Photographs copyright of Nina Berman
I am trying to figure out why Berman’s book Homeland bothers me so. As a political and religious satire, I think that it follows too close to a grueling two year presidential election here in the United States. Thus a political book that attempts to redicule her opposition is just not working for me at this time.
She includes a fictional narrator who provides a very slanted & opinionated viewpoint, with “factual” photographs and OMG captions and then wishes that what appears “over the top”, for “the reader to consider a different interpretation”. Yes, she has a thinly veiled political and religious agenda and it comes off as tedious & repetitious, when it has the potential of being some much more.
She no doubt is a very skilled photographer, as she can deftly bring into a photograph the elements that supports her point of view. In this case, she has provided her expose of those who hold an opposite view point. What comes through is that those on both political/religious extremes have a similar style to their rhetoric, just a slight difference in the actual content.
I could actually enjoy many of the photographs if I could just ignore the OMG sensational captions with each photograph. Many of the photographs are either very humorous or provide viewpoints clearly seen, such as the older lady getting prepared for some event, wearing her gold gilded glasses above her mask. As though she is out for a senior social event, but we can tell by her yellow shirt and the busy background, it is something other than an afternoon tea with her friends.
It is though that Berman does not trust us to use our imagination, and she has to be sure that we get the point, so we get mentally clubbed over the head with some over detailed captions. Thus, these overbearing captions become one of the weakest points of the book and this body of work. Like I said, perhaps this book just happens to be published too close to this last presidential election with both parties running for office providing a multitude of innuendos and slanted reporting of the “facts”.
There are three sections within the book; exploring the simulation excercises if a catastrophic event were to occur (Prepare), those who attend Megachruches (Believe) and events by the armed forces and police units (Defend). These are photographs that reflect an investigative reportage style and appear a little too much subjective in their editing.
The book design does try to provide a solution with providing larger photographs in a small book, the book measuring 7 1/2″ x 10 3/8″. All of the horizontal photographs in this vertical book are printed as a full two page spread, thus providing large 13 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ photographs without creating another large horizontal format book. The photographs are a delight to look at as you can note all of the nuance’s and details within the photographs.
The corresponding risk with this layout design concept is that something might get lost in the middle gutter, such as in the second photograph below. You could argue that missing some of letters of the word could impact the image message, but we mentally do fill in the missing letter and finish the photograph’s intent. But that creates a slightly different photograph than if we were to see this as a print in a gallery, where everything is intact as it was meant to be seen. Due to Berman’s compositions, not many of her photographs lose something in the gutter, but it is a distraction when it does occur.
Nina Berman’s Homeland was published in 2008 by Trolley books, a beautifully printed book in Italy by Grafiche Antiga with 90 color photographs with an image wrap cover over the hardbound boards.
Best regads, Douglas Stockdale