“N.O.K.: Next Of Kin” examines how American families memorialize their relatives killed in military conflict. Inbal Abergil traveled the U.S. to meet with relatives of fallen soldiers and to document their methods of coping through the preservation of personal effects.
Small, private monuments exist in garages, basements, and storage lockers across the U.S. Families must decide which objects to keep, what to take with them or let go of when they move or as time passes.
The interviews that accompany the series exist as further evidence of this loss. Through images and testimonials, “N.O.K.” honors the dead while giving voice to a community of survivors who keep memory alive as they strive to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of loss.
Inbal Abergil is a visual artist and an educator from Jerusalem. Her photographs investigate the aesthetic and societal norms through conceptions of time, memory and place, specifically in cultures where loss is a substantial part of daily life. Her work addresses the lived experience of conflict and trauma. Her work has been exhibited in Northern Ireland, South Korea, Israel, and the U.S. Abergil’s work can be found in such public collections as the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), Fisher Landau Center for Art (New York City), The American University Art Museum (Washington, D.C.) and Haaretz Collection (Tel-Aviv). Among numerous awards, she won the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Photography Grant in 2017. She was an artist in residence at Baxter St. at the Camera Club of New York (2015), where she had her solo exhibition N.O.K.: Next Of Kin (2016). Abergil is an assistant professor of photography at Pace University.
Sgt. Donna R. Johnson, 514th Military Police Company, killed in action Oct. 1, 2012, Afghanistan
“She did want a tattoo of our favorite saint before we deployed, and of course time ran short… and then it turns into whenever we were apart, the song that always rang in my head was ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’. I did it after she left so these are memorial tattoos”.
“It was 2010; I proposed, but under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ if you’re caught in a marriage, pretty much, you are automatically kicked out of the army. Neither one of us wanted to lose our careers or what we do — I mean, you serve because it’s part of your heart, you serve because it’s who you are and you want to do something for your community or for your brothers and sisters, so we didn’t want to lose that.” From a conversation with Tracy Dice, wife. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
PFC Stephen William Pickett, killed in action, Dec. 14, 1967, Vietnam
“This was the newspaper article after he was killed. It was on December 19th, 1967. He actually was a paper boy so this was the journal that he used to deliver.” From a conversation with Victoria Miano, sister. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
SSG Christopher J. Birdwell, killed in action, Aug. 27, 2012, Afghanistan
“That’s his uniform. I just didn’t want to put it away and hang it in a closet. I wanted just to keep it out. Apparently, it looks funny on a hanger on hook”. From a conversation with Pam Birdwell, mother. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
LTC. Jaimie E. Leonard, Intelligence Officer Marine, killed in action, June 8, 2013, Afghanistan
“I’m not allowing my daughters to play with this one. This was Jaimie’s. I will buy them a different one. Just not this one.” From a conversation with Liz Harman, sister. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
HN William F. Ortega, Marine Expeditionary Force, killed in action, June 18, 2010, Afghanistan
“My dad says he doesn’t like going to that area in the living room, because when he looks at his medals, he starts thinking, ‘What did you become to me? Pure medals… ‘ He says, ‘I told you to not try to be a hero because the heroes end up in the cemetery. Like it’s just full of heroes in the cemetery.’ That’s why he doesn’t like this room, so he just comes through it.” From a conversation with William and Maria Ortega, father, mother and Edna Ortega, sister. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
PV2 Isaac T. Cortes, killed in action, Nov. 27, 2007, Iraq
“The two shirts and the pillow came back, so I kept this. And that’s how I sleep with them I pretend that it’s him. It’s not him but I pretend.” From a conversation with Emily Toro, mother. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
GySgt. John Basilone, killed in action, Feb. 19, 1945, Japan
“He was a Medal of Honor recipient in WWII, a nice-looking man. I mean, you kind of remember this is a little town in New Jersey, and all of a sudden there is a hero. And these are people who just are hardworking people; my grandfather is a tailor. I mean, my uncle was in Life magazine when he was still alive, when he was selling war bonds.” From a conversation with Diane Hawkins, niece. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
Sgt. First Class Kristoffer Domeij, Army Ranger, killed in action, Oct. 22, 2011, Afghanistan
“I think he was deployed in August and then he was killed October 22nd. So, here’s the bizarre thing, I’m informed on October 21st that my son was killed on October 22nd. Because it’s October 22nd in Afghanistan. That was so bizarre, I didn’t know what my son’s date was– it’s so bizarre to be informed of your son’s death date, the day before.” From a conversation with Scoti Domeij, mother. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
SSG Floyd E. Lake, killed in action, Jan. 20, 2007, Iraq
“This was a Christmas gift from Iraq. My daughter has this stuffed animal like this. She doesn’t go anywhere without it…¦ She calls him Camel. She said, ‘Mommy, that’s all I have left of Daddy.’ Right now, it needs to be stitched up and she needs it to get stitched, but she doesn’t want anybody touching it.” From a conversation with Linda Lake, wife. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
SSG Joshua R. Hager, Army Ranger, killed in action, Feb. 22, 2007, Iraq
“Joshua’s drawing. With memories, it never gets better, it gets different. It’s never less clear it’s just as clear today as it was the day it happened.” A conversation with Kris Hager, father. (Photograph by Inbal Abergil)
‘N.O.K: Next Of Kin’
‘N.O.K: Next Of Kin’ book jacket. (Handout)