With America's surge underway, BAG contributor Alan Chin's photo of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, taken in 2001, is not only a stunning image but documents the early days of a battle stretching out now almost a decade. (...And then, how often do we actually see portraiture of Taliban fighters?)
The photograph was also recently featured in The New Yorker as one of the "Ten Great Photographs" exhibited last year. Reviewer Vince Aletti wrote:
Chin’s exhibition, “Dispatches: 1998-2008,” included photographs from Kosovo, Iraq, China after the Sichuan earthquake, New Orleans after Katrina, and New York City on September 11, 2001. But, like all fine photojournalists, Chin is not just delivering the news, and this image of Taliban fighters in an overcrowded prison reverberates beyond the moment it was made. His frieze of faces recalls crowds in Biblical illustrations—gawkers at Gethsemane, perhaps.
And if you haven't see the slide show of Alan's work at New York's Sasha Wolf Gallery drawing on his most significant projects, you should take a look. Eleven of the thirty-four photos, I'm proud to say, have appeared and have been part of the discussion here at BAGnewsNotes.
It is the 60th anniversary of the revolution, when Mao clambered up onto Tiananmen Gate and proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic.
I really only have one response: "我莫咁得僊."
Rocket launchers and armored cars pass by on the 3rd Ring Road, but I'm happy to spend the day listening to Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop songs from the '60s: Teresa Teng, Connie Chan Po-chu, Carrie Koo Mei, yeah.
They controlled and corralled the media and made sure that the only images that could be made and published would be of the clean, triumphant, lavishly produced choreography, yet, at the same time, were so disorganized that journalists were kept waiting hours to learn the most basic and practical information.
In my childhood at the Chinese school where I had to go after regular American school every day, they made us watch Taiwanese propaganda films. I remember one, of the huge military parade in Taipei, for the 65th anniversary of THEIR revolution, lines of tanks and soldiers. Taiwan was a one-party military dictatorship back then, too. What nonsense; then, now, both sides.
After all my memories of being here in June, 1989, which have come flooding back this year, the last thing I want to do is to photograph their orgy.
BAGnewsNotes contributer Alan Chin, who has been in China for the past month, filed these photos and brief report this afternoon on the ethnic violence in Xinjiang.
Urumqi, Xinjiang, China
I caught up with a government press tour this morning at the same time a group of several hundred Uighur women were protesting against their men being detained. It was a tense scene with the women screaming and yelling and the police deploying in force. It seemed to disperse peacefully but it was unclear what would happen next as we were herded away.
The amount of property damage and destroyed vehicles seems very small compared to the government claim of 150+ dead and 800+ wounded. Of course there may be worse areas that I haven't been able to access. But compared to aftermath of other riots (with much less loss of life), the destruction here seems slight.
Saw some young men being searched and ID'd outside Xinjiang University where there were apparently many arrests.
The sense of almost-normalcy disappeared by afternoon as thousands of Han Chinese with metal and wood sticks and clubs headed to attack the Uighur neighborhood.
I could only get as far as the edge of the Muslim Quarter where the PAP and police turned the crowd pack with tear gas, truncheons, and somewhat friendly entreaties to go home. General Secretary of the Urumqi Communist Party Li Zhi spoke with a loudspeaker to the mob standing on top of a SUV, blaming the crisis on exiled Uighur activists and stressing Chinese unity.
Some of the crowd had gotten into the Uighur area before though; unknown how much damage they were able to cause before police dealt with them. I did not see police arrest or disarm anybody; they just wanted to disperse the crowd.
What was odd about the crowd was that it included young women as well as young men, brandishing makeshift weapons.
Don't know what tomorrow will be like; night curfew is about to start soon. (images: Alan Chin 2009, Xinjiang, China. See photo gallery for captions.)
Some comments from contributer Alan Chin, who made these photographs in and around Tiananmen Square yesterday:
It was very weird for me to be back, exactly twenty years later. Most of these people here today were children or weren't even born yet when the masscre happened.
I tried to remember the approximate spot on which the statue of democracy had stood. I remembered the student loudspeakers playing Beethoven's Ode To Joy and the stench of garbage after many weeks of the sit-in. I had seen the wreckage of makeshift barricades and heard automatic weapons firing for the first time in my life when I went down to Changan Boulevard. I wasn't really a photographer yet, or anything else, of course.
It's a cliché, but a bargain was made back then between the government and the people: leave the politics to us and you can make money. That was the deal, and its basically worked. People were protesting for economic rights as well as political rights. For hundred of millions of people, those economic opportunities have come true. One cannot deny that.
It's emblematic that they didn't fill the Square with soldiers today, but instead filled it with plainclothesman.
I want to thank the people at Live Books and their new "Resolve" blog for dedicating an extensive amount of space, time, thought and editing resource to examining our "journalism" here at BAGnewsNotes, and in particular, my collaboration with photographer Alan Chin.
Resolve was specifically interested in understanding how BAGnewsNotes -- as an independent, progressive and still-evolving enterprise -- is pioneering a new editorial and business model for the publication of photojournalism and the analysis of media and visual politics.
Over nine interview-style posts, the series traces my collaboration with Alan from the time we first met almost four years ago (when a person many of the readership couldn't quite believe was Alan Chin -- then embedded in Iraq with The New York Times -- suddenly joined in a contentious BAG discussion of one of his images published by The Times the day before) through our work together covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath; Virginia Tech; the '08 presidential primaries; our wall-to-wall, DNC-accredited coverage of the Democratic Convention in Denver; and more.
Immersed in a medium which affords little time to step back, let alone, an opportunity to study the long view, I find the series incredibly valuable. What it helps me appreciate (beyond a selection of Alan's wonderful images) is how, as old media struggles, we have been engaged in a thoughtful, dramatically educational, unfolding experiment to create an innovative, independent and, ultimately, we hope, economically-viable form of political media out of this, our laboratory.
(The images book-ended here, by the way, and also featured in the second post in the Resolve series, illustrate "the larger picture" Alan and I try to get at. The view above is the what most media consumers saw of Rudy Giuliani's photo-op at the Segway plant during last year's New Hampshire primary. The image below is the simultaneous reaction of the temporarily-inconvenienced Segway workers demonstrating their reaction to the show.)
What I find wonderful about Alan Chin's inauguration photos is how they seem to inject historical distance. At the same time the public is imbued with the freshness, energy, confidence, talent and vision of the Obama presidency, these images seem to ask: How will this week stand the test of time? And, what are the longer-range prospects for all the enthusiasm?
We invite you to share your reactions to Alan Chin's images from Chicago last night. I'll be adding some thoughts (and also some background) within the next couple hours, and Alan will available to respond in the discussion thread.
Update 9:33 PST: Alan has posted at least one comment to give some flavor. I thought I'd just add a few notes from our conversation earlier.
First, the entire event last evening was surprising short. From start to finish, Alan said it didn't last more than two hours.
#2.) The people in the second shot are what Alan described as members of Obama's political base in Chicago. They are middle-class, mid-level political staffers for Mayor Daley. #3) This field worker exemplifies, more than anything, how thoroughly exhausted everyone was last night. Alan said he was virtually asleep standing up. In a post I did for TPM Café, I also mention how the t-shirt documents how Obama (having won in '96) started serving at the state level ten years before Sarah Palin did. #4) Personally, I can't believe I never heard "Obamanomenon" before I saw this shot. I like it. #5) This was early, before Grant Park really filled up. #7/8.) In my edit, I left out four more shots of people either hugging or crying. That's because they were a bit redundant, but also because it showed more young white people. Given his situation near the stage, Alan was mostly surrounded by young white field workers or VIP's, so his close ups didn't capture much demographic mix of Chicago residents. #13) That was the Mayor's move to light up the office building with the "U.S.A." #15) Alan said that the last shot was quite a moving moment. After Obama and his entourage left the stage, a throng of young workers ("foot soldiers of the inner circle") took to the stage, bound by exhaustion and amazement.
In advance our Alan Chin slide show of last night's historic Obama victory, we start you off with this. The shot was taken at the Hilton at the party hosted by Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
For some reason, I can't look at this without thinking about surviving Bush; the profoundly different stamp Obama will have on the culture than what Rove designed for us; America pivoting into a post-Boomer era; and God Bless America.
This election edition of the BAGnewsSALON, an on-line discussion series, included moderatorCara Finnegan; producer Ida Benedetto; host Michael Shaw; professors Paul Lester; Nathan Stormer and John Lucaites;photographers Alan Chin, Nina Berman and Aric Mayer, as well as members of the BAGnewsNotes readership. It took place onThursday evening, October 30th, from 5-6:30 p.m. PST, 8-9:30 p.m. EST.
“ The arc of my political coverage has been "demographic" -- in, who are the activists, the people who go to rallies? Most people, of course, are happy to watch it on TV. So who shows up?”-- Alan Chin
Considering the images above, we came to this discussion with the question:
While recent American elections have been governed by identity politics and moral concerns, Barack Obama's campaign has marked a notable shift toward an inclusive national project of change. As a result, do we read these photographs -- taken byBAGnewsNotescontributer Alan Chin in the final weeks of the '04 campaign -- in a different light than we did before?
Conversation about Alan Chin’s photographs from the 2004 election revealed shifting expectations about identity politics as well as continued concerns about enfranchisement and participation in the 2008 election. Discussants in this BAGnewsSalon often saw the visual landscape of the 2004 elections as awkwardly theatrical in comparison to the 2008 election. They commended the recent campaign for more nuanced treatment of issues like religion and socialism, even if others issues, such as gender, were disappointingly caricatured.
Alan Chin: what I liked about this image were the eyeglasses case and the ladies' handbag, obviously belonging to one of the older African-American congregates. ...It evoked for me, the older, civil-rights era, sense of religion being a politically progressive as opposed to right-wing dominated issue.
Cara Finnegan: Yes, especially in the context of 2004 you would think church=republican, but no.
Aric Mayer: I remember the 2004 election as giving a cartoon quality to religion in general. This time around there seems to be a much more diverse and nuanced conversation around faith.
Michael Shaw: Yes, in this election, we liberals wouldn't even think to make fun of the bible as a symbol.
Cara Finnegan: I keep thinking "failed youth vote?" even though my recollection of the numbers is that the youth vote was very high in 04.
Nathan: Her face has an energy to it. We will try again.
Cuban with Sign
Alan Chin: The guy holding the Communist sign is a Cuban-American, clearly part of a conservative community, but he's gone over the top.
Cara Finnegan: It/him/the sign is so coarse it seems silly, especially from 2008 perspective and obama/socialism stuff
Alan Chin: kind of like McCain calling Obama a socialist
Paul Lester: Socialism is the new communism!
Nathan Stormer: Even for 2004 this kind of stuff was just looney.
Cara Finnegan: gets at the question of identity, though: for whom is this an issue?
Alan Chin: in 04 it was looney. in 08 it's gone mainstream!
Early Voting In Car
Nathan Stormer: As a "demographic," the value of her vote is surely against Republicans. I see her voting as the front line in the struggle over effective suffrage right now.
Ida Benedetto: It's also possibly a literacy issue. The ability to read was a huge issue with who could vote in the 20's and 30's. Now it's technological literacy that's an issue.
Michael Shaw: I'm really proud of the Dems that I can't think of an '08 corollary for the MM image -- at least, not immediately.
Republican with Bush Signs
Cara Finnegan: Many folks are arguing the conservative coalition is cracking up, so maybe what we're seeing in this guy is the beginning of the end.
For a transcript of the full discussion, please drop us an email.
Here's Alan Chin's finest, shot Tuesday at two different rallies, the McCain/Palin affair in Hershey and Palin's appearance in Shippensburg. (If you use the double-right arrow, you can page through at your own pace.)
Alan says that the "praying" gesture lasted at least ten minutes. (I was wondering if those were state of Alaska earrings?)
Regarding the McCain shot (#7), Chin says McCain is visibly cranky and impatient -- much worse than when he shot him in New Hampshire. Chin says it's hard to imagine why McCain putting himself through this -- especially having to pander to these obviously extreme right-wing crowds.
On shot #9, his remark was: "Could you imagine someone at an Obama rally holding up this kind of sign?"
Alan found it really disturbing (in #10 and 11 -- the signs on the cars) that people would go to that trouble.
The last shot, #12, reads "Ship Happens." The t-shirt was a gift from local university. I can't speak for the hockey stick. ...By the way, the designer duds are long gone.
I'm definitely curious about your thoughts -- and questions. Alan should be available today to participate in the thread. Overall though, these photos make me agree even more that McCain, as Chin remarked, has really "sold his soul to the devil."