A Photo and Interview Series by Barry Goldstein

In America, the inauguration of a Commander In Chief is traditionally a time of celebration. Politicians, special guests, and everyday Americans converge on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building to mark the swearing in of the next President of the United States. Full of pomp and circumstance, inaugurations are an important democratic ritual and a symbol of the peaceful transfer of power.

With the world facing a historic pandemic, the inauguration of Joe Biden was already set to be unusual. Social distancing requirements meant no throngs of Americans would gather on the National Mall, nor would they line the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue for the traditional Inaugural Parade as they have in years past.

And, after one of the most contentious elections in modern history and President Donald Trump’s insistence that he won the election despite no evidence to support his claims, Americans were left more divided than ever. On January 6, as Congress prepared to certify Joe Biden as the next president, Trump supporters gathered in D.C for the President’s “Stop the Steal” rally. What followed was one of the darkest days in American history, as rally attendants marched to the U.S. Capitol and laid siege to the building, determined to stop the certification.

Since then, Washington D.C. has been under heavy security, with access to the center of U.S. democracy guarded by tanks and 25,000 National Guardsmen. In Divided: Scenes from Inauguration 2021, photojournalist Barry Goldstein captures the mood in the Capitol leading up to and during the Inauguration. Through documentary photography, portraiture, and interviews, Goldstein conveys the sense of uncertainty — and division — surrounding one of the most important traditions in our Republic.

Warning: some photos in this series contain graphic language and imagery.


Barry Goldstein (www.bgoldstein.net) is a photojournalist whose work has covered New York City during 9/11, New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, an infantry battalion in Iraq, military combat stress care in Afghanistan, and three political conventions. He is the author of “Being There: Medical Student Morgue Volunteers Following 9/11” (NYU Master Scholars Press , NY, 2005) and “Gray Land: Soldiers on War” (W.W. Norton and Co., NY, 2009).

Hear more about this project in Barry’s exclusive interview with Zydalis Bauer.

(Photo: Patti Jette)