Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 20, 2012

Scenes From the Stop and Frisk March — Photos by Nina Berman

These photos were taken at Sunday’s silent march in Manhattan protesting the NYPD’s bias in conducting racially-biased searches.

The man’s suit and the quote as a historical reference seem to anchor this gentleman in the civil rights movement, an effect he quite likely had in mind. (His sign reads: “Not by the color of my skin but by the content of my character.”)

As strong as his dignity in relation to the cop, however, what it also seems to reference is the need for African Americans to have to justify their rights through the overt demonstration of character or class — in contrast to, say, the white union guy marching down the street in a t-shirt and shorts. The two men may be equally politically inspired but the white guy would be more free of the “identity investment” to have to stare the cop down.

Also notice the surveillance sign upper left. Talking rights versus power, the message is: feel free to assert your identity but understand “the man” governs the space.

This is less a protest sign than a personal note, something you wouldn’t see in a newswire photo so much as those more immediate communications we saw in the “We are the 99%” Tumblr blog. Of course, the fact the cop — the addressee — has passed this man by is the real irony.

In contrast to the man with the personal sign, the Middle East analogy is just asking for attention (and getting it!).

Let’s just say, faith isn’t easy.


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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