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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.

Photo: Nick Kozak

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.

Photo: Nick Kozak

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

PART TEN 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.

James Oatway is a Johannesburg based photojournalist employed at the South African Sunday Times. James was in Haiti from January 17th until January 28th. On the morning of the 20th – the day after the shooting James’ diary dispatch for the SA Sunday Times was published.

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you photographed earlier that day?

Earlier that day, not far from where [Fabienne was shot] I had seen a young man taking his last breaths. He had been stabbed in the neck and chest by fellow looters in a fight over a box of toothbrushes. People were stepping over the dying man. Then about five minutes later some men stopped and put his body onto a motorbike and took him away.

Photographer James Oatway says this is the man who shot Fabienne Cherisma. Photo: James Oatway

Did you see Fabienne get shot?

I was about two meters away from the policeman when he fired the fatal shots. He was behind me and fired two quick shots. Not knowing that anyone had been struck I spun around and photographed him gun in hand. Police were arresting a man on the street corner. I photographed that for about thirty seconds and then someone shouted that someone had been shot. I ran to where she lay on top of those frames. She didn’t have plastic chairs with her as some reports claimed.

How many other photographers/reporters did you see at the scene?

There were initially about five or six photographers there. While we were shooting a man came and took money out of her hand. I shot for about fifteen minutes. Word must have got out about the shooting because more and more photographers arrived.

Man takes the money from Fabienne's lifeless hand. Photo: James Oatway

Do you know the photographers’ names?

I only knew two other photographers names… Jan Dago and Jan Grarup. Both Danish.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?

Then about twenty minutes later the father and brother arrived. The father was already hysterical. I followed him onto the roof. He lifted her head up and then realized that it was his daughter and dropped her again. Then he and his son began carrying her away. It was at least three kilometers and there were many stops. Her sister and other family members joined the procession. There was a lot of screaming and wailing.

I withdrew at this point. There were too many photographers … and I became emotional. I had also stood on a nail which had gone deep into my foot. There must have been about fifteen photographers.

How did others behave?

There was a bit of jostling but nothing too bad or disrespectful.

How was the atmosphere?

The atmosphere was surreal.

Anything else?

I have her surname as “Geismar”. I have no reason to doubt my fixer who I saw write it down in his notebook. I will stick to Geismar as being her correct surname.

Prison Photography has consistently used Cherisma, the spelling used by The Guardian on its first dispatch following her death.

Elsewhere, I have seen the spellings ‘Geismar’ and ‘Geichmar’. Likewise, Fabienne’s father is referred to as both Osam and Osama, and sometimes both in the same publication. Fabienne’s mother has been named Armante, Armand and Amand Clecy in the reporting of different media.

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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 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

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

PART EIGHT 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.

Michael Winiarski is the US correspondent for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and colleague of photographer Paul Hansen (interviewed in part seven).

Osama Cherisma carries Fabienne's body down Boulevard Jean Jacques Dessaline, followed by his son, Jeff (18) and his daughter, Amanda (13). Photo: Paul Hansen

What were the dates of your stay in Haiti?
I arrived to Port-au-Prince in the morning of January 14th. I flew in from Washington (where I’m posted as correspondent for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter) through Santo Domingo. I left Haiti late on January 21st, by car to Dominican Republic.

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you reported on earlier that day?
Actually about the deteriorating security situation and looting in central Port-au-Prince.

Did you see Fabienne get shot?
No, I was by the car at Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines when our driver came and told me that a girl had been shot. When I saw her she lay in the street.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
When I saw her, the father was already there. I checked my watch which was exactly 16.00pm, so I assume she was shot at least 10-15 minutes earlier.

How many other journalists/photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the names of these other media people?
Apart from Paul Hansen from Dagens Nyheter, I saw the Danish photographer Jan Grarup and the Reuters and AFP guys. I think I was the only foreign writer/reporter, and there also was a Haitian man who volunteered with translating some things the father said.

How was the atmosphere? How did others behave?
It was of course tense, with lot of crying, screaming and lamenting as we followed the crowd to the house of the Cherisma family. But the immediate threat of more shootings had subsided – no police were to be seen around us.

Did you discuss the tragedy with Paul or other journalists?
At that point only with Paul, and we did not hesitate that we should report the story.

Any other thoughts?
In Sweden, there were ethics discussions about Fabienne [and the photographs] by magazines and bloggers.

SWEDISH MEDIA DISCUSS THE ETHICS OF PUBLISHING PAUL HANSEN’S IMAGE OF FABIENNE

So upsetting is the photograph of a dead young girl, that Swedish magazines and bloggers responded to and questioned it’s use for Winiarski’s article (Swedish original / English translation).

The article humanised Fabienne and communicated the injustice and immediate devastation her death caused. It ends with a description of the family’s grief:

Fabienne’s little sister, Samantha, runs adjacent to [her father who carries Fabienne’s dead body] and roars in grief. It is only later Osama Cherisma will completely absorb what has happened. Then he will sit down and stare blankly ahead. But now he cries curses at the police who he believes took aim at his daughter.

We follow the weeping and despaired small group down the street, through the business district, to Fabienne’s home. It is only here when Fabienne’s mother Amante Kelcy hear what has happened to her girl. She falls apart in a crying, “Why? “Why? Why?”

Ever since the shot, the police are not to be seen. No police dare to enter these streets after a member of its rank and file killed one of the neighborhood children. No ambulance will be summoned. There is still no one to send. And Fabienne is already dead. Unnecessarily.

Osama Cherisma curses the police. “They are like animals, they are animals, “he says. “Why should my daughter pulled away in the prime of their youth?”

Fabienne's younger sister, Amanda Cherisma (13) and older brother, Jeff Cherisma (18) over the body of their sister. Photo: Paul Hansen

Dagens Nyheter, to its credit, acknowledged the concerns and answered them directly in an editorial. I paraphrase due to the vagaries of translation:

We are obviously very reluctant to publish pictures of the deceased.  A reader emailed and questioned how we would handle the issue if the image depicted a fifteen year old girl in Sweden. The answer is that the situation in Sweden is not comparable – if Sweden were affected by a disaster of equal scale of that in Haiti, then publication discussions would be based on the circumstances of that event.

How families are affected by publication is another important issue to consider in the decision.

DN’s mission is to take the world closer to readers, even when reporting can bring discomfort. Michael Winiarski’s and Paul Hansen’s reporting in connection with this individual tragedy is strong and worthy – and not at all speculative. In our view, it’s publication was important.

The statement above can be construed as a standard media response – that while Dagens Nyheter is aware of the distress Hansen’s photographs may cause it readers AND the deceased’s family, it goes ahead with publication in the interests of information.

Respect is given in that the need for respect is articulated. Is this enough?

I remain a little uneasy. The photographers I’ve interviewed for this series have given their opinions, but still I wonder what Fabienne’s family actually think – especially eight weeks later – of the international coverage of Fabienne’s death.

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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 Nine: Interview with Nathan Weber
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

PART SEVEN 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.

Last month, Swedish photographer Paul Hansen was named POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year. The month before – from Jan 16th until Jan 28th – Hansen was in Haiti .

Photo: Paul Hansen

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you photographed earlier that day?
I was in the city of Leogane earlier that day to cover the destruction. Later in the afternoon I covered the ongoing looting in central Port-au-Prince

Did you see Fabienne get shot?
No.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
I don´t really remember, and I don’t know exactly when she got shot – but from the time I got up on the roof until her father arrived I estimate it took around half an hour. But, the stress and trauma of the situation makes that estimate shaky.

How many other photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the photographers’ names?
I saw five or six, but perhaps there was more. It was a very fluid situation. I know two of them – Jan Grarup and Jan Dagö, both Danish.

Did you discuss the tragedy with other journalists?
I discussed it mostly with my Swedish colleagues at the time, and I still discuss it today.

How was the atmosphere? How did others behave?
The atmosphere was very fluid and potentially dangerous, a young girl had just been shot in the head by somebody, and we were standing in the same spot. What baffles me is that the looting continued around this poor girl and that some of the other looters stole money from her hand and poked the body so that she started to slide/roll down towards us (photographers)  – it was a very tragic thing to witness. How traumatized and desperate must these people be to act in this manner?

How does Fabienne’s death fit in with the visual narratives of Haiti’s earthquake aftermath?
I don´t really understand the question. If there is there something that “fits with the visual  narrative of a disaster” in general I do not know what that would be. However, having said that, I think it is extremely tragic that a young girl had to die like that. For me, Fabienne’s death and her story is an poignant reminder of the need for a society to have basic security – with or without a disaster.

Anything else?
The more attention Haiti gets, the better. Fabienne’s death is to me an unnecessary tragedy  – on top of the larger tragedy.

If the security would have been in place, an earthquake survivor like Fabienne and many more would be alive. I photographed several people killed by the mob/police/security personnel. The death of this little girl, killed over some decorative trinkets, saddens me deeply and affects me to this day. I frequently talk about her with readers, colleagues and friends.

I will never forget that horrible day.

Fabienne's mother, Amante Kelcy, after seeing Fabienne's dead body. Photo Paul Hansen

– – –

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 Eight: Interview with Michael Winiarski
Part Nine: Interview with Nathan Weber
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

PART SIX 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.

Jan Grarup was in Haiti from January 14th to 26th January.

In the central part of Port au Prince, looting is getting worse. Desperate people rob the stores and warehouses. Police try maintain law and order but can not control the increasing crowds. Tuesday, January 19th. Photo: Jan Grarup/NOOR Images

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you photographed earlier that day?
Mainly looting, things were going crazy in the center of Port-au-Prince.

Did you see Fabienne get shot?
Yes. I even think I photographed the police officer who shoot her.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
Approximately, 30 to 40 minutes.

Osama Cherisma, Fabienne's father carries her away after followed by his son, Jeff (18) and his daughter, Amanda (13). Photo: Jan Grarup/NOOR Images

How many other photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the photographers’ names?
I would guess about eight photographers. I know of at least five of them – Paul Hansen from Sweden, Jan Dago from Jyllands Posten … I’ll have to check the others.

How was the atmosphere? How did others behave?
Looting continued without stopping even when she was lying dead on the rooftop.

Did you discuss the tragedy with other photographers?
No, not really, it was a bad and very sad thing.

How does Fabienne’s death fit in with the visual narratives of Haiti’s earthquake aftermath?
It showed how desperate people were in order to survive.

Photo: Jan Grarup / NOOR Images

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Jan Grarup is a photographer for NOOR Images. His portfolio of images from Haiti can be viewed here (Content warning). Images of and around the time of Fabienne’s shooting are on pages 1, 2 and 3.

Jan is working on a larger body of work about Fabienne but is not willing yet to offer any details.

– – –

The mentioned Jan Dago, Jyllands Posten photojournalist, could not be reached for interview. His dispatch can be viewed here (Content warning).

– – –

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

PART FIVE 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.

Edward Linsmier was in Haiti from January 15th to January 20th.

Members of the public on a collapsed roof moments prior to Fabienne's fatal shooting. Photo: Edward Linsmier

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you photographed earlier that day?
Michael Mullady, Nathan Weber and I were all traveling around together while in Haiti. Earlier that day we had made our way to the airport, hired a fixer and driver, been to the mass graves, fired our fixer and driver, met up with our old fixer and made our way downtown. We photographed at the General Hospital (it’s also worth noting that Eric Beecroft at the Foundry Workshops donated about $350 worth of badly needed medical supplies to the General Hospital, which we were able to deliver in person), the port and we were making our way back through LaVille (where the Iron Market is) towards the Presidential Palace when we walked into the crowds looting and heard the gunshots.

Policemen had been instructed to fire high into the air to disperse members of the public. Photo: Edward Linsmier

Three members of the public take cover presumably from shots fired on a collapsed roof. Photo: Edward Linsmier

Edward describes the lead up to Fabienne’s death on the Adjustment Layer blog:
Soon lines of people began gathering goods seized from the bowels of the destroyed buildings. We followed the line up onto a downed roof top that led to the exposed insides of several shops filled with the scavenging and excited crowd. We were making pictures. Some people briefly yelled at us not to take their picture but hesitated to stay around long enough to enforce their requests. More gunshots filled the air. We couldn’t tell where they were coming from but they seemed close.

There was a commotion from not far down the street. The fixer motioned for me to come because the police had caught a man and had him down on the ground. I, in turn, motioned for my friend and fellow photographer, Nathan Weber, who was still on the slanting concrete rooftop to follow me to the commotion down the road. I yelled his name and he looked at me with a blank stare. Nathan is someone who is on point in a situation such as this. He communicates quickly, clearly and with authority when needed. He is no stranger to photographing in similar situations but something of this magnitude was new to both of us. I knew he heard me and figured he would be right behind me as I headed down to the commotion.

I began photographing a man on the ground and the fixer stood near us and began translating what the police were saying into English, all the while keeping a keen eye on our surroundings. Then someone ran past our fixer and said something in Creole. Our fixer then yelled to us that someone had been shot where we had just been. We ran maybe 50 yards back and climbed back up on the roof to see Nathan in almost the exact same spot where I last saw him, except he was looking at a girl who was lying face down on the slanting concrete roof. As best as I can recall, Nathan spoke in short sentences, “I saw her fall. I thought she tripped and knocked herself out. She’s dead. Fuck. She got shot. I was right here.”

The decision to continue making photographs was instinctual. More photographers showed up and we were all making pictures, composing the dead girl in the foreground as the looters continued to walk past her, almost over her, carrying whatever they could. Several men stopped to turn her over, seemingly to identify the body. They gently took her arms and almost had to twist her just a little to face her upward. They looked at her with little emotion and left. She had been shot in the head. From what I could tell, the bullet entered her cheek and exited from the back of her head. The blood had been pooling in some picture frames she was carrying when she fell. After the men moved her, the blood began to run down the slanting concrete roof towards us. We all were still making pictures. To anybody else, it must have looked sick, a crowd of photographers vying for the best position to tell the story of the death of a girl.

Edward recalls a detail he had forgotten for the Adjustment Layer interview:
I had almost forgotten completely about the individual that came up and literally took the money out of Fabienne’s lifeless grip. Upon looking back through my digital take, I have a sequence of a teenage boy coming up and taking the money.

Member of the public peers at Fabienne's body. Photo: Edward Linsmier

Did you discuss the tragedy with other photographers?
During a lull in photographing Fabienne, I spoke briefly with a photographer from Canada, perhaps the Toronto paper, and asked him how he was doing. It was a hot day and all of the photographers had been working hard as it was a decently fast-paced situation even before the shooting. We were both kneeling, facing away from the body and he said that he was a little shaken up. I think several of us were shaken up for multiple reasons. First and foremost, we were all photographing a young girl who had just been shot and killed. But I think we were also shaken up because within the last five minutes no less than three or four of us photographers had walked those exact same steps Fabienne was walking when she was gunned down.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
I could check the timestamps on my digital files but I believe from the time Fabienne was shot until the father came to pick her up was about 20 minutes, perhaps 25 minutes.

Osama Cherisma, Fabienne's father (back right), and others carry Fabienne's corpse. Photo: Edward Linsmier

How many other photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the photographers’ names?
I would estimate that there were anywhere from 6-10 photographers that photographed at various points throughout Fabienne’s death and journey home. I do not know any other full names of the photographers except for Michael Mullady, Nathan Weber and myself.

The atmosphere among the photographers was very professional. The feeling in the air was that this was something important and we were all going to do the best job we could in covering it. It was rather intense. We tried to stay out of each other’s frames and share the best angles when we could. I have to say that I was impressed with the other photographers there. They all seemed to care very much about what they were doing and they were all working very hard, hustling to get every shot they could.

How was the atmosphere? How did others behave?
As far as I know of the situation, all the photographers were very respectful of the situation. As I mentioned before, I did not experience any sort of backlash from the people we were photographing at all. As chaotic as the situation was, I felt that they were very open to us and even glad we were there.

Samantha Cherisma mourns and screams over her sister's body in the street. Photo: Edward Linsmier

How does Fabienne’s death fit in with the visual narratives of Haiti’s earthquake aftermath?
Any story like this, where people have been killed or are suffering, deserves to be done correctly and to be done correctly you need to have resources. I don’t necessarily mean monetary resources, but definitely enough to hire a fixer/translator on the ground. I don’t know if anything our fixer did saved our lives, but he kept us from harm’s way and without him, we definitely would not have made the pictures we made that day of Fabienne.

As far as how Fabienne’s death fits into the story of the earthquake – I think it’s an all too tragic piece of the puzzle. The Haitian people are some of the most resilient I’ve ever met. Most of them lead incredibly tough lives. Their own government has all but abandoned them. They have been deprived of so much that we take for granted. I think it was only natural for people to loot. Most Haitians live on less than $1US per day. They saw a chance to gain possessions that most of them would never otherwise be able to afford. I’m not saying it was right or okay to loot, I’m just saying that I understand why there were doing it.

Anything to add?
Something else worth noting – Our fixer was on the roof with the group of photographers after Fabienne had been shot. The police were still shooting and someone had the forethought to ask our fixer to yell to the police that journalists were on the roof and not to fire in that direction any longer. I look back on it and realize how important that was. Some of us automatically think we are excluded from danger in a situation like that but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying we didn’t make any mistakes that day, but I want to emphasize how important it is to go into a situation like that as prepared as possible.

Cherisma or Geichmar?
[For the Adjustment Layer interview] I failed to include Fabienne’s name in my description of events. I cannot 100% guarantee the accuracy of the spelling of the name as I have seen it differently elsewhere. My caption information for my photos with the info our fixer provided for us (he had a pen and paper and was talking to family members) is as follows:

“Fabienne Geichmar, 15, was fatally shot by a stray bullet while looting from a store on Rue Marthely Seiee in the LaVille section of Port au Prince. Violence and looting have been commonplace in downtown Port au Prince since shortly after the earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital.”

I’m not sure why I wrote that it was a stray bullet… I think because that’s what I wanted to believe and also because I could not confirm that police had shot her.

– – –

Edward will be in Haiti a second time from the 18th to 26th March.

View Linsmier’s images from his first stint in Haiti.

– – –

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

PART FOUR 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 the 3rd February, Adjustment Layer posted an account by photographer Edward Linsmier. It is the fullest eye-witness account by a photographer of events surrounding Fabienne’s death that I have read.

The account doesn’t name the girl as Fabienne. Her name has been available from different sources for some time.

Also worth noting, Linsmier talks of Nathan Weber, another photographer present. I was not aware Weber was at the scene.

Fabienne Cherisma lies dead after being shot in the head by police. January 19th, 2010. © Edward Linsmier

LINSMIER’S ACCOUNT

Read the full account on Adjustment Layer.

Linsmier opens with the excess necessary to hook the reader, “We heard gunshots and knew we needed to be closer. We processed the thought for a split second and we took off running with our fixer not far behind.” and, “Emboldened by the electricity of the chaos, we advanced further and saw people laying on the ground with police yelling and waving guns in the air and shouting commands.”

Linsmier goes on, “We retreated several steps and waited behind a truck for several seconds until the police were distracted. I saw another photographer up the road and decided that we needed to make a move closer to him so we could make some pictures.”

(One presumes this other photographer is Weber?)

“We followed … onto a downed roof top that led to the exposed insides of several shops filled with the scavenging and excited crowd. We were making pictures.”

“The fixer motioned for me to come because the police had caught a man and had him down on the ground. I, in turn, motioned for my friend and fellow photographer, Nathan Weber, who was still on the slanting concrete rooftop to follow me to the commotion down the road. I yelled his name and he looked at me with a blank stare. Nathan is someone who is on point in a situation such as this. He communicates quickly, clearly and with authority when needed. He is no stranger to photographing in similar situations but something of this magnitude was new to both of us. I knew he heard me and figured he would be right behind me as I headed down to the commotion.”

Linsmier returns to see Fabienne’s body, “[I] climbed back up on the roof to see Nathan in almost the exact same spot where I last saw him, except he was looking at a girl who was lying face down on the slanting concrete roof. As best as I can recall, Nathan spoke in short sentences, “I saw her fall. I thought she tripped and knocked herself out. She’s dead. Fuck. She got shot. I was right here.”

“The decision to continue making photographs was instinctual. More photographers showed up and we were all making pictures, composing the dead girl in the foreground as the looters continued to walk past her, almost over her, carrying whatever they could. Several men stopped to turn her over, seemingly to identify the body. They gently took her arms and almost had to twist her just a little to face her upward. They looked at her with little emotion and left.”

This record of events is interesting because it doesn’t report the bypassers going through Fabienne’s pockets as the Guardian did here.

“She had been shot in the head. From what I could tell, the bullet entered her cheek and exited from the back of her head. The blood had been pooling in some picture frames she was carrying when she fell. After the men moved her, the blood began to run down the slanting concrete roof towards us. We all were still making pictures. To anybody else, it must have looked sick, a crowd of photographers vying for the best position to tell the story of the death of a girl.”

“Just about the time that I figured the pictures were over and we should leave, a frantic man and several others emerged from the crowd. It was the family of the girl. The father hoisted her onto his shoulders and began the journey of bringing his daughter home. The photographers followed. Ordinarily, this would be a scene that hardly anyone could bare to photograph. They were experiencing probably some of the most painful moments of their lives but they knew why we were there. Not once did anyone give a mean look; not once did I hear anyone question why all the photographers were following this family’s grief so intently and so closely. It was part of the story.”

THOUGHTS

The underlining above is mine. It highlights the photographers’ conscious activities. I make no judgments here. Linsmier is aware of the sensitivity of the situation. Like, Mullady, yesterday, Linsmier’s candour should be appreciated.

Photographs are deceiving. I should know that by now. When I began my inquiry into Fabienne’s death, I assumed there was a scarcity of images. I presumed only Grarup and Garcia Rawlins had witnessed and recorded the incident.

It is clear, now, that there was more photography and activity. On the scene, at various points, were six photographers – Jan Grarup, Olivier Laban-Mattei, Edward Linsmier, Michael Mullady, Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Nathan Weber.

I’d like to state that I have no agenda here, I am simply interested in constructing the scene in a wider context. Photographers don’t work in a vacuum and we must demand to turn their images inside out to understand the context in which the images were created.

Mining the conditions of production is a position I have held consistently throughout my writing on Prison Photography. I am a great admirer of Errol Morris’ writings that demystify photography; it is in that spirit I am pursuing this inquiry.

Thanks to Melissa Lyttle for the note on Edward’s interview.

– – –

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 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
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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