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A Year After Jan. 6, An Exhibit Tries To Unravel What Happened That Day

The Bronx Documentary Center’s exhibit on Jan. 6 looks at not only one day, but the years that led up to it.

Posted on January 6, 2022, at 12:22 p.m. ET

Christopher Lee / TIME, Bronx Documentary Center

Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys, smashes a window of the Capitol with a US Capitol Hill Police riot shield, allowing other rioters to enter on Jan. 6.

Like most people on Jan. 6, 2021, I was glued to my screen. I watched as the news of the riots at the Capitol played out on Twitter, on TV, in my group chats, and in my work Slack. The last year has been about understanding how the destructive event happened, why, and what happens next.

Cynthia Rivera has been the exhibitions manager at the Bronx Documentary Center for eight and a half years. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, she worked with photographers around the country on exhibitions related to issues that were central to the narrative in those four years — immigration, the climate crisis, and the “end of truth.” For Rivera, everything seemed connected: “We asked ourselves the question, is this a one-time event or is this a segue into something much bigger, much more chaotic, and the truth of what our democracy has become?”

On Jan. 6, as a mob attacked the Capitol and assaulted police officers, some photojournalists who had planned on covering Trump’s morning rally realized they were in for much more. Many photographers were there for the Capitol riot. No one knew exactly what was going to happen or that people were going to storm the building, but they had gotten word that something might go down that day. "The BDC spent a lot of time analyzing Trump's presidency, leading up to and during,” Rivera said. “It was a moment in history that seemed unreal, but we could also understand why this was happening and what led up to this moment.”

Christopher Lee was in Washington that day photographing for Time magazine. "There were a lot of photojournalists who were following the groundswell of conspiracy and anger. For me, it wasn't surprising, but it was shocking," he said. "For a person who has a lot of experience covering traumatic events abroad and the violence that people can inflict on each other, I had the privilege of stepping away from that when it got too dangerous or difficult. As a native Texan and someone who lives and works in Texas, that quiet chaos and that anxiety really followed me back home [after Jan. 6]." According to the Department of Justice, Texas constituted the second-highest number of people who were charged that day.

“It wasn't until a year after the insurrection, of information unraveling, that we were able to have a full view of what happened that day,” Rivera said.

We look at the exhibit, which opens in the Bronx later this month, one year after the riots.

Victor J. Blue, The Bronx Documentary Center

Protesters attempt to breach the US Capitol during a day of protests against the certification of President Joe Biden's win in Washington, DC, on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mark Peterson, Bronx Documentary Center

Capitol police confront the first wave of rioters. Upon the first breach, rioters chased an officer through the halls to the entrance of the Senate.

Christopher Lee / TIME, Bronx Documentary Center

Supporters of Donald Trump are seen during a protest rally calling for the decertification of Electoral College votes claiming a baseless conspiracy theory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mark Peterson, Bronx Documentary Center

The US Capitol reflected in a puddle on Jan. 4, 2021

Shuran Huang, Bronx Documentary Center

A shadow of a supporter of Donald Trump posing for photos is pictured during a "March for Trump" rally on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Shuran Huang, The Bronx Documentary Center

A supporter of former president Donald Trump holds up a cross during the Million MAGA March to protest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election at Freedom Plaza.

Nina Berman/NOOR, The Bronx Documentary Center

Pro-Trump supporters attend the "Save America" rally to protest the election results. They then marched to the Capitol where many stormed the building in an unprecedented breach of security.

Victor J. Blue, The Bronx Documentary Center

An injured protester talks with another after being hit in the face with a less-than-lethal round as he and others battle with authorities as they breach the US Capitol.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.