Thursday, May 30, 2013
Fabienne Cherisma: A Picture of a Dead Haitian Girl Surrounded by Photographers
Posted by Jay at 9:16 PM
On January 19, 2010, 15-year old Fabienne Cherisma died from a stray bullet while scavenging for supplies in the earthquake-ravaged city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Barely a week after the devastating 2010 Haitian Earthquake which killed more than 300,000 people, the death of one girl sparked more controversy about the disaster than before. It was because of the above photograph, showing a group of journalists flocking together to take a picture of the dead Haitian girl.
Days after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, international aid was somewhat slow to respond to the disaster, considering the scale of the destruction. In Port-au-Prince, thousands had taken to scavenging and looting in order to get by. Anything that looked like it was worth something was taken out of crumbling shops and homes, and local authorities were too overwhelmed to stop crowds of residents from stealing from each other.
In order to deter looters, police were authorized to shoot their guns into the air. Unfortunately, one of these stray bullets hit Fabienne Cherisma in the head while she was carrying picture frames back to her home. Soon after, photojournalists came onto the scene to capture the moment.
Fabienne's photograph did not become famous until two different photography award juries announced that the scene was the subject of two different winning photographs. In 2011, Paul Hensen's image above was chosen as the Picture of the Year in Sweden. A few weeks later, Lucas Oleniuk photograph below won the National Newspaper Awards in Canada.
In addition, Nathan Weber's version (the header photo) showed a group of photographers crowding together to take a picture of the dead Haitian girl. Criticism soon came out about the commercialization and selective nature of breaking-news photojournalism. To top it all off, accusations were hurled against the photographers that they had moved the body and the picture frames to make the scene look more dramatic (although other pictures and videos show that other civilians might have done this).
For most of these photographers, they were simply doing their job: photographing newsworthy situations in a way that would catch the attention of viewers. There's no doubt that the images of the deceased Fabienne Cherisma speak more than any article could and helped bring greater awareness to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.
Still, these different angles really do put things into perspective, and the picture showing the photographers surrounding the dead Haitian girl shows even more plainly how a different perspective can result in a totally different picture. For more information on the different images, Prison Photography has an in-depth series on the controversial subject, with interviews from the different photographers who photographed the scene.