The Presentation of Haiti

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My view of Claude’s story.

by Mike

I’ve been reading up on how Haiti is presented in the media, and I thought I’d share some links about Haiti and storytelling.

This guy is a photojournalist who’s extremely sensitive to the power dynamics of storytelling:
“Please help me, who is not in Haiti, understand what is really going on. Please do not produce work that is a substitute for the beggar’s bowl. Please don’t demean me, the Haitians or yourself. Please let me hear and see an Haitian.”
He’s highly critical of his profession, and I find all his writing inspired.
To Hear or See an Haitian Once the Party Has Died Down at The Spinning Head

An article by Rebecca Solnit about the wording and emphasis of media coverage:
In Haiti, Words Can Kill

Eliza Gregory writes about being a white photographer objectifying non-white people:
Looking Back at a Picture I Wish I Hadn’t Taken

And finally, in a video from TED, Chimamanda Adichie talks about our tendency to reduce a group to a single story, and the problems that arise out of that act. Before seeing this video, I used to say that the most important thing I have learned from travel is that “Everyone has a story.” Now I realize that I got it a little wrong in a big way. It should read, “Everyone has stories.” The change is more than just pluralization, it’s the realization of multi-dimensionality, complexity.

My goal, going to Haiti, is to avoid taking pictures in a way that I deny the subjects their agency. This wouldn’t even be an issue (or a blog post) if I didn’t recognize in myself a tendency to do the opposite as a result of the media’s story arcs in my own thought patterns.

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2 Responses to The Presentation of Haiti

  1. Dmarie says:

    ah, but because you will be mindful of that tendency, your photo essay of Haiti will be more real, as you probe even deeper for the truth. thanks for the TED link. love that site.

  2. Mike says:

    Isn’t TED great? It’s so inspiring.

    I do hope I’ll be more mindful, but I more hope that at some point I don’t have to be mindful any longer because those ideas have become part of who I am and how I act.

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