Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wedding day

I get little pleasure in writing angry screeds about George W. Bush's misbegotten foreign policy there days. To me, the above photograph conveys more than a month of my bilious typing on the subject ever could.

Photographer Nina Berman spent two years traveling the country photographing Iraq War veterans. She originally took the picture of these newlyweds for People magazine; the editors instead chose a more festive shot from the reception.

The bride, Renee Kline, 21, is dressed in a traditional white gown and holds a bouquet of scarlet flowers. The groom, Ty Ziegel, 24, a former Marine sergeant, wears his dress uniform, decorated with combat medals, including a Purple Heart. Her expression is unsmiling, maybe grave. His, as he looks toward her, is hard to read: his dead-white face is all but featureless, with no nose and no chin, as blank as a pullover mask.

Two years earlier, while in Iraq as a Marine Corps reservist, Mr. Ziegel had been trapped in a burning truck after a suicide bomber’s attack. The heat melted the flesh from his face. At Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas he underwent 19 rounds of surgery. His shattered skull was replaced by a plastic dome, and a face was constructed more or less from scratch with salvaged tissue, holes left where his ears and nose had been.

Berman assembled her photos, with accompanying interviews, into a book, Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq in 2004. She has also created an exhibit currently on display in New York.

(Thanks to MJS at Corrente for originally posting this photo. Crossposted at Watching Those We Chose.)