Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
September 13, 2010

Alan Chin: Not Exactly a Party

Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party"  protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice  their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party"  protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice  their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party"  protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice  their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party"  protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice  their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party"  protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice  their discontent with President Obama's Administration.
Washington DC, September 12, 2010: Several thousand "Tea Party" protesters gathered at the Washington Monument and the Capitol to voice their discontent with President Obama's Administration.

(This is a second post taking a closer look at the 9/12 Tea Party demonstration in Washington D.C. as captured by Contributing Photographer, Alan Chin.)

As opposed to more critical or outlandish portraits of Tea Party rallies, Alan Chin’s photos speak to the emotional underside of the so-called movement.

Behind the passion for and identification with “Don’t Tread on Me,” these faces reflect anguish and exhaustion. Especially in and around the eyes, we see decided strain, a weathered quality — sadness in some, frustration in others, cold anger molding others.  Whether the depression came first, eventually fixing on a fear of “the other” and a shrinking piece of the pie, or the other way around, these figures, as they materialize in the landscape, are raw, exposed nerves in the American psychology.

–Michael Shaw

PHOTOGRAPHS by ALAN CHIN/ facingchange.org

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.

  • BamaGuy1024

    Thank you for this post. The series of Alan Chin photographs is indeed illuminating. His sampling is revealing, older caucasian Americans, many perhaps retired, certainly disgruntled conservatives whose faces display protracted stress, and extreme fatigue and clearly general dissatisfaction if not outright unhappiness. These are the faces of men and women who have seen better days, the faces of people who have had their American dream and never realized it. A very sad group I want to flee from.

  • tinwoman

    If these photos are representative, this is a political movement without much of a demographic future.

  • black dog barking

    Why the long faces, Tea Partiers? You all look well fed, your clothes are clean, no patches. You’ve outlived the actuarial expectations of many others. Guess the cultivation and maintenance of free floating anger takes its toll. Hope it’s worth it for you. Good news is you can be happier tomorrow just by changing your mind. Lots of people on this planet would love to be in that position.

    BTW, this sequence of shots reminds me of a little-recognized talent of successful photographers — the ability to sneak up and get the shot before the target recognizes what is happening and puts on his/her camera face.

    • Alan Chin

      Here we go again, “sneak up”?

      Need I remind you that I’m a Chinese-American photographer from New York, who is clearly both a professional photographer (with two cameras hanging from my neck and pouches on my belt) and, equally if not more importantly, not from the communities that these folks are from, for the most part.

      In other words, I’m pretty obvious in this crowd. I’m not sneaking up on anybody. I walk fairly slowly, and usually make eye contact with a subject before photographing. There is a quick mutual recognition that occurs. You may not wish to acknowledge the legitimacy of that interaction. But it is, fundamentally, a visual conversation that I’m having with my subject.

      Yes, that happens before they “put on a camera face,” for sure. But I think it’s more honest. Honest for them in that they’re not thinking yet about how to present themselves, and honest for me in that I’m not doing anything to pose them, even unconsciously.

      If anybody has a second thought, and asks that their photo not be taken or published, I respect those wishes. (Police, army, and uniformed or official people excepted — they are in a public role — not private citizens.)

      Nor is this “little-recognized,” quite the contrary: See Henri Cartier-Bresson’s idea of “the decisive moment,” the street photography of Gary Winogrand, the framing of Gilles Peress, to cite examples that are at least 30 years or older.

    • black dog barking

      I meant “sneak up” in the nicest possible sense, really — Sneaking Sally Down The Alley, not “sneak attack on Pearl Harbor”. Each of the posted images from the Tea Party event carries a sense of this is really how it is. In my world “camera” and “cheese!” are nearly synonyms, their connection is a conditioned reflex. The subjects of these photos look like folks in my world and these folks have dropped the “cheese!” part of this well-defined social transaction. Something, I infer, about the photographer has put them at ease — nothing to do with lenses, filters, or f-stops but it shows in the photos.

    • Alan Chin

      Thank you for taking the time to clarify, and for understanding.
      There has been a lot of debate in photography about ethics, manipulation, and perception, of who has the right to photograph, of how you go about it, of how the images are then presented. So I work hard to be clear and upfront about where I’m coming from and the circumstances through which I make photographs.

  • Janis Edwards

    The new face of fascism in America. Sarah and Glen, and now Newt, are sucking up all the energy.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle

    An amazing series of photos. Says more about the Tea Party than all the commentators, both for and against.

    These look like sad people, defeated and deflated.

  • Stella

    I suspect some of these people aren’t that much older than I am. Certainly they’re tired, as am I, of the corruption in our government. I’d be totally bummed if my only choice for citizen action was a trek to DC to march around in uncertain weather. Hopefully we’ll find another way to be heard.
    A lot of the manipulation in photographs comes from our own assumptions about other people. I can’t help feeling sorry for them.

  • DrBobSlusarenko

    Great interpretation of a photograph, a powerful pie,ce Great team working on the same wavelength on such an important topic work. Ive never seen such amazing word, great dialogue. Keep up the great work

  • DrBobSlusarenko

    Great interpretation of a photograph, a powerful piece. Great team working on the same wavelength on such an important topic of work. Ive never seen such amazing word, great dialogue. Keep up the great work.

Originals Archive Archives