Fourteen photographers stood over the body of Fabienne Cherisma, just moments after she had been shot by police on January 19, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As they adjusted camera settings and framed images of the young girl’s corpse, looters went through her pockets to steal what they could before her father arrived. Haiti’s massive earthquake had taken tens of thousands of lives that January, but the pictures of Fabienne struck a chord: she became an icon of Haiti’s desperation, and two of the photographers were awarded prizes for their work. Two months after the incident, photojournalist Nathan Weber released an image he’d originally taken as “an afterthought.” It showed his colleagues at work, photographing Fabienne’s body.
By the time the picture was released, the flood of graphic images from Haiti’s catastrophe had become increasingly unsettling for its audience. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, had spoken out against “disaster pornography”: gratuitous images of suffering. And Haitians had begun stoning photojournalists in protest, according to UK aid worker Ishbel Matheson. “People said we looked like a bunch of vultures,” says Weber. Even though grouping together is common for photographers in dangerous situations, many in the international photo-
journalist community were unhappy with having “their laundry aired in public.” Still, Weber insists there is nothing to be ashamed of: “This is how people find out about things. You can only see the image that we let you see. If it wasn’t for people going out and getting that photograph then we’d all be in the dark.”
From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.