The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 3 million people injured or homeless. The numbers are astonishing but does this portray what the quake really did?
Arielle Emmett’s article “Too Graphic?” takes a look at the Haiti catastrophe and the way journalists reported it. Through the use of photojournalism, journalists were able to tell the story not by numbers but by images. “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,” said Michele McNally, assistant managing editor for photography at the New York Times.
The photojournalism was a bit much for others who were part of the disaster. Valerie Payen-Jean Baptiste, a Haitian Elementary School principal was tired of seeing the photos. Her and her family were stuck in a car and lived through the event. “I have nightmares, and I am fighting these images. I just can’t imagine what this is like for my two little girls, who are also dealing with nightmares.
Haiti already being a poor nation before the quake, was seeking help from anyone. The more images of unimaginable suffering were published, the more international aid poured in.
“We’re in a culture that censors visuals very heavily. I think that sometimes works to our detriment because we don’t run visuals that people need to see,” said Washington Post Picture Editor Bonnie Jo Mount. A picture is worth a thousand words. If you can’t see it with your own eyes how will you understand?
The point that Baptiste is trying to make is that the images were running for too long. Printing more and more images showed those who were not living there what the disaster really did. It also was a reminder to those who lived through it what they lost, who they lost and how their country stands.
“But if you don’t see it for yourself or in pictures, you won’t believe it. It just won’t register,” said Patrick Farrell, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist. “I’d say there were not enough images of Haiti; I would say you can never have enough.”