HOUSTON — It was a moment Nina Berman did not expect to capture when she entered an Illinois wedding studio in 2006. She knew Tyler Ziegel had been horribly injured, his face mutilated beyond recognition by a suicide bombing in the Iraq War. She knew he was marrying his pretty high school sweetheart, perfect in a white, voluminous dress.
It was their expressions that were surprising.
“People don’t think this war has any impact on Americans? Well, here it is,” Berman says of the image of a somber bride staring blankly, unsmiling at the camera, her war-ravaged groom alongside her, his head down.
“This was even more shocking because we’re used to this kind of over-the-top joy that feels a little put on, and then you see this picture where they look like survivors of something really serious,” Berman added.
The photograph that won a first-place prize in the World Press Photos Award contest will stand out from other battlefield images in an exhibit “War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath” that debuted yesterday — Veterans Day — in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. From there, the exhibit will travel to The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and The Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The exhibit was painstakingly built by co-curators Anne Wilkes Tucker and Will Michels after the museum purchased a print of the famous picture of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, taken Feb. 23, 1945, by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The curators decided the museum didn’t have enough conflict photos, Tucker said, and in 2004 the pair began traveling around the country and the world in search of pictures.
Over nearly eight years and after viewing more than 1 million pictures, Tucker and Michels created an exhibit that includes 480 objects, including photo albums, original magazines and old cameras, by 280 photographers from 26 countries.