As most girls are, I’m as squeamish as it gets. I can’t stand insects, slimy reptiles/amphibians, or gory torture movies like Saw. Over the years however, I’ve slowly built up the strength to take on some of the gross stuff that happens in everyday life. For example, I can sit through (most) of the latest slasher horror films and I can watch CSI & Criminal Minds without blinking an eye during the crime scene & autopsy scenes. It’s safe to say that I haven’t seen a dead body that has really made me cringe and turn away…..until the earthquake hit Haiti back in 2008. Then, I couldn’t watch my shows nor slasher films for weeks.
Everyone remembers the tragic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2008. It was all over the local & national news; celebrities and world-renowned public figures were making contributions to help out the poor nation in need. It was a tragedy that came all too soon after the New Year had started, so it seemed obvious that people all over the world would donate or help however they could. What really stands clear in my mind about that current event was not how much news was reported about it, but how many pictures were plastered all over the place from that country. Things I would never bring myself to look at as a sophomore in high school. It wasn’t just the destroyed buildings and damage that were in the photos, but people on the streets injured and even more so, dead. How could a person even begin to snap a photograph of such and proceed to put it on a newspaper of all places? I had never seen anything like it, and I would never want to see it again after what happened in Haiti.
In Arielle Emmett’s article “Too Graphic?”, she talks about how much the photos that photojournalists took in the days of the Haiti earthquake aftermath were just too much for the people of our nation to take. Suddenly, the question arose to when do we draw the line at what is okay to put in the media. I’m pretty sure that if there was a serious murder that happened, no photos of the body or the crime scene would be on the news. So what makes the earthquake aftermath any different? In response to that question, Michele McNally, an assistant managing editor for photography at the New York Times, stated in the article that “Haitian people wanted the journalists to photograph the dead bodies and tell their stories. They wanted the world to see, to know how horrible it was.” A few sentences later in the article, a Haitian woman, Valerie Payen-Jean Baptiste, commented how most Haitians were really upset and how “some view the photos as an insult.” Even more so, I’m pretty sure that most of the people in the world could have understood how tragic the earthquake was without all the graphic photos.
From a photojournalist’s defense, it was necessary to allow people who don’t live under these circumstances to see what is happening outside of their bubble. Patrick Farrell says this in the article,
“I’d say there were not enough images of Haiti….people need to know that the suffering continues; they’re suffering just living a normal life. You could write a million times that there are 100,000 people dead in the streets. But if you don’t see it for yourself, or in pictures, you won’t believe it. It just won’t register.”
But in a weird sense, it helped the struggling nation…at least from a financial standpoint. The more pictures that surfaced in newspapers and the Internet, the more money that was donated to helping them get by. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be the graphic pictures that sends a person to donate to a tragic cause. It should be news itself and that mounds of people are reporting about the tragedy and all that’s happened in the aftermath. What convinced me to donate $50 to the Haiti Earthquake Relief was the celebrities that did it as well and advocated about it in a TV marathon. Then again, I was just a teenager in high school who was easily influenced by celebrities. The pictures in itself was just a gruesome reminder that not all places are perfect and that there is still tragedy in the world; one reminder I’m pretty sure that the people who survived the earthquake don’t want to relive. To this day, I haven’t seen pictures in any form of media quite as graphic as those from Haiti and I hoped that I will never have to again. But, the media has definitely changed since I was a little girl; with all the sick, creepy and outrageous pictures, videos and more being posted just about everywhere, it wouldn’t surprise me if I saw a dead body or two when the next world tragedy hit.