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June 16, 2010

Alan Chin: Creeping Doom

ABOVE THE GULF OF MEXICO: June 10, 2010 On board Coast Guard aircraft overflying the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. Below there is a fleet of ships trying to cap the still leaking well.
ABOVE THE GULF OF MEXICO: June 10, 2010 On board Coast Guard aircraft overflying the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. Below there is a fleet of ships trying to cap the still leaking well.
ABOVE THE GULF OF MEXICO: June 10, 2010 Coast Guard air crew on board aircraft overflying the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. Below there is a fleet of ships trying to cap the still leaking well.
ABOVE THE GULF OF MEXICO: June 10, 2010 Coast Guard air crew on board aircraft overflying the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. Below there is a fleet of ships trying to cap the still leaking well.
GRAND ISLE, LA: June 9, 2010 Residents await the arrival of football players from the New Orleans Saints NFL team as part of a morale-boosting effort for this community hard hit by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
GRAND ISLE, LA: June 9, 2010 Residents await the arrival of football players from the New Orleans Saints NFL team as part of a morale-boosting effort for this community hard hit by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Off COCUDRIE, LA: June 12, 2010 Anti-oil boom maintenance: The booms have to be constantly attended because of tides, weather, and saturation with oil. Initial booming was only partially successful. BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Off COCUDRIE, LA: June 12, 2010 Anti-oil boom maintenance: The booms have to be constantly attended because of tides, weather, and saturation with oil. Initial booming was only partially successful. BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
VENICE, LA: June 15, 2010 Staging area for National Guard helicopters dropping 3000-lb. sandbags to build up an artificial breakwater or berm against BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
VENICE, LA: June 15, 2010 Staging area for National Guard helicopters dropping 3000-lb. sandbags to build up an artificial breakwater or berm against BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Barrier Islands off GRAND ISLE, LA: June 11, 2010 Anti-oil booms thrown out of position. The booms have to be constantly attended because of tides, weather, and saturation with oil. Initial booming was only partially successful.
Barrier Islands off GRAND ISLE, LA: June 11, 2010 Anti-oil booms thrown out of position. The booms have to be constantly attended because of tides, weather, and saturation with oil. Initial booming was only partially successful.

After years of coming to Louisiana during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I, like many, had been overjoyed this Mardi Gras, when the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl and at long, long last, the feeling in this city was that maybe a corner had finally been turned. It was the first time since before the storm that I came to see my friends and have a good time, rather than work and photograph.

So my heart sank when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well burned and sank, unleashing the biggest oil spill in our country’s history. I knew that, unlike natural disaster or war, the impact would not be immediately visible, even though the consequences are just as grave in the long term. I felt no rush to come. Rather, I was depressed at the thought of this region getting battered again, never mind the politics of regulatory failure and corporate greed.

Out on the water, visiting the barrier islands off of Grand Isle and Venice, thousands of birds still fly and nest. Dolphins swim and dance. The long, hot summer sun beats down, relieved only by the artificial breeze created by a motorboat’s engine. If I weren’t here because of this catastrophe, these would be pleasant days in a beautiful environment. But instead there is the inescapable sense of creeping doom.

Everybody is praying for a miracle.

–Alan Chin

PHOTOGRAPHS by: ALAN CHIN / facingchange.org

captions– Top: Barrier Islands off GRAND ISLE, LA — Pelicans are one of the vulnerable species hard hit by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Many of their nesting grounds are on the barrier islands and reefs.

Bottom: GRAND ISLE, LA — June 13, 2010. Ecumenical interfaith prayer service as part of community response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Father Michael Tran of the local Catholic Church at left.

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 Newsmotion.org. You can see all Alan's posts for BagNews here.

  • http://opencontainer2.blogspot.com/ Doc Häagen-Dazs

    I just don’t think I can take any more. The oil slick is causing the canceling of yacht races, the Gulfport to Pensacola being one of the casualties. This has gone on long enough and altogether too far.

    This BP invasion of seas and headlands is not something we deserved. We can’t blame it on Bush; we certainly can’t blame it on Obama. Except maybe we can blame it on loose-as-a-goose regulation ultimately.

    It’s clear that this is a national crisis we can’t resolve militarily: all of our Republic’s soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen cannot put New Orleans’ wetlands back together again. For one thing, they’re all over-deployed in (very) dry lands on the other side of the world

    But we can’t blame Obama. If we had elected McCain, he would have immediately seen this Battle New Orleans as part of larger “good war”. Not quite like World War II; more like the 2nd War of 1812. And he would be chanting ‘bomb-bomb-bomb Lon-don’. ‘Course if we could have re-relected Harry Truman, he would have nuked BP’s spigot by now.

    Another thing: why are people wringing their hands over the clean-up delays? They should be wringing their hands over the shut-off delays? If this were a case of the good ship Valdez, where there was a finite amount of crude expected, I could see rushing to martial up cleanup and containment measures. But in this submarine BP geyser, there appears to be an infinite amount of crude coming at us. Who can say how much more is coming?

    Containment I can understand. But, how about a little more focused thinking on shutting it down and less premature complaining & blame-gaming about cleaning it up?

    I don’t think people are pissed off enough. If another yacht race has to canceled – the Bermuda Race for example – then the people will be all up in arms.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info David White

      Who cares about a wretched yacht race?
      Get some perspective.

      Thanks for the work Alan.

    • http://opencontainer2.blogspot.com/ Doc Häagen-Dazs

      Don’t get, irony do you, David….?

  • http://bagnews.com/staff/#mshaw Michael Shaw

    Alan,

    I really love your thoughts and your feelings for the Gulf Coast, and I especially admire these photos for the way they capture the ephemeral quality of a “there-but-not-there” crisis, as well as the quiet local agony.

  • bystander

    Shot in black and white… like a dreamscape… the lead-in to an unfolding nightmare… there, but not quite there. Why is it that the absence of color makes it feel even more intimate?

    David White, Doc Häagen-Dazs’ affiliation with yacht racing aside, I read his references to canceled races sardonically.

    I don’t think people are pissed off enough. If another yacht race has to canceled – the Bermuda Race for example – then the people will be all up in arms.

    That strikes me as a deeply mocking attempt at humor. How many people actually care, or even participate, in yacht races? If the outrage of the inhabitants of the entire Gulf Coast isn’t enough… No. I read the quips about yacht races more as, What’s it gonna take? …And, I could be so very wrong.

  • pirx

    The photos come as close as I can stand to describing the facts on the ground (and the marsh and the water). I need every day of my 2 week furlough before I go back and face it again. (I worked from 5/9 through 6/15 in my particular area of expertise in Venice LA before my replacement arrived).

    While it is easy to assign blame to individuals or corporations (neither of which pay my salary), I want to emphasize that it is the overwhelming appetite for gasoline by everyday, ordinary Americans that must change if we want to save our natural spaces. We are not powerless in the face of an irresistible force, we are simply lazy.

  • Barton apologized twice today

    “I don’t think people are pissed off enough. If another yacht race has to canceled – the Bermuda Race for example – then the people will be all up in arms.”

    I read that as meaning when it starts affecting the wealthy maybe something will be done.

    • http://opencontainer2.blogspot.com/ Doc Häagen-Dazs

      That was surely the thrust of my remark. Here is another news item along those lines.

  • Annie Bryce

    My heart breaks for the innocent animals caught up in all this. I can’t bear to look at pictures of oil-soaked birds. It’s very tragic.

  • tinwoman

    There is one good photo in the lot, the one with the snaky white tubing. Nothing personal, but the rest of the pictures were very “meh”. I wasn’t moved by any of them.

  • bystander

    Speaking of yachting… Via David Dayen at Firedog Lake:

    Embattled BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward took a break from manning the massive Gulf Coast oil spill Saturday to attend a posh yacht race in England.

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