Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
April 22, 2010

Anthony Suau: Success or Sarcophagus?

Anthony Suau won the World Press Award last year for his coverage of the collapsing American economy, and he has continued to focus on the continuing Great Recession and its impact on ordinary people. This work helped inspire and is part of a new non-profit collective of photographers and writers of which he is one of the founders: FACING CHANGE: DOCUMENTING AMERICA. You will hear a lot more about FCDA in the months and years to come. Currently, a major exhibition of Anthony’s images of the last ten years was produced by the Moscow House Of Photography: “America: Fall From Grace.”

This is the first post in a series: “Anthony Suau on The Great Recession.”

In January, the annual North American International Auto Show was held in Detroit. Traditionally it is one of the gala events of the year, but today it exemplifies how far apart the advertising is from the economic reality. One new Mercedes was shrouded in luminescent fabric; doubtless the designers dreamed of creating something very beautiful, modern, Space Age.

Ultimately, though, it evokes an old-fashioned idea of “The Future: Tomorrowland, 1963.” Standing next to it could be the executives, maybe vice-presidents or department heads: an engineering and white-collar class proud of what they’ve built. But it also looks like they could be at a funeral.

Is the reality a revelation emerging from its cocoon, or a clunker in a coffin?

The men in dark suits are Chrysler executives. When they spotted Anthony photographing them, as he relates, “the guards told me to leave the area, possibly because they were checking out the competing Ford exhibit. They did not look happy.”

Then, there is your American family: Man, woman and child simultaneously walking toward and  away from the light. The guy is wearing a baseball cap; she came with her baby. They’re at a crossroads, ambiguous where they, and we, are headed. Will the auto companies recover and build a new generation of electric, fuel-efficient, and reliable cars?  Or is it all heading into that trashcan?

–Alan Chin and Michael Shaw


Captions: DETROIT, MI: January 15, 2010 The Charity preview evening at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo center in Detroit. The gala is the biggest party of the year in a town that lives and dies by the auto industry. The event saw men in tuxes and women in gowns that were eye-catching. In all between 7,000 to 8,000 attended the event.

NEXT: Death Of A Good Job

About the Photographer


  • Wayne Dickson

    The story about being discovered taking photos reminds me of the famous shot by Erich Salomon where one of the diplomats (Clemenceau?) has spotted him and is pointing straight at him.

    Anyhow, I find the B&W perfect, and my favorite shot is that of the family. Well, maybe I’d put it differently. Remember Brueghel’s painting Landscape with Fall of Icarus? This strikes me as “great emptiness with a family.”

  • Books Alive

    I see a familiar face in the group of eight businessmen – former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, second from right. He’s looking determined, maybe smug. But at least he’s recognizable, unlike the others unknown to me.

    BTW, in the description of where this show is held, “Cob” is given in the text. Being a native of Detroit, I knew that wasn’t quite right. Cobb didn’t work (Ty Cobb, anyone?) but looking up the North American International Auto Show, the name is given: Cobo Center, formerly Cobo Hall, named for Mayor Albert E, Cobo (1950-57).

    • Alan Chin

      Thank you, that was a typo on our part to have left out the second “o” of Cobo, now fixed. And thank you for linking to the wikipedia page on it.

  • martin

    super. The five year old that I work with, day in day out, will love this pic. Part power ranger, part slic Obama combo meets Toyotas PR reps. Slinky

  • martin

    Damn you Malaysians. Sorry Mr. Chin. Still getting to grips with the quality of your postings. Happen perchance it would have been young Mikhail – 5 yr old, Kuantanese – who told me it looked like power rangers. Why? Just dont know

  • Michael Shaw

    I rather like that second shot: of the honchos standing around, so static, while the SUV hightails it away.

  • Pingback: Worth a Look: The New Bag | dvafoto

  • jaye

    Get your tailor to learn where the break in your pants leg is. All I can see are poorly cut pants.

Originals Archive Archives