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January 8, 2010

Alan Chin, Afghanistan

Chin Taliban prisoners.jpg

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.

(photo: Alan Chin via Sasha Wolf Gallery)

  • Bubba

    Biblical. My first reaction before I read the cutline was that this looked like a picture from out of the Bible. Which tells you something about how far removed from the 21st Century these men really are. They insist that the women go around imprisoned head to toe in a black tent. The women aren’t allowed to be human beings. They have a tribal mentality stretching back to the time of Christ or even Abraham. They’re anachronisms, living fossils. And angry at a world that has passed them by.

  • pcalvin

    Chin’s images are lasting documents that go beyond news pictures.

  • lytom

    One is reminded of the 12, and there are 12 visible faces with expressions.
    Their faces show commitment, strength, fear, questions, doubt, betrayal, loss, prayer, foretelling of future, hope, martyrdom.

  • quincyscott

    I think maybe Aletti meant, “Gawkers at Golgotha.” Gethsemane, the place where Jesus is praying the night before the crucifixion, would not have provided much for anyone to gawk at.
    Regardless, I think it’s telling how difficult it is for us to see these people without resorting to Christian references. Part of what Chin is communicating here is indeed how remote these men are from us. Nearly a decade later, are we any closer to understanding each other? I find it somewhat discouraging.

  • g

    Bubba found the adjective I was groping for. “Biblical.” it looks like a Renaissance painting, or one of the. The light streaming in the upper windows and the perspective created by the rows of lower doorways and windows makes it look like the interior of a medieval cathedral.

  • mimi

    Sorry guys, I took one look and found myself unable to breathe because some of those men are just too cute. A bath, some fresh clothes, and most of us women would be looking for a way to get frisky.

  • tinwoman

    Good grief, what a group. Looks like a combination of chronic malnourishment and several generations of marrying your cousin doesn’t do much for the human physique (and by extension, I would imagine, the intellect).
    I have some old pics of my family from the Kentucky hills circa about 1920s that don’t look much better. Intense poverty and inbreeding sure does make for some strange looking individuals.

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