How much is too much?: Controversial photography of the Haitian Earthquakes

“Did news outlets publish images that were too graphic, and too many of them?” This is the question posed in “Too Graphic?”, a piece by Arielle Emmett.

The essay outlines the controversy of posting edgy photographs from a natural disaster, the Haitian Earthquake to be exact. In four pages, Emmett draws from both sides of the argument. On one hand, photographs of dead or dying children can turn stomachs, ruin days and ultimate leave the feeling of dread. On the other hand, is that a bad thing? If this is really happening on planet Earth, shouldn’t you know about it? Better yet, shouldn’t you do something about it? Help in any way you can?

For one, there is the obvious argument that the photos are inappropriate. Children may see them and it could really affect them. Valerie Payen-Jean Baptiste, a Haitian elementary school principal who lost it all in the earthquake says, “My critique is about the tone of unnecessary pictures and videos that show pieces of bodies, dying people, the nudity of people, or the misery/tragedy of people in line for food and water. Seriously, is this cruelty really necessary to mobilize massive humanitarian action?”

She draws a great point. Is western civilization so caught up in the iPhone 5 that we need to literally see children in danger, starving, dying or even dead to cause an emotional stir? Shouldn’t reading about such tragedies be enough to incite a riot within ourselves?

On the other hand, the photographer standpoint stems from both an ethical and economical standpoint. They didn’t make the rules, and I’m sure it isn’t their choice that Americans are too busy on twitter to care about the third world unless it virtually slaps them in the face. However, their photographs do erupt emotion, cause strong feelings to arise and eventually lead to positive things like charities and foundations that do help the Haitians.

On top of all that, they are getting paid for their work. I mean, it is certainly not easy to be in the midst of disaster and photograph dying children. I know I couldn’t do that, not for the life of me.

I think it’s okay to have controversial images up on the internet. As long as there is an 18+ agreement and they are not printed in places easily accessible to children. That is my opinion on the matter.

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