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I knew something was going on when my blog stats spiked over the weekend. Prison Photography interviews with those who photographed Fabienne Cherisma’s body in Haiti were drawing readers … and they came from Sweden.
PAUL HANSEN’S SPoY WIN
Fifteen year-old Fabienne Cherisma was shot dead by police at approximately 4pm, January 19th, 2010. Photo: Paul Hansen
In March 2010, Hansen answered some of my questions about the circumstances of Fabienne’s death, “For me, Fabienne’s death and her story is a poignant reminder of the need for a society to have basic security – with or without a disaster.”
Paul Hansen was one of eight journalists I quizzed about that fateful day in an inquiry that revealed that 14 photographers were present immediately after Fabienne’s death.
At the time, I noted how the Swedish media and public discussed the ethics of the image and that, by comparison, similar debates were absent elsewhere.
The debate has continued following Hansen’s award, focusing on Nathan Weber’s image (below) that was first published along with my interview with Weber.
Photo: Nathan Weber
Weber’s image has unsettled many it seems. Judging by garbled Google translations here, here, and here it seems there are a few issues:
- General surprise that Weber’s image – and the revelations it brings – was not widely known before the SPoY award.
- Rhetorical questions about whether – given the scores of photographs made – Hansen’s image was “the best.”
- The expected accusations of exploitation and vulture behaviour by photographers.
- Fruitless thoughts on “truth” within this particular image.
Before they awarded Hansen, I wonder if SPoY were aware that so many photographers were present? Would it have altered the final decision? The image of Fabienne limp on the collapsed roof (whoever made a version) is the summary of innocent death, a society’s desperation and the man-made tragedies that compound natural disasters. It’s is a striking vision.
The circulation of Weber’s image has fueled skepticism toward photojournalism.
The problem with these types of brouhaha is that never are they able to measure if or what effect images – in this case Hansen’s – have. Did Hansen’s image secure a dollar amount of donations for the Haitian relief effort? Did it mobilise professionals and resources that would have otherwise not have moved?
If we are to talk about the “power of photography” then shouldn’t we expect and/or propose criteria for measuring and defining that “power”?
MICHAEL WINIARSKI, REPORTER AND HANSEN’S PARTNER
It should also be noted that Michael Winairski won the the award for News Storyteller from Dagens Nyheter, the national news outlet he and Hansen work for. When I contacted Winiarski last year about coverage of Fabienne’s death, I was particularly impressed with his transparency and commitment to the story. He and Hansen followed up two months after the killing and met with Fabienne’s family.
On receipt of the award, Winiarksi said, “”I’m glad we did not let go of Haiti. I and the photographer Paul Hansen have been back twice. And Paul is down there now with another reporter, Ole Roth Borg.”
ACCOLADES AFTER RECORDING DEATH
Paul Hansen is not the first photographer to be awarded for coverage of Fabienne’s death.
James Oatway won an Award of Excellence at POYi in the Impact 2010 – Multimedia category for Everything is Broken. Fabienne’s corpse open the piece and appears again in images 25 to 33. Olivier Laban-Mattei won the Grand Prix Paris Match 2010 for his coverage of Haiti, including the aftermath of Fabienne’s death. Fredric Sautereau was nominated for Visa d’Or News at Perpignan for his coverage of Haiti, which include seven images about Fabienne’s death.
There may be others.
“No, it was not a random shooting. There was a group of three police officers. One officer took aim and shot Fabienne in the head.”
Fabienne’s father, Osama Cherisma, March 2010
Michael Winiarski and Paul Hansen recently returned to Port-au-Prince with the specific intention of following up on the fortunes of the Cherisma family.
Following my interview with Winiarski, I had asked rhetorically what the Cherismas may feel about the international coverage of their daughter’s death. I was raising the issue of media and journalists’ responsibilities toward the subjects of their stories, and more specifically I was wondering if the Cherismas would ever be interviewed at length to elaborate on their experiences since that terrible day.
- Osama says he knows the identity of the killer – a high ranking police officer from their own neighbourhood.
- The family have not filed a police report because they are too scared. They say the police are watching them daily.
- They have not talked to local media and only talk to Winiarski and Hansen of Dagens Nyheter because they are foreign journalists.
- Osama dealt with the body directly because he didn’t trust he’d see his daughter again if he handed her corpse over the police and authorities.
- Although their house still stands, it is so destabilised they live in a tent city.
- The schools of Jeff and Amanda, Fabienne’s brother and sister, were both destroyed during the earthquake.
- Jeff, Amanda and their mother Amante all – understandably – still feel extreme pain and emotion. Osama cannot sleep.
- Fabienne is buried in Zorange, north of Port-au-Prince. It is the village of Fabienne’s grandmother.
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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 Eleven: Interview with Nick Kozak