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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?

– – –

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

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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.

– – –

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

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