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May 19, 2012

Put On a Happy Face. (Nina Berman From the NATO Summit)

Nina Berman is in Chicago photographing the 2012 NATO Summit.  These reports are based on phone conversations. This installment is from Friday. You can see the full series here.

Apparently, the Chicago PD has been trained to “approach with friendliness.” At least, that was the overall feeling on this Friday before the Summit. Nina’s encounter with these policemen on bicycles outside the perimeter of an anti-NATO demonstration was practically comic. When the officer closest to the center of the street saw Nina photographing, he started waving and didn’t stop.  When she paused to make a phone call, he paused, but as soon as she started shooting again, he and his partner behind him picked up the waving again.  “It was really odd,” Nina reflected, “as if the wave might somehow counteract the effect of my picture.”

Our friend above wearing the Cubs shirt is an undercover police officer outed by demonstrators. One of the LiveStream people called him out, along with his partner who was sporting a Whitney Houston shirt and taking pictures of demonstrators with a Nikon D90. If they looked dorky, that was the point. Nina noted the irony of this t-shirt, the  Cub’s owner, Joe Ricketts, having been called out this week for attempting to bankroll a racist video attacking Obama for his connection to Jeremiah Wright. The larger reality, however, is that Chicago is crazy for baseball and references to the Cubs are everywhere.

If Nina encountered a more cautionary scene, it was this one. For myself, I’ve never scene a photo of a cop who taped over the name on his uniform to hide his identity. Although free of riot gear, this policeman, part of a line of black shirts with batons, is standing close to a parade of protesters marching by. As for the other elements, it appears the civilian in the suit is capturing a picture of Nina while, to the right, you can make out the Chase logo, the bank having suffered a massive trading loss in derivatives last week.

Having covered many of the recent Occupy protests in New York, Nina noted that the atmosphere in Chicago on Friday felt drastically different. Although demonstrators took over major streets without any permits, the cops didn’t arrest anyone. The NYPD would never have stood for that, Nina observed. Instead, the police here treated the protesters like kids and pranksters.

PHOTOGRAPHS by Nina Berman/Noor

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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