PART ELEVEN IN A SERIES OF POSTS DISCUSSING PHOTOGRAPHERS’ ACTIONS AND RESPONSES TO THE KILLING OF FABIENNE CHERISMA IN PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI ON THE 19TH JANUARY 2010.
On 20th January, the day after Fabienne’s death, Nick Kozak was walking through an unfamiliar neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. Kozak’s fixer had warned him that the area might be unsafe. Then a man and two youths approached him.
The exchange was brief. Kozak took two photographs of the three. At the time Kozak did not know the details of Fabienne’s killing.
The man was Osama Cherisma, his daughter, Amanda and son, Jeff.
Describe the interaction.
I was approached by them. I photographed them because they asked me to help.
I was with a guy who was helping me with translating and our exchange was very quick. I was a bit nervous about my surroundings as I believe we were close to Cite Soleil.
I did not know that his daughter was shot by police. From what I had understood in our short time together was that there had been some sort of gang related shootings and that she was an innocent bystander.
How long was the exchange?
Very short, about 4-5 mins.
When you say they were looking for help, what sort of help?
They were looking for help in the sense of being heard I think. They were distraught, of course, and wanted to be heard. I guess they just wanted to talk to someone who might be able to tell the ‘world’ about their tragedy. Sadly, I did not even learn much about Fabienne Cherisma at the time, interestingly, we are putting the pieces together now.
Do you think it was because you had a camera in hand that they thought you could help?
Yes, I think that because I was a foreigner with a camera they thought that I could ‘help’, but I won’t theorize much as our encounter was indeed very short.
Do you expect that this family has any chance of achieving justice (however that is defined) or is Haiti too unstable to deal with the death of this single girl?
I can’t imagine that this family will achieve justice in Haiti for this death but mind you I only spent five days there and my knowledge of the country’s situation is limited. I do believe that the country is too unstable and has too many ongoing problems that have been so severely augmented by the earthquake for this family to be properly attended to.
Who was talking to your translator? The father?
Mainly the father, Osama was talking, yes. I was writing down a bit of information about him and his family on a scrap piece of paper which I think I can still find at home.
What impression was left as you parted? Did the family seem as if they had a purpose to pursue?
I was a bit confused and unsure of what had exactly transpired. It left me sad but we had a destination and felt unsafe (because of what the guys I was with had told me) in the area that we met them in.
I’m not sure how to answer the second part of the question. By that time, I was already skeptical or soured by the whole place in that I felt that their fight for whatever they were pursuing was sort of futile. I thought that the girl had been shot by a stray bullet from the guns of thugs and that justice would be close to impossible to get. Hope that makes sense.
Nick’s assessment makes sense, but the entire situation does not.
How do we reconcile the world’s media focused on a family and their dead daughter one day and then their total abandonment the next? I am not saying the media, individual journalists or anyone is responsible for the welfare of the Cherismas, I am pointing out that often images are just props for disaster consumption and virtually no-one gives these people a second thought.
At the beginning of my first ever post on Fabienne Cherisma I quoted Guardian journalist Rory Carroll:
“The question is not whether Fabienne will be remembered as a victim of the earthquake but whether, outside her family, she will be remembered at all.”
Similarly, will Fabienne’s family be remembered?
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ALSO IN THE ‘PHOTOGRAPHING FABIENNE’ SERIES
Part One: Fabienne Cherisma (Initial inquiries, Jan Grarup, Olivier Laban Mattei)
Part Two: More on Fabienne Cherisma (Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Part Three: Furthermore on Fabienne Cherisma (Michael Mullady)
Part Four: Yet more on Fabienne Cherisma (Linsmier, Nathan Weber)
Part Five: Interview with Edward Linsmier
Part Six: Interview with Jan Grarup
Part Seven: Interview with Paul Hansen
Part Eight: Interview with Michael Winiarski
Part Nine: Interview with Nathan Weber
Part Ten: Interview with James Oatway
Part Twelve: Two Months On (Winiarski/Hansen)
Reporter Rory Carroll Clarifies Some Details
Part Fourteen: Interview with Alon Skuy
Part Fifteen: Conclusions