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PART THREE 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 Mullady just gave an interview to CALIBER SF, the second half of which reflects upon his recent experience in Haiti.

The image atop the interview is of Fabienne Cherisma, the 15 year old girl shot dead by police in Port-au-Prince. I have talked about the circumstances and the photographing of her death here and here before.

In addition to Garcia-Rawlins, Grarup and Laban-Mattei, I did not know that Mullady had also followed her corpse down the street.

Warning: The image is graphic. It is so close in. I should’ve offered the same caveat in my earlier posts. The more I deconstruct the images of – and pass on information surrounding Fabienne’s death – the more I feel like an intruder into a scene that should never have been.

WORDS

Read Mullady’s interview

Mullady talks generally about his career and then moves on to talk frankly about why he went to Haiti (last minute), how he wasn’t prepared for it, and how he now has a commitment to telling the stories of Haitians in the “immediate future”. He offers observations on the social/security fabric of Port-au-Prince.

On Fabienne:

“One day while covering the situation, a young girl was shot just a few feet from where I was standing. People had jumped onto a collapsed building and were running over roofs to get inside stores were merchandise was buried. It was a split decision, but I decided to follow the people to get more intimate images. Putting myself into that situation was possibly something I should have thought more about. In the moment, getting the photograph was all I was thinking about, not my life. That bullet could have been in my head. It was that serious. The cops were not looking at who was in the crowd, they were just shooting. To think I could have lost my life in an instant is terrifying. That day I realized the dangers of working in hostile situations as a journalist and that any day could be your last. When I saw that girl laying on the ground and the agony on her families face, I thought about my own family and the agony I put them through every time I leave the country to work. I never want my parents to have to go through losing there only son. That situation impacted me very deeply and I have yet to speak to anyone in detail about it, you guys are the first. I will share one of my images from that day with you guys.”

On Jim Nachtwey?!:

“I always admired James Nachtwey. Believe it or not, I actually got to meet him in Haiti. It was surreal to look over one-day and see him working next to me. Wow.  I couldn’t believe it was really him. Everything I had dreamed about and strived towards became real in that moment. He was no longer a golden god in my eyes but a colleague, working to illustrate the same situation I was.”

On the day-to-day situation:

“The way I see things in Haiti is very different then I imagine you guys to see it through the news. Aid is here, but there are so many people in need and not everyone is receiving proper attention. Things have definitely positively progressed, but it’s going to take more time to help everyone in need.”

“Haiti is plagued by corruption. I have witnessed it first-hand, police stealing aid supplies and keeping them for themselves or selling them to wealthy people. This type of thing is a reality in Haiti. I’ve seen it on many occasions.”

“Before the earthquake, Haiti was in a bad situation so after this I fear for their future. Many Haitians whom I’ve spoken with express they want to become and American colony, such as Puerto Rico. Being an American, it’s been difficult to answer those questions for people and even more difficult knowing that if I told them what I really thought, it would not be what they wanted to hear.”

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Mullady’s candour is to be acknowledged. He could do to turn-down the Nachtwey-worship, though.

After reading the article and seeing the picture, however, I cannot shake his earlier quote:

“Many people believe photojournalists to not be artists and consider other genres of photography to be “art.” What I strive to do is bleed these lines. First and foremost, I would consider myself an artist, a visual artist whose subject matter is humanity. I live for light, obsess over sophisticated compositions and spend as much time as needed to make the exact frame I’m envisioning. A large distinction is that I intend to make images for the world to see, via publications, not images just to hang on a wall.”

Is to “bleed the lines” an incontestable perspective on one’s photojournalism? What happens when one is framing a composition of a murdered teenager? Has this perspective been more common than we’d like to acknowledge in recent images of 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 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
Part Twelve: Two Months On (Winiarski/Hansen)
Reporter Rory Carroll Clarifies Some Details
Part Fourteen: Interview with Alon Skuy
Part Fifteen: Conclusions

PART TWO 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.

Following up on last months post about Fabienne Cherisma’s murder, it is apt to note Natasha Elkington’s Reuters Photographers blog post.

Amidst a very serious opinion piece about the hardships of childhood in Haiti and Kenya, Elkington includes a comment from the photographer of the renowned image of Fabienne Cherisma.

I spoke to the Reuters photographer in Haiti, Carlos Garcia Rawlins, who took the pictures of Fabianne to find out who shot her and why. He had no answers. By the time he got there she was already dead. She could have been shot by the police or armed security guards hired to protect property, he said. Witnesses said they didn’t know if she was targeted or hit by a stray bullet when police fired into the air to disperse a hungry mob.

What Rawlins did say is that people around her continued looting and would only stop for a moment to look at her body. “I couldn’t believe the indifference of the people around her,” he said.

Which is a different response to that of Jan Grarup.

– – –

ALSO IN THE ‘PHOTOGRAPHING FABIENNE’ SERIES

Part One: Fabienne Cherisma (Initial inquiries, Jan Grarup, Olivier Laban Mattei)

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


PART ONE OF 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.

“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.”

Rory Carroll, The Guardian, January 26th, 2010

15-year-old Fabienne Cherisma lies dead after being shot in the head in Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters.

Fifteen year-old Fabienne Cherisma was shot dead by police at approximately 4pm, January 19th, 2010.

On the 26th of January, the Guardian published an account of Fabienne’s life – her schooling, her sales acumen and her aspirations to be a nurse. The piece is not long, but it needn’t be. It is a modest effort – hopefully the first of a few – to remind us that Fabienne was a daughter, a sister, a source of love and pride for her family and, in the end, an innocent victim.

THE IMAGE THAT REMAINS, THE SYMBOL THAT EMERGES

There is a chance that Fabienne Cherisma could become a symbol of the Haitian earthquake and the problematic aftermath; that she become a tragic silhouette extending meaning far beyond the facts of her abrupt and unjust death.

This notion can be at once offensive and inevitable. If the visual rhetoric is going to play out as such, then if it is not Fabienne, it will be another victim.

What purpose could the emergence of a such a symbol serve?

Thus far Fabienne’s death is a story that has caught wide attention. It came without warning, it was unexpected. Her death – resulting not from nature’s violence but from human action – stands out from other deaths as a particular injustice; Fabienne’s killing is salt in the wounds. While tens of thousands lay obscured beneath rubble, she lay limp and exposed on a bare roof-top. The image itself is an affront.

If one believes that images fuel public awareness, thus securing donations and aid, and thus helping Haiti’s immediate future, then certain images and stories will carry that awareness and emotion.

All the accusations of media exploitation in Haiti do not discredit the positive effects a single image can – without any manipulation – have in the minds of millions. I wouldn’t call this the magic or the power of photography, I’d call it the mysterious perversion of photography. I don’t, and can’t, explain it. I merely observe it.

THE RESPONSIBLE USES OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Fears amongst those who care about media and its conduct hope that the focus can remain on Haiti and its long-term recovery. If the media deserts Haiti after a few short weeks then all accusations of disaster pornography will be upheld.

Photo-editors are now searching for the images that will maintain the humanitarian momentum on Hispanola. These images will be from committed photojournalists who stick around once press photographers have left.

It would be worthwhile to see and hear journalists’ reporting that follows up on the experiences of victims who may or may not have already appeared in coverage. I actually expect journos will follow up on the stories of the child born amid the rubble, the elderly woman rescued after 10 days and the man rescued after search and rescue was called off.

The Haitian recovery must be reported more than the initial chaos.

In the scenario of mass reproduction and circulation, the image of Fabienne’s dead body needn’t be one of mere exploitation. Nothing is so one-dimensional. Of course, this is very sensitive territory and above all the wishes of her family should prevail … in an ideal world.

That said, the history of photojournalism is replete with globally-recognised subjects whose visage was appropriated without their knowledge and/or consent. There’s no model release form in war and disaster.

Fabienne may become a symbol for the innocent victims of this disaster as Kim Phúc did for those in Vietnam. The politics of the two crises are a planet apart, but our modes of consumption are not.

Images are highly manipulable; Errol Morris asserts a caption will turn can turn the reading of a photograph 180 degrees.

The inconvenience of captions often results in the creation of symbol.

I don’t think it will be long before a symbol, a brand for Haitian plight, will rest upon a single image. Western thought demands a visual book-end to the visual dialogue.

Pureevilbunny has already documented a graphic (in both senses of the word) stencil rendering of of Fabiennie’s corpse (artist not stated). The incongruous pink clothing, argyle sweater, flowers and blood are elements that shock.

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCES AVAILABLE

I do not want to prescribe a means of viewing images of Fabienne’s death. I am interested in informing the public about the photographers who witnessed and recorded the event.

The most widely circulated image is that atop this article by Carlos Garcia Rawlins and distributed by Reuters. It was used in the Daily Mail among others and in the Guardian’s original reporting of the killing:

Police armed with rifles shot over the heads of the people and kicked a man, part of a delayed effort to regain control of a capital which has been lawless – but largely calm – since the 12 January earthquake.

The crowd was carrying grime-­covered chairs while Fabienne, who was on a roof, clutched paintings, including one of two flowers in a vase.

Photographs show her father Osam finding her body, then lifting it into a cart. Fabienne’s mother, Armante, is shown weeping and close to collapse. Osam told AFP news agency that police intentionally shot his daughter. Police were not available for comment.

Jan Grarup of Noor images was also present. Grarup’s dispatch for the 19th and 20th January contains 136 images, nine of which include Fabienne.

© Jan Grarup / Noor Images

© Jan Grarup / Noor Images

© Jan Grarup / Noor Images

© Jan Grarup / Noor Images

Fabienne’s body is in a distinctly different position between the photographs of Garcia-Rawlins and Grarup:

© Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters.

© Jan Grarup / Noor Images

Grarup was present at the scene before Garcia-Rawlins. Between their photographings, the framed pictures slid, Fabienne’s hips turned and her body rolled.

How much time was there between Fabienne’s slaying and the two photographers at the side of her body? How much time was there between the two of them photographing Fabienne? Were Grarup and Garcia-Rawlins on the roof at the same time? Did they see each other work?

Both photographers were obviously present before Osam, Fabienne’s father, carried her body away.

In the immediate aftermath, Grarup documented with a few frames a distraught Osam and family.

Olivier Laban Mattei continued documenting events. Laban Mattei’s dispatch of 28 images, is in fact only five images repeated.

Osam Cherisma carries the body of his daughter Fabienne killed by a policeman during lootings in the Marthely Seiee street January 19, 2010 in Port-au-Prince. © Olivier Laban Mattei/AFP/Getty Images.

Armante Cherisma cries in front of the body of her daughter, Fabienne, 15 years old, killed by a policeman during lootings in the Marthely Seiee street January 19, 2010 in Port-au-Prince. © Olivier Laban Mattei/AFP/Getty Images.

Despite the amateurish piecing together of evidences, presented here is a basic timeline to Fabienne’s death. These images placed in sequence describe more fully her tragic death and take Fabienne’s memory beyond that (Garcia-Rawlins’) single image.

Fabienne was an innocent. Whether misdirected warning shots or deliberate targeting, her shooting was needless.

If Fabienne’s death does come to symbolise something larger, I hope it does so to benefit the survivors in Haiti; that the injustice brought upon her will only distill our resolve to avoid injustices to others.

If the shocking form of her body, face down in the broken frame, becomes symbolic it cannot be for reductive consumption, disaster cliche or political gain.

AFTER THE PHOTOGRAPHS

‘With morgues overflowing, and earthquake fatalities being bulldozed into mass graves, the Cherismas took their ­daughter’s body out of the city. With a borrowed $70 they rented a private bus, and drove for four hours to relatives in Zorange. They buried her in a Catholic ceremony and placed a white cross over the grave.’ (Source)

– – –

ALSO IN THE ‘PHOTOGRAPHING FABIENNE’ SERIES

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
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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