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Nina Berman September 4, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Afghanistan.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1998

Nina Berman (b. 1960, USA) is a documentary photographer widely published, exhibited and collected, with a primary interest in the American political and social landscape. She is internationally known for her images of wounded American military, which received two World Press Photo awards and several American foundation grants. She is the author of Purple Hearts-Back from Iraq and Homeland, both published by Trolley books. Her images and book projects have been featured in Aperture, Art in America, Colors, Fortune, German Geo, Le Monde, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Sunday Times and Mother Jones where she is a contributing photographer. She frequently lectures on photography and is on the faculty at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in her hometown of New York City. Nina is a member of Noor Images.

About the Photograph:

“I took this image in Kabul, Afghanistan in May of 1998.  The women were attending a child birthing class organized by the United Nations. It was one of the few classes or social gathering places open to women. I was on assignment for Newsweek magazine with the writer Carla Power. Photographing in Kabul at the time was extremely difficult. Most everything  outdoors was male and off limits to the camera as  the Taliban had imposed strict rules against photography.  But indoors was another world, the world of women. I took this picture a moment after I had entered the room.  Some of the women, the two in the back, were nervous about revealing their identities, and so they covered their faces.  The others were curious about who we were and wanted to share their stories.  They appeared beautiful to me, in their ethnic variety, the shape of their faces. I was surprised by their make-up.   This was the first time I saw a group of women without burqas and I realized how the cloaking of their bodies and faces played with my perceptions and fantasies.  So for me this picture was a huge accomplishment in my attempt to show the individuality of Afghan women and to take them from this place of “the other” to something more accessible and familiar.”

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