Tag Archive: alan chin


Alan Chin: Another Home 8,000 Miles Away

Alan Chin is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for his new project Toishan, China: Another Home 8,000 Miles Away. Chin’s project will take him back to his family’s home in the Toishan region of China, an area that is undergoing rapid development since his first visit in 1989. The fundraising campaign will run until October 28th but we are happy to report that Chin has already exceeded his initial goal. Congratulations to him, but the project is still worthy of support and we hope that with further fundraising he will have more time and flexibility with the project, something every photographer would dream of.

Chin answered a few of our questions about the new work, and I also encourage you to have a look at Chin’s Kickstarter video below and his fundraising page for more information about his plans for this project.

Tell me something about the region of China that your family comes from? How many times have you visited the area?

Toishan (or Taishan in official Mandarin Pinyin romanization), is about a hundred miles from Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Two-thirds of all Overseas Chinese immigrants to the United States came from the greater Toishan area, until the 1960s. Today, Chinese-Americans hail from diverse regions in China, especially from Fujian, but for a hundred years that was Toishan.

I first visited in 1989, when I was eighteen years old. I was there again in 1997 and then many times in 2008 and 2009.

Do you still have family in Toishan that you are in contact with?

My last close relative was a great-aunt who died in 2009 after I saw her for the last time in 2008; I still have more distant cousins that live in the village.

What is the relationship between this area and Chinese-American communities, particularly in New York? Is immigration from this region still prominent?

Starting in 1965 with LBJ’s immigration reform to reunify families (as important a piece of landmark legislation as Medicare or the Civil Rights laws), the Chinese-American community expanded tremendously. And as the Cold War ended, commercial and diplomatic relations improved between China and the US. Individuals began to travel to-and-fro with much greater ease and frequency. Toishanese continue to emigrate abroad, but now are one of many Chinese clusters rather than the majority. The old part of New York’s Chinatown in Manhattan, dating from the late 19th century, was originally Toishanese and remains predominantly Cantonese. (Toishan is part of Guangdong, the Cantonese province.)

Are you going to be documenting Toishanese communities from both countries with your book?

Yes, but the emphasis is on China, on where we come from.

How do you plan to use your family’s photographs in this project? What are some of your favorite photographs in this collection that will help tell the story?

I will use some of my family photographs to track our specific history, which is typical of so many families. The oldest photograph we have is of my great-uncle, Sing Chin, who emigrated to Cuba in 1927 and then the US in 1935. The photo is a formal studio portrait from his time in Cuba. It shows him in a tropical suit, and he was younger then than I am now. I think it will help show just how transformative the 20th century was in its global impact of revolutionary change.

My favorite photographs? That’s too hard a question to answer!


Click image above to start Chin’s video about the project

New Projects Worth Supporting

In recent weeks a few interesting and worthy fundraising campaigns have come across our radar that I wanted to share.




Grozny – Nine Cities is an ongoing project by Russian photographers Olga Kravets, Maria Morina and Oksana Yushko.

Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya, is a melting pot for changing Caucasus society that is trying to overcome a trauma of two recent wars and find its own way of life in between traditional Chechen values, Muslim traditions, and globalization. Our project is inspired by Thornton Wilder’s book Theophilus North. It centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one. We applied this concept to Grozny as nine “levels of existence” hidden within the city.

More information can be found on their website, Grozny: Nine Cities.
Notable rewards for help in supporting the project: Postcards and signed prints. As of publishing there are 39 days left to sponsor the project via Emphas.is.

Newsmotion is a new concept of journalistic website put together by a very talented team of independent writers, journalists and producers, including Julian Rubinstein, Todd Gitlin and their photo editor Alan Chin, in partnership with the People’s Production House. A pre-launch of the site is now online at Newsmotion.org and includes a preview of a story I worked on with Gitlin and Serbian activist Srdja Popovic about Non-Violent Resistance while both were in Belgrade last May. Visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Newsmotion is an innovative platform for civic media, public art, and original documentary reportage. We are harnessing the power of independent voices, technology, and collaborative storytelling to help the critical issues of our time engage new audiences and find new solutions

Recent events—including the uprisings in the Middle East and the Occupy movement—have shown that individuals and communities with access to technology are able to get their voices heard. A collective vision for the future of civic media is already being realized in revolutionary ways—Newsmotion is our contribution to this movement.

Notable rewards: Books written by contributors, limited editions of “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” and the Yes Men’s special edition of The New York Times, an invitation to the famous Winter Gumbo party on December 27 in New York City (be sure to check the details and offers on this, it has been a hit in the past). Deadline: there are only 10 days to go, finishing on December 29, 2011.

FOLK is a new documentary film by Sara Terry about “singer-songwriters who are working just under the radar of mainstream American music, their lives playing out in a vibrant sub-culture that few people know about.” Visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Part music documentary and part road trip movie, FOLK lets our characters’ lives and their songs do what singer-songwriters have always done: amplify the themes that resonate across our cultural landscape – whether it’s re-defining success in the face of failure, trying to find wholeness in an increasingly fragmented world, or struggling to make sense of the trials and triumphs that make us all so human.

Notable rewards: Special edition DVDs, downloads and CDs from the project, limited edition prints and posters or even songs written about or for you by the musicians in the documentary. There are 15 days left, ending on January 3, 2012.

UPDATE (1/2/12): We’ve very happy to be able to say congratulations to the team behind Newsmotion for reaching and exceeding their Kickstarter goal and funding the next stage of the project. As well, Sara Terry reached beyond her fundraising goal for the documentary FOLK. There is still about a day to contribute if you want to be part of the founder’s community. The Grozny: Nine Cities campaign has 25 days left and could still use your support.

Worth a read: Alan Chin on the 9/11 decade

Alan Chin - The 9/11 Decade - BagNews Originals

Alan Chin - The 9/11 Decade - BagNews Originals

I lived on the Lower East Side, but I slept through the impacts of the planes striking the Twin Towers, and only the ringing telephone woke me up. -Alan Chin on “the 9/11 Decade”: Beyond Pushpins On A Calendar

On BagNews Originals, Alan Chin has just posted a cogent look back at his work over the past decade. The photos, as always from Chin, communicate more than they show, looking beyond individual events to a larger narrative. The text in this piece is worth a read, though, drawing direct relation between seemingly disparate events of international significance and Chin’s own life.

And while we’re on the subject of 9/11, be sure to check out Martin Parr’s excellent take on the merchandising of September 11.

Worth a look: Alan Chin revisits Katrina 5 years later

“Five years feels like a long time, and many buildings have been rebuilt and a lot people have returned to the Gulf Coast devastated by Katrina. But many have not come home, and they may never. Some neighborhoods have never looked better; other areas are returning to nature. There, the vegetation grew wild and high after the ruins were bulldozed away.” -Alan Chin, Katrina: the Fifth Anniversary

Alan Chin has a wonderful piece revisiting Hurricane Katrina up at Newsweek just now. The presentation pairs images from the immediate aftermath of the hurricane with a look at how the life has moved on for the city and its people. Definitely worth a look.

New livebooks Blog

Another addition to the wide world of photo blogging: livebooks, which is a popular webdesign/site hosting service that produces sites like this, has recently opened their RESOLVE photo blog.

Most promising so far are the posts by Michael Shaw (blogger) and Alan Chin (photographer) who are friends and collaborators from Bagnewsnotes. They’ve been posting an ongoing discussion about photo assignments from blogs, detailing their partnership. Shaw funded Chin’s assignment to cover the Democratic convention in Denver this past year, among other things. The Bag, beyond hitting things out of the park at an impressive clip lately, has many wonderful things and ideas brewing that I can’t wait to see come forward.. these discussions on Resolve are a nice glimpse in.

Also, earlier this week they posted a short interview with the Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian about her new work documenting her trip to the Haj. Really beautiful pictures and story, and I was rewarded to even more great work inside her website (a livebooks one of course). Be sure to have a look.

I Love New York

Sorry for the lack of posting on my end, especially of things that aren’t all about me, I’ve been a bit busy on the road. I’m still in New York City, trying to stay warm and get through the gauntlet of editor meetings, and will head out for Belgrade on 2/4. I’ve had a tremendous time here so far, and am giddy to be able to hit up all my favorite restaurants, bars and bookstores. I love this city so much.
Today, for example, I had a meeting in midtown where I was treated to a good conversation and great feedback on my work all the while with a wonderful 27th-floor Manhattan view, then I headed downtown and had some Shanghai Soup Dumplings in Chinatown, a food I’ve been wanting to try for months, then off for a walk through Tribeca to my friend Alan Chin’s exhibition at Sasha Wolf Gallery, then walked up town a bit to make my pilgrimage to Dashwood Books. Where else can you do all of this in a couple of hours?

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This is just one afternoon, since I’ve been back in the city since the Inauguration (gallery now on my website) I’ve also had the fortune to see the wonderful William Eggleston retrospective at the Whitney Museum, and it was really beautiful and engaging. (And a great compliment to the Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition which I saw in DC). On Monday I also (accidentally) found myself in the middle of the Chinese New Years celebrations in Chinatown, and those are the pictures illustrating this post. I’m sure M. Scott will post some of his (wholly cooler) pictures soon.
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So like I said the main reason I’m here in New York is to make connections with editors, publications and other photographers. So far, this has been a great experience and have learned a lot (about my work, about the ‘industry’), and I think it will lead to work and opportunities soon. The biggest stress has come, not surprisingly, from the production of my print portfolio. Between making one edit, getting prints made, finding out they looked like crap, then having another meeting with Alan Chin and the amazing Jason Eskenazi who encouraged me to reedit things in some drastic ways, then having the new prints take forever (and missing my complete book for my first two meetings). I am very proud of the result, I think this is my most personal portfolio to date (it includes more of ‘my’ pictures than edits for other people). As you can see below, I have come to 20 pictures from my Kosovo stories and 10 from I See A Darkness, and I am bringing along my laptop to show a slideshow of my Inauguration pictures. It was a tough decision, to leave out my Homeless in Seattle story and any singles or recent work (it was tough to leave out pictures like this). On one hand this features some of my strongest work that is related to my ‘pitch’ about living in this region, on the other it doesn’t speak to the diversity in my larger portfolio. This became an issue today when an editor thought my work was lacking a strong story; she liked I was trying to find a way to illustrate a ‘big idea’ (of ‘New York’, or ‘Kosovo’) but wanted to see me tackle a more singular issue. Absolutely this is something I need to focus on, but other pictures or stories would have shown my work on this kind of piece. Ultimately, there is no way to please everyone and yourself at the same time or to cover all possible bases. When I said this was a learning process for me, this is at the heart of it.


I mentioned that I made my trip to photo book mecca Dashwood Books and I wanted to report back on some of the wonderful things I found there. I was ecstatic to find a number of books that I have been waiting for (and searching for at all lesser bookstores), including my first encounter with an Antoine D’Agata book (Situations), Eugene Richards’ The Blue Room (which I thought was beautifully sparse and an incredible, post-silent-apocalypse vision of America. Remarkable that these pictures are from this photographer, I think it speaks a lot to his soul. M Scott wrote about this book on dva a few months ago too). I also got to see Boogie’s two new books, Belgrade Belongs To Me and Sao Paolo. His Belgrade work, as I wrote here before with mini-interview and with my big book wish-list, is my favorite work from him… great to see an ‘exile/refugee’ photographer returning home (I’m thinking Antonin Kratochvil and Josef Koudelka especially, who both happen to be from Czechoslovakia. This would be a great post … Hope I remember to write it). Great surprises too were Beaufort West by Mikhail Subotzky, which was fantastic, and last year’s European Publishers Award winning book I, Tokyo by the Danish photographer Jacob Aue Sobel, who I met in Oslo last year and was very excited to see his new work in finished form. Incredible, visceral work (like usual for him) that draws immediate connections to the iconic Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, who happens to be a specialty of Dashwood. They even had a wonderful new, rare edition called Hokkaido. Finally, I was able to reconnect with a very important and influential book for me, Gilles Peress’ terrible masterpiece Farewell to Bosnia. As I wrote awhile ago the title alone says so much about Peress and his understanding of Bosnia: the dream of a multi-ethnic and tolerant state evaporated with the war, and his work there is evidence of this disintegration.

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Now I’m off to that cauldron to see where things have progressed and what remains in ten years of post-war reconstruction. I will, if you have patience, continue to update my story here; and I promise to finally get to that ‘explaining what the heck I’m doing’ post soon. I think it would be helpful, because I have to explain the story ten times a day to friends and editors who are rather befuddled when I tell them I’m moving to Belgrade indefinitely :) Before then though I have a few more meetings and hope to make it to a couple of more exhibitions (if you’re reading this and have suggestions, please send them my way!) including maybe the opening of the latest Hey Hot Shot! edition that features friend and Dva-interviewee Donald Weber. That, and trying to repack all of my stuff into my few bags. Too many books, I just couldn’t cut back. The only thing keeping me from going even further overboard, what with the deals at Strand, is the painful memory of hauling this stuff from JFK to the Upper West Side and the muscle memory that I’ll have to do it again real soon. Think I’ve got to get to Chinatown for a massage…

The Big Day. Obama is President.

Inauguration day will go down as one of the biggest, strangest and interesting days of my career. Woke up early, walked, waited, shot, waited, froze, shot then walk again. Edit for another few hours and then sleep.
Got to see Obama walk down the parade route, only an hour behind schedule and after many hours of waiting around. The lines to get in to the secure area were terrible, you’ll see pictures of people who had waited for many many more hours than I. It was a day of patience and just a little bit of reward. As I said in the post before this, I am very excited I was able to be in DC to make these pictures. The hardships all of us on the streets faced will soon be forgotten and the positive memories will remain. Selective memory of course, but we were there.

Cakes and Pastries with Inauguration-themed messages near Howard University early on the morning of Inauguration Day. 1/20/09

Cakes and Pastries with Inauguration-themed messages near Howard University early on the morning of Inauguration Day. 1/20/09


Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route.

Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route.


Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route. 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue. Guest and Secret Service agent.

Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route. 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue. Guest and Secret Service agent.


Along the Parade Route in the morning.

Along the Parade Route in the morning.


Along the Parade Route. A young protester in a roped-off area.

Along the Parade Route. A young protester in a roped-off area.


Police and military personnel direct pedestrian traffic along a crossing of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police and military personnel direct pedestrian traffic along a crossing of Pennsylvania Avenue.


Along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Along Pennsylvania Avenue.


Obama hoodie on Parade route.

Obama hoodie on Parade route.


A boy trapped along a fence at a security checkpoint near the Parade route.

A boy trapped along a fence at a security checkpoint near the Parade route.


Crowds push their way in to a security checkpoint after waiting hours in line.

Crowds push their way in to a security checkpoint after waiting hours in line.


A man sleeps while waiting for the parade to start near the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A man sleeps while waiting for the parade to start near the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.


Waiting for President Obama in the cold along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Waiting for President Obama in the cold along Pennsylvania Avenue.


Special Inauguration edition of the Washington Post newspaper sold outside of the Verizon Center immediately following the Inaugural events.

Special Inauguration edition of the Washington Post newspaper sold outside of the Verizon Center immediately following the Inaugural events.


Historic edition of the Washington Post for sale at a markup along a DC street.

Historic edition of the Washington Post for sale at a markup along a DC street.


Man selling Obama posters for $10 after the inauguration ceremonies, down from $20 before the event.

Man selling Obama posters for $10 after the inauguration ceremonies, down from $20 before the event.


Man selling discount tshirts for $5 near the Verizon center in downtown Washington DC.

Man selling discount tshirts for $5 near the Verizon center in downtown Washington DC.


American Flags on the DC Metro following the Inauguration of Barack Obama. January 20, 2009.

American Flags on the DC Metro following the Inauguration of Barack Obama. January 20, 2009.


I think the enduring memory of this week for me will be these vendors who were selling all manor of Obama-themed crap on the streets of DC. The vendors’ personalities and the real (American consumerist derived) enthusiasm for their wares shown by almost all of the people on the streets really spoke to an underlying nature of the spectacle and self-awareness by participants in the ‘historic nature’ of their being there. This, I guess, provided the market for $1 “I was there!” bookmarks. I guess that I finish thinking that even though we were aware what we were making history and acted like it, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still an honest, earnest thing.
Telling too was the day after. Here are a few pictures from Wednesday afternoon in DC … the cleanup, the happy crowds (much much happier than everywhere else before … a commenter on BagNewsNotes had it right. I think it was just too cold to smile, even though people knew the gravity of the moment around them and were truly excited about being there. Why else, really, would they have traveled a distance, gotten up so early only to wait in the deep cold for so long.) Wednesday, though, was all about the ‘new day’ weather. It was warmer, sunny. It created a different mood. Lighter, wonderful, relaxed. A sigh of relief and contentment after pomp and ceremony. Even the Police were smiling. Again, maybe this was just my reaction bleeding into the pictures (it happens for all photographers, journalists, storytellers) but that is the very point.
The day after the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Washington DC, January 21, 2009. The White House.

The day after the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Washington DC, January 21, 2009. The White House.


Police and Secret Service agents monitoring pedestrians in front of the White House. 1/21/09.

Police and Secret Service agents monitoring pedestrians in front of the White House. 1/21/09.


Final cleanup on the National Mall. January 21, 2009.

Final cleanup on the National Mall. January 21, 2009.


Thanks for looking everyone. Be sure to check out our partner BagNewsNotes for great analysis of these pictures and many more. Particularly, you must see my colleague Alan Chin’s work from DC called, appropriately, the First Draft of History. It gets to the heart of what his aims were in covering this. Well done Alan and Michael, thanks very much for the opportunity to work alongside you.

Alan Chin at BAGnewsNotes: 9/11 Anniversary

Go over to BAGnewsNotes today to check out the terrific photographs of Alan Chin from this past Thursday’s anniversary of 9/11 in New York. “September 11, 2008: What Is Still ‘Ground Zero’”

What makes Chin’s work so important, on this story and so much more of his work (just for starters, a recent set of images from New Orleans under Gustav and Obama’s speech at the DNC), is his incredible insight into visual politics, the history of photography and a very informed opinion about the events of the day. Chin’s work is the opposite of ‘parachute journalism’; he knows very much what he is doing. His work is subtle, and took me more than a while to fully grasp what he is going for in much of his work, but I see him as a foremost figure in intelligent and insightful photos. Right up there with Thomas Dworzak, who has recently blown me away with his work from Georgia. Check out his Magnum in Motion piece “A Georgian Diary”. Reminiscent of Telex Iran, no?

Lastly, a worthy bookmark: BAGnewsNotes’ page for Social Photograph/Photojournalism.