Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 24, 2011

Nina Berman at Occupy Wall Street: Magnetism on the Upper West Side

If the Occupy Wall Street movement has been born out of alienation and deep political cynicism, this image is a hopeful and welcome sight. I can’t speak for the father whose expression is steeped in complexity, but the gaze of his son– captivated by the protesters going by on this street in the Upper West Side on Friday – has the look of an education. (If there was any trepidation, by the way, you’d expect the father would be reaching out to hold onto his son. Yet, even with the police presence, these two are calm and engaged witnesses.)

I wouldn’t have picked up on this seeing the photo from afar, but Nina elaborated how this march was almost devoid of protest signs. Her thought was that, 0ut in the neighborhoods – in contrast to the scene at Zuccotti Park – this expression of activism was for residents by residents. It’s about taking a stand, of course, but in the midst of fellow New Yorkers, it’s as much about the social imperative of any movement — about bonding and collective identity and breaking through the bubble.

The second photo couldn’t offer a more extreme contrast, especially as far as the boys are concerned. As a side glance from the march, this billboard for MasterCard – not to mention the woman on her cell phone– mirrors the best in cultural opiates, leaving us to ponder also how much OWS, creating it’s own brand, might be a game changer.

PHOTOGRAPHS © Nina Berman/Noor.

See Bag’s full OWS coverage here.

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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