Documenting Chaos – Documentary Photography

As we’re getting closer to the next Presidential election, it brought back memories of Trump’s inauguration back in January 2017. I still remember that day vividly as one of the most impactful days of my life and my photography career…

…because that day could have gone worse. A lot worse.

I don’t know what drove me to wake up that Friday morning and decide then and there, to take the day off from work and decide to go into the city for the inauguration.

Maybe because I had a feeling that I was going to get some good photos and experience this historical moment that happens once every four years, something that any good documentary photographer would love. However, I definitely got more than what I had bargained for starting from my drive to the metro and then seeing the number of crowds start to multiply between each stops into the city.

Needless to say, the foot traffic between the metro stops were incredible.

By the time the train reached East Falls Church, the space inside the train was filled to the brim with people, all carrying some kind of sign to protest during the inauguration. The good thing about being the first stop (or last stop if you’re leaving the city) of a particular metro line (in my case, the Silver Line), you’re guaranteed a seat since it’s totally empty. I was very fortunate that it turned out into my favor as it would have impossible to catch the metro only three stops in from my starting point.

By the time I got to the Metro Center, it was unbelievable crowded. It reminded me of those Japanese train commuters trying to shove their way inside with the help of the attendants, but less polite because this is America right? However, my expectations were shattered when I saw the crowds by the time I’ve reached Gallery Place – Chinatown since anything closer to the Mall was closed.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

As I was slowly gaining ground up the escalator, I could hear chanting and yelling as if hundreds of protesters were close by. However, the chanting not only got louder as the escalator was reaching its peak, but it turned into a crowded mess as people were protesting everywhere.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Capitalizing on the chaos

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

 

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Protesters marching and chanting

I looked around me and I was pretty sure there were thousands of protesters on 7th Street alone, therefore making it extremely difficult of getting a good vantage point of the scene. There were numerous times when I had to climb on top of jersey barriers and scale the fences to even see where I was going.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

In order to get to the National Mall on Constitution and Independence Avenue, the DC Capitol Police had set up blockades with metal detector checkpoints on every street facing the direction of the parade. This caused lines as long as 3-4 city blocks to snake back in forth in a compressed fashion as if it looked like a large refugee line. This is an issues for people with two different political views as I noticed immediately was that both the Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters were in line, crammed shoulder to shoulder.

I knew this was going to get ugly.

Sure enough, there were pockets of fights breaking out between the two groups – all in the same checkpoint line.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
There were a lot of bickering between the anti-Trump protesters and Trump supporters at the checkpoint

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Thousands
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
All over the place
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Secret Service keeping an eye on the exits

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
National Archives
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Police from all over the country came to volunteer to manage the parade street

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.comPhoto by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
All police offices as far as you can see
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
Puppet Master Putin
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
This guy was badass – Available in Print (framed)

When I thought the madness couldn’t get any worse, between 2-3pm, I could hear someone yelling “gas!” and I looked over to the direction of the yelling and sure enough, the riot police was here to disperse the crowd.

I felt like this was a good time to get the hell out of dodge, so I ran like everyone else back up 7th street. I was bumping into everything and everyone, trying to protect my camera the best I could as I was more in fear of damaging my camera gear than getting injured – priorities first I guess.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com
My train out of this hell hole

This might be one of the most infamous inaugurations in American history, but seeing everyone exercising their freedoms of speech and witnessing the ugly side of this election in the trenches was quite an eye opening experience. Ultimately, we’re all American on both sides of the fence and I feel proud to be a part of it.

 

 

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