Nina Berman: An Autobiography of Miss Wish
Every once in awhile, a book lands on my desk unexpectedly, so I approach it with no preconceived notions. When I opened Nina Berman’s An Autobiography of Miss Wish, published by Kehrer, it was like a burst of energy, a fireball of amazing story telling, page after page that drew me in. And the deeper I went, the more my heart ached. This is a 26-year long collaborative project validating and marking the life of someone as evidence for an existence that dealt with the land mines and difficulties of homelessness, mental illness, and the ravages of drug use. Nina met Kimberly Stevens in London in 1990 while photographing young drug addicts and began a relationship that spanned decades and continents, a relationship that went beyond the normal photographer/subject relationship. The book is ultimately a collaborative project and a definitive document that proclaims, “I was here”.
Nina Berman is a documentary photographer, filmmaker, author and educator. Her wide-ranging work looks at American politics, militarism, post violence trauma and resistance. She is the author of three books; Purple Hearts – Back from Iraq (2004), Homeland (2008), and An autobiography of Miss Wish (2017) a story told with a survivor of sexual violence and reported over 25 years. Her photographs and videos have been exhibited at more than 100 venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Dublin Contemporary. Her work has been recognized with awards in art and journalism from the World Press Photo Foundation, Pictures of the Year International, Open Society Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and Hasselblad. She is a member of NOOR images, photography and film collective based in Amsterdam and is an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she directs the photography program. She lives in her hometown of New York City.
An Autobiography of Miss Wish
An Autobiography of Miss Wish is a project told in photographs, drawings, videos, texts and documents which explores the life of a survivor of sex trafficking and child pornography whom I met randomly while she was a teenager living on the streets in London in 1990. Three years later, she landed on my doorstep in New York City, having fled London on the advice of Scotland Yard.
The work documents her escape, her struggle to survive and assert herself despite enormous fear, to craft a life while living in a state of flashbacks, trauma and addiction and to navigate the contemporary world of American psychiatric and criminal institutions as a black woman.
The story is told through my photographs and her archive, which I collected and safeguarded over the years.. The archive includes her drawings, diary entries, psychiatric reports, ID cards, hand written letters, suicide notes, and text messages.
The work, created from 1990 – 2016 and shot in England and New York, is also a work about our life together, and the process of making unique collaborative documentary work on a subject prone to cliché and stereotyping. – Nina Berman
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