Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 2, 2012

Riot Horse. (Photo by Nina Berman.)

This photo was taken by Nina Berman during the recent NATO summit demonstrations in Chicago. Because we’re used to thinking about horses wearing blinders, not “visors” or “shields,” the image creates some cognitive dissonance.

I wonder, though, how much the strategy here is largely perceptual — outfitting the animals to provide a futuristic and intimidating four-legged front. (Notice the “riot cool,” by the way, the black-and-white band holding the top of the horse’s mask in place matching the band on the robo-cop’s bicep.)

But the shield must be for protection, right? That’s what the riot cops wear the face shields for. Unless the mask is only to block the random bottle or paint missile, however, doesn’t it presuppose that demonstrators would be looking to hurt the horses? Hmm, somehow I doubt that.

Finally, given the capacity of the new security state to consume tax dollars, I was also wondering… how much does a police horse visor cost, anyway?

UPDATE: Cjd1952 below raises the obvious issue involving the horse’s well being:

You don’t have to target a horse for it to get hurt.  In a melee anything can happen, on purpose or not.  I’m glad they protect their horses.

But (honest question), why would police put a horse in the middle of a riot anyway — especially if they were concerned it would endanger the animal? And what are the ethics of putting the animal in harms way? Obviously, the human consents to the task.

PHOTOGRAPH 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.

Comments Powered by Disqus

Originals Archive Archives