March 2, 2007

Alan Chin From New Hampshire: The Obscure Object Of Desire




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Last week, Alan Chin sent The BAG a new set of images — this time from the campaign trail.  They were taken in New Hampshire a couple weeks back.  While struggling to make sense of them, what struck me most was Alan’s note of frustration.

He wrote:

The nature of photos of political figures in modern American life is very structured, very controlled. To
a degree this cannot be helped as there are a half-dozen photographers at any given moment allscrambling for the best access and the best angles — and, no matter how much a candidate opens up to the
press — they still do have private lives of a sort and it makes me, for one, feel like a cheap papparazzo
if I’m chasing them to unscheduled stops and even when they have lunch, that kind of thing.

On the close heels of Tuesday’s post — regarding the loss (or rejection?) of traditional one-on-one contact between candidates and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire this year — Alan’s comment, and images, raise interesting questions.

What would make an experienced photojournalist — one so completely familiar with the dogs and ponies — feel like "a cheap papparazzo" for trying to get a sense of these candidates?

The MSM might prefer to talk about candidates as the new glitterati, or how the campaign is more impersonal this year because of heightened interest in a wide-open field.  I trust Alan’s antennae, however (as I do most of the photojournalists I’ve met, when you ask what they’re seeing), and I’m interested in this "structure/control" idea.  I mean, we may be seeing the end of Rove, but that doesn’t mean we’re not suffering his legacy.

What stood out for me in the image accompany the NYT story in Wednesday’s post (of "regular" folk left at the door outside the room the candidate was speaking), was the complete sense of disconnection.  In Alan’s images, that sense is more eerie.  It’s one thing to think about distance when that’s the subject matter.  It’s another thing, however, when the candidate remains so objectified that all the camera has left to consider is idolatry.

All images © Alan Chin.  Used by permission.  New Hampshire. February 2007.

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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