The Capitol riots through the lens of a photojournalist
Trump supporters and various far-right insurgent groups battle Capitol Police officers before breaking into the United States Capitol building on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Chris Jones/100 Days in Appalachia)
Images of MAGA-hatted rioters crashing through police barricades and vandalizing the U.S. Capitol reverberated around the world yesterday, as the logical and deadly progression of Donald Trump’s continued incitements to violence.
Photographers confronting the spectacle had to push through tear gas, pepper spray, and flashbang grenades, while being physically assaulted by the rioters. In the midst of the physical challenges of photographing an improvised ground assault on a fortified government building, photographers had to make smart visual decisions.
Photojournalists have to give context, and have only visual tools to do so. Chris Jones, a Report for America corps member and former Marine who covers white supremacy with 100 Days in Appalachia, traveled to DC to photograph the Trump rally, and expected violence to follow.
“In a physically demanding situation like this, as long as I can see out of one eye, I keep photographing,” said Jones. “I’m thinking about pictures, but also about my responsibility to myself and other journalists. You have to keep close with other photographers, make eye contact, tell them if you leave, grab me. If you go down, I’ll grab you.”
As Jones has journalistic responsibilities that are specific to his audience in West Virginia, he has to think about how to communicate with his community without being preachy or condescending.
“I’m not trying to make pictures of angry people yelling — I’m trying to show what makes them yell,” Jones said. “The looks in peoples’ eyes seemed religious to me, not political. So it was important for me to use that iconography in my pictures, to talk about how people do things for their faith that they wouldn’t do for their politics.”