Dec 19, 2017 in Review

The Disaster of Haiti

One should always keep in mind that every coin has two sides

When discussing the idea, problem or  issue for that matter,  it is important to always know  that there is more than just one angle to any situation.  The pas year was rich for all sorts of the tragic and devastating events all over the globe. Nearly each region and continent was affected my some sort of unfortunate event be it nature caused or handy work of the humanity. With the current level of development of the media every event gets a lot of attention some might argue even too much. On one hand the media is making their ratings displaying shocking images and footage of the things that should be kept private. On the other hand, those shocking images and overexposure of events helps raise money, manpower and other help for the recovery. And the line between those two are very thin and at times even invisible and it greatly shift with the country, culture and religion as different cultures have different views on the ethics. What for one culture can be sacred and  intimate can be considered normal for display of other. As an example I would like to take not that recent but great example in this case, the disaster of Haiti.

There comes the question of natural curiosity, how people exposed to the mass media react to these images. These five pictures are different in its nature People of different backgrounds and social classes will have different reactions to those. Certainly the image that  depicts dead bodies or injured person supposedly will have universal reaction from all viewers. Generally, people who have seen these pictures were shocked and moved to different extent. No normal person can just calmly look at the pictures and have no compassion for those who are in them. 

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Those images most definitely drag Americans away from their picket fence reality when seeing something gruesome like this. Good photography itself makes viewer experience wide range of emotions. And pictures of this terrible event made by professional photographers, most of the cases those get published in mass media, are even more shocking and traumatizing. Brutality of the pictures is undeniable and makes great impression on viewer.  And clearly images are bound to affect us in one way or the other. One feeling that will be common to all people would be shock and compassion, then depending  on personality it might be disgust or pity.

Another question that rises is how images of the earthquake aftermath influence our view on the event. Visual aid is very important to complete the mental image of the event, especially if  the person was not present there originally. If the individual is simply told that there was an earthquake in Haiti of certain strength they might not realize the full extent of the disaster.  And it is not just because the person is ignorant to the unfortunate situations in the lives of others. Pictures help us see what is really happening and how bad it is. "At the Herald, and at most publications, I suspect, we try to strike a balance, delivering not only what readers want to see but also what they need to see. We must act with sensitivity but, more importantly, our mission is to create a complete and accurate visual report. In this story in particular, images of death were inescapable. Death was everywhere," says David Walters, the Miami Herald's deputy editor-photos and video. This man claims that the most dynamic and graphic images made up only small percentage of all pictures published. (Emmett )

Viewing documental images this powerful and graphic we cannot help but fall under certain impression about the event. So when discussing if the shock value of the photographs we wonder if it deepens our understanding of the event or it merely sensationalizes it. I think it actually works both ways. These pictures not only show scary reality of Haitian earthquake aftermath, in a way they served as a marketing campaign.  Many people after seeing what is really happening and how bad things are there volunteered to help. Not only on governmental level, but on personal level people were willing to help, this was amazing. Those volunteers were working within their specialty, but also providing their help wherever it was needed. In case if the primary goal was to sensationalize the event, overexposure to the information on this event will lead to  further research and will deepen the understanding of the event. Either way it benefits Haitian community in one way or another, however, not without a certain cost. They have to pay with their privacy for the help they received and are still receiving.

With all the discussions of brutality and shocking content of images, came into question censorship questions. Revealing and bare content of the pictures, might clash with the level of preferred decency. Depicting consequences of such brutal disaster is never pretty and it is never decent.  There is going to be little to no smiley faces and on the contrary it will be mostly tears and suffering. And those would be the most decent pictures. With the event like this regular standards of decency make a huge shift in their standards in this matter.  Sometimes only through shocking the reader media can get through to them.  And this event made breakthrough  in the appropriateness of images published. "One of the reasons the pictures were more graphic in Haiti was that the 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," says Michele McNallywho works as assistant managing editor for photography at the New York Times, they sent five highly skilled photographers, amongst them Pulitzer Prize-winner Damon Winter, to cover this horrible disaster. (Emmett )

The content and source of the images naturally raises question if this images should have been published in mass media, for example  news papers, magazines,  available for  broad range of people. Including age and  occupation diversity. Publishing images like this in mass media should be wisely monitored.  These images are shocking for adults, what if little child will be exposed to those? This might result in great psychological trauma for child. Also the most shocking picture that I have here, the one where the man climbs up the ruins to collect dead bodies, it was wisely hidden behind disclaimer on the website. The US media is known for being very delicate when it comes to publishing disturbing images. It was clearly seen that after Haitian disaster they got over this issue. Many journalists confirmed that graphic and powerful photographs gave insight into the real depth of the tragedy and build foundation for support.  This  support included volunteers from all over the world,  financial donations as well as donations of  clothing, objects of personal hygiene for rehabilitation of unfortunate citizens of the island.

On the other hand, for many people those pictures clearly crossed the boundaries. Many people found viewing pictures of the barely covered dead bodies or simply bits and pieces of people insensitive and dehumanizing.  Which I would have to agree is. After all those people went through, even if they are deceased, their families have a right to privacy and having them caught at their most vulnerable moment   is not right.

However , this is one of those rare cases  where dead people can still help  injured and alive once. Publishing of those brutal pictures a brings in people amongst other feelings compassion and willingness to help, that will do a lot of good to the ones who are still alive and in need. 

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