Reading the Pictures: <em>Alan Chin's Uncompromising Photos of the New Orleans Tragedy</em>

The destruction of New Orleans is a shame that we must look into as deeply as we can. These images set a high bar for that challenge.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


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:

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community