January 19, 2010

Your Turn: Haiti, On a Not-Insubstantial Level, A Show

Sarla Chand

For days now, we have been flooded by absolutely horrific, increasingly grisly and often factually confusing or fragmentary images pouring out of Haiti distributed not just via broadcast, but faster and more widely than ever before, through the proliferating and voraciously “page view” hungry on-line media.

If this bombardment raises enough moral and professional red flags to spawn dozens of books, lectures and seminars, perhaps the simplest questions we need to begin with are: what ethical lines can and should be drawn in terms of the acquisition and distribution of these disaster images, and what kind of context and discretion does the situation visually call out for?

Three days ago now, my friends Matt Lutton and Scott Brauer at DVAFoto, both of them professional photographers, posted this image from the BBC in Pictures. As the caption and the photo indicate, Ms. Chand (an American working for a non-profit aid organization in Haiti, having been rescued from the Hotel Montana) happened to be photographed along with a bee hive of other photographers, the image inadvertently framing the extent to which the extreme humanitarian crisis in Haiti has been, is, and remains a dramatic media spectical, and, on a not-insubstantial level, a perverse and unavoidable show.

I not only encourage you to read and think about this image, but to read Matt and Scott’s post before responding.

(photo: Carl Juste/AP/The Miami Herald caption: Sarla Chand, 65, of New Jersey, sits after being recently rescued by U.S., French and Spanish rescue workers, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010, after more than 50 hours being buried underneath the pile of rubble that was formerly the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The hotel, which sits on a ridge, was flattened from the earthquake. She says she had been speaking to five other people trapped with her up until the moment she was rescued. Chand is a physician.)

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Michael Shaw
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