Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 12, 2007

Black Boys With Guns: Fleet Week #2


    Ninaberman-Fleet-Recruit-1 Ninaberman-Fleet-Enlisted-12, 3



(click for full size)

Yesterday, I posted the first of a three-part series from Fleet Week.  Photographer Nina Berman's images record the week-long festivities in New York involving the presence of naval ships, sailors, and military demonstrations and exhibitions all over the city.

In yesterday's post, I noted the lack of irony in the photos, wondering if the display of militarism and weaponry has simply become matter-of-fact in post-9/11 New York, and perhaps, in America, in general now.

The young men in #1 and 3 are both new Marine recruits who just recently signed up and are heading off to boot camp.  The kid in #2 is a 14-year-old who is part of a  youth cadet group.  In #5, a group of white NYPD officers watching over an African-American kid letting loose his imagination on a fixed machine gun.

In this middle set of pictures, besides the message of how deep war has permeated the American psyche, I'm interested in questions, and perceptions, of race.

Overlaid in these images, we have the documentation of the military's luring of urban black males.  We have the "disconnect" of knowing these kids are safe (to us, as well as to and among themselves) because they are under the supervision of an officially-sanctioned killing machine, or have already been conscripted.  And, with the guns and face paint (#3), or the guns; no shirt;  and gung-ho expression juxtaposed with "the man" looking down (#5), we have allusions to something I'm sure is commonly felt but rarely openly discussed (at least, not across "tribes" or beyond academia), which is the sense and fear of the (urban) black man as savage.

>>As before, if you have questions or comments for Nina, she'll be available to answer in the discussion thread<<

Other Fleet Week posts:

Asking Questions About America: Fleet Week #1

It's Not A Hand Gun, It's Military:
Fleet Week #3

Nina Berman website.

Nina's Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

(image: Nina Berman/Redux. NYC, New York, May 25, 2007.  Used by permission)

About the Photographer

Nina Berman

Nina Berman is a documentary photographer with a primary interest in the American political and social landscape. She is the author of two monographs, "Purple Hearts – Back from Iraq" and "Homeland," both examining war and militarism. Her work has been recognized with awards in art and journalism from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the World Press Photo Foundation, the Open Society Institute Documentary Fund and Hasselblad, among others. She has participated in more than 90 solo and group exhibitions, including the Whitney Museum 2010 Biennial, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Portland Art Museum, and Dublin Contemporary. Her work has been featured on CBS, CNN, PBS, ABC, BBC and reviewed in the New York Times, Aperture, Art in America, TIME, and the New Yorker. She is a member of NOOR photo collective and is an Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in New York City. See more of Nina's work for Reading The Pictures here.

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