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Reading the Pictures: Alan Chin's Uncompromising Photos of the New Orleans Tragedy

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What makes acclaimed photojournalist Alan Chin's images from New Orleans
more powerful and, at the same time, more damning of the government's negligent
response to Hurricane Katrina?


One reason is that they are just more honest. If you look at the whole series
(see link below), Alan is not afraid to see the survivors in a more intimate way. The result
of this forwardness can be a look of appeal, absolute disillusionment or shame. It can also elicit
embarrassment, awkwardness or offense that would dissuade others from creating a
record of the moment, or escape publication for being too emotionally challenging
or "overly raw."


The other strength of these pictures involves the way they capture time. Many of the
news photos from the disaster had greater shock value. But the effect
was more immediate, and less vital. In contrast, Alan's photographs actually
seem to linger. They capture the interminable, the sense that -- for those
abused by this catastrophe -- what was spiritually (if not physically) insurmountable
was its endurance.


Finally, as Alan emphasizes, these photos fundamentally differ because they
are black-and-white. The result is that it renders so many of the other
photos colorless. What happened in New Orleans is a shame that
we, as a people, absolutely must look at and into as deeply as we can. These
images couldn't set a higher standard for that challenge.

For more of Alan Chin's series from New Orleans, visit And Then I Saw These. These images, as well as more of the visual, can be found at

(All images courtesy of Alan Chin/Gamma. New Orleans. 2005. Posted by permission. For more on Alan Chin, see: Portfolio. Kosovo Diary. Contact: