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October 28, 2008

Our Man In Pennsylvania

Many of you have written and forwarded snapshots from Obama rallies, making particular note of the energy, and in the case of the very large outdoor gatherings, the sense of joy and calm. I’m awed, but not an ounce surprised by the grand canyon-like gap between these personal reports and the experience of looking at similar images through the intensely-amped and all too controversy- or just poll-obsessed media sphere. It’s like zen meets crystal meth.

It’s because of the difference I’m glad to have this group of photos Alan Chin shot yesterday and last night in Pittsburgh.

I see someone who has brilliantly transcended the cheap tarring of the “celebrity” tag.

I see someone more ready for us than we are for him given how Bush’s despotic rule has been mainlining cynicism directly into America’s veins.

I see someone who is highly confident but not at all over-confident.

I someone who, in his expression, seems to reflect the steep challenge ahead far more than the electoral task at hand.

What I particularly see — although the white-corporate media hasn’t been all that interested — is an intense pride welling up in so many African-Americans, young and old.

(images © Alan Chin. Pittsburgh, PA. Oct. 27, 2008)

About the Photographer

Alan Chin

Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Since 1996, he has worked in China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In the US, Alan has explored the South, following the historic trail of the civil rights movement and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, covered multiple presidential campaigns, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek/Daily Beast and The New York Times, a member of Facing Change: Documenting America (FCDA), and an editor at You can see all Alan's posts for BagNews here.

  • a-j

    “What I particularly see — although the white-corporate media hasn’t been all that interested — is an intense pride welling up in so many African-Americans, young and old.”
    Yes, I see that, especially in middle-aged and seniors… I’ll try to express it as… a thoughtful, calm, proud, dignified attitude.

  • desertwind

    My favorite is the young women spelling out Obama with their arms!

  • Mona

    These are very moving photographs; they capture what charisma is all about. Thank you Alan Chin! If there is a moment of hope, this is it. Obama is so beautiful.

  • Bridgid MacSeoin

    Having been to two Obama rallies (Winston-Salem and Denver) these photos are representative of what I witnessed at each — an honest civility in the crowd, a genuine sense of shared humanity, and yes, a distinct and dignified pride expressed by African-American supporters. The “Obama Phenomenon” has captured our imagination in a way that the McCain/Palin campaign has failed to do.

  • Books Alive

    I’m envisioning Obama’s picture proudly displayed in modest dwellings in country after country, around the globe.

  • pol

    I attended a rally in Bristow, Virginia just after Obama won the nomination. I’ll never forget the poignant scene — multitudes of people of all races and colors, proudly and quietly trudging back to their cars after seeing Obama.


    A big difference I IMMEDIATELY notice from the McPalin rallies: People smiling, looking like they’re having a good time.
    Everyone at McPalin rallies looks dour & miserable. Says a lot, doesn’t it?

  • zatopa

    The Monday Obama rally in Pittsburgh was at Mellon Arena, a site with a weighty role in the history of race relations in the city. To construct this modern marvel in 1961, a neighborhood was torn apart that had been the center of African-American culture in the city, and the neighborhood today is in desperate straits. In recent years the “Igloo” has been slated for demolition to be replaced with a mega-scaled new arena for the Penguins; it’s a highly contentious matter. But on Monday, it was just extraordinary to see. From neighboring buildings you could see hundreds of people walking through the Hill district blocks on one side of the arena, and from the Downtown office buildings on the other side, gathering in lines that stretched on and on, all funneling slowly in to see Barack Obama. The atmosphere inside was just jubilant. It was a beautiful moment. Thanks, Alan, especially for catching the little guys dancing around in the area behind the stage. I hope those kids remember this day.

  • timolo

    Can you expand on your “white corporate media…” comment? Its pretty loaded.

  • Le Feuilletonist

    The intense pride is not limited to African Americans.
    I hope that, through his example, Obama inspires us all to be better American Americans.

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