping. The average person on the street needs to see this book and I hope Nina does a thousand more interviews to promote her book so the American Public see the sacrifice that 1,000's of our troops are making in Iraq. Nina expressed the truth in her book and in her promotion of the book. I applaud Nina's efforts to try and show the terrible sacrifice. The only thing missing from the book is the smell of war that I experienced as an Air Evac medic in the Nam conflict. Elisa you don't support the troops by supporting the lies that kill them.
Berman's technical facility results in photographs that, while harrowing to ponder, find the truth in her subjects. Each of the soldiers presented here bear the physical scars (some extreme) of the various modes of war's instruments from gunshot wounds to roadside and suicide bombers that haunt the desert locales of Iraq, and each of the soldier's bear the mental scars (all extreme) that have accompanied the combat and terror of a war nobody wants and everybody condemns. Her photographs are accompanied by interviews with her subjects, soldiers who may have gone to war with delusions of heroism, of doing the right thing, but who crumple under the post-traumatic stress syndrome with lives wasted by the insatiable hunger of war.
Stepping away from the focal point, Berman has given space to other writers who increase the impact of this book: essays from Verlyn Klinkenborg, a New York Times editorial page writer, and Tim Origer, a Vietnam Marine veteran who fought in the Tet offensive and returned at age 19, an amputee. These essays make the book timeless and not simply reportage about the current Iraq mistake. With Veterans Day approaching, this book is a powerful indictment against all war without allowing the sacrifices of the veterans to go unnoted. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 05