PART NINE 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.

Nathan Weber was in Haiti  from January 14th to January 21st.

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you photographed earlier that day?
Prior to being in the area where Fabienne was shot we had been searching for the mass graves and visiting the port area. We walked from the port area through one of the markets to investigate looting. It was there on the street Rue Marthely Seiee that everything went down.

Once we made it down the streets we came to this area (a ghetto, as it was explained to me) where a large number of people were coming down the street at a fast pace. At that point we heard gun shots and proceeded 1.5 blocks in the direction of the gun fire where several police were standing at an intersection. From that intersection, I could see more police trying to disperse looters and we headed to a destroyed structure.

The structure’s roof acted as a ramp that people used to gain access to other rooftops in order to scavenge and take anything they could carry. After a few minutes we decided to climb up and onto that collapsed building to make pictures from a different angel and see just what was up there. Roughly 15 to 20 minutes passed and when most of the police headed away from the collapsed building used to access rooftops to arrest some people around the corner. For whatever reason I didn’t follow and stayed put on the roof.

Did you see Fabienne get shot?
I remember looking down on the street and there was a lone officer pointing his pistol up into the air in my general direction. I don’t remember hearing a gun shot but out of the corner of my eye probably 15 to 20 feet away I saw a girl fall. The roof I was standing on was somewhat steep, slippery and was covered with small granular pieces of concrete. At first I thought she had slipped and knocked herself unconscious as I had seen others fall and didn’t think much about it until I went over to check on her. To my disbelief I realized she wasn’t breathing and I discovered a large head wound. At that point my fixer was yelling for me come down from the roof as things were heating up down the street. I looked and him, gave a hand signal indicating that something very bad had just happened and stayed put. Within a couple of minutes several photographers were upon the rooftop and shooting the scene of Fabienne’s body.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
It wasn’t very long maybe 20 minutes at the most before word spread to Fabienne’s family and her father arrived on scene.

How many other photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the photographers’ names?
The picture below shows that scene where all the photographers in the area ascended. The only photographers I know in this picture are Ed Linsmier and Michael Mullady. I think there was only one other American journalist there and everyone else was from Norway, Mexico, France, etc.

© Nathan Weber

How was the atmosphere?
The atmosphere was pretty intense. This is the most high emotion environment I have ever been in. At one point I felt that we all needed to back off and stop shooting. I thought that the pictures have been made and stepping away from the scene was in order. I also gave thought to heading back to the hotel and transmitting my images. Until this point there hadn’t been a youth death involved in looting and I knew that I would be an important news story. I am so glad I didn’t leave and I waited to see what would happen.

How did others behave?
Everyone of the photographers on the scene were very professional. We all worked together to document the situation and did our best not to add or take away from the environment. Basically, we all acted within the Society of Professional Journalists (SP&J) ethics and guidelines.

Did you discuss the tragedy with other photographers?
I didn’t really discuss the tragedy with any of the photographers at the time, or at a later date. I know that for myself being focused on the scene and doing my best to capture what was going there kept me somewhat removed. It wasn’t until being back in the States that I broke down to my girlfriend about Fabienne’s death. It was extremely senseless and there was absolutely no reason for her to have been killed. As I understand this is a common thing in Haiti, and there is very little recourse if any for this type of incident.

How does Fabienne’s death fit in with the visual narratives of Haiti’s earthquake aftermath?
I think Fabienne’s death shows when there are environments that have total chaos, the only thing you can count on is uncertainty. The visual representation here is a snapshot of what people in Haiti are dealing with.

I’m not sure what will become of the images, where they will be used or their legacy. If nothing else maybe our coverage of what happened to Fabienne will show her actions of survival were not in vain.

WEBER’S VIDEO

Nathan Weber has put together footage from before, during and after Fabienne’s shooting. (Content warning) Fabienne’s death is put in the context of the disorder of Port-au-Prince at the time.

Click on the frame below to be taken to Weber’s  footage.

NOTE: Weber’s footage includes images of Fabienne’s dead body upon the roof, her father carrying her down the street away from the scene and the beginning of her family’s mourning. The footage is extremely descriptive. It is graphic in the sense that it shows a dead body. It is not  bloody. It is very emotive.

I know that some people won’t want to see the footage and others will question its distribution. I am providing a link because it was provided to me. It is a accurate indicator of the atmosphere in LaVille on the 19th January, and in that regard a needed piece of evidence in the reconstruction of events.


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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 Ten: Interview with James Oatway
Part Eleven: Interview with Nick Kozak
Part Twelve: Two Months On (Winiarski/Hansen)
Reporter Rory Carroll Clarifies Some Details
Part Fourteen: Interview with Alon Skuy
Part Fifteen: Conclusions

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