They aren’t the images that come to mind when thinking about the Vietnam War, but photojournalist Nina Berman will never forget the despondent faces of the “Amerasian” kids she met on her trip to the Indochinese peninsula more than a decade after the last American soldiers had left. They were discriminated against and ridiculed because of their mixed heritage. They followed her to the airport thinking she could take them back to America to meet their fathers.

There was the legless U.S. serviceman who had returned to the country to meet the children of his former enemies.

There were the conjoined twins whose mother had been exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical the United States military deployed as part of its herbicidal warfare program.

Berman is not so much into covering war from the battlefield, with images of soldiers and weapons and military might. “I’m interested in the long-burning aftermath, what happens to civilian society and combatants long after the moment on the battlefield,” she said earlier this week to students in Professor Philip Napoli’s course, “United States At War in the 20th and 21st Centuries,” where she shared her photos from decades of chronicling the human costs of war and its impact on society.

Napoli, of the Department of History, had invited Berman—whose work has been exhibited in more than 100 venues, including the Brooklyn and Whitney museums—because he wanted students to think of non-traditional forms of historical resources.

“I wanted them to think broadly about what counts as historical documentary, to think of images as vehicles for getting access to the past,” he explained. “Traditionally, historians have gravitated to the use of primary sources such as diaries, oral histories, and contemporaneous documentation. The visual record, documents such as those that Berman creates, very often escapes the historian’s purview.”

Berman, also an associate professor of journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she runs the photography program, wanted to encourage in students a critical perspective, “that they question the version of history of people in power” and “discover how to investigate the truth.”

Berman shared images from two of her books—Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq, (Trolly Books, 2004) which features gripping photographs and vignettes from wounded veterans; and Homeland (Trolley Books 2008), images from across the country of what she calls “the homeland security state” in the wake of September 11.