The Road to Croix-des-Bouquets
This was our first journey into Croix-des-Bouquets before the clinic would be in full swing. It would end up being a longer drive, which gave me some time to think. And something stood out to me that's worth bringing up here. There is always a desire for a photog to "get the shot" but it can often come at a dangerous cost. In times of war, there is the very real risk of losing life and limb. And in times of crisis, there is a risk of exploiting other's suffering to further one's career. Much of this is discussed in ethics classrooms, but there's nothing like real life to test your metal and expose who and what you really are.
Often the assignment is to "paint a picture" for an audience entirely removed from a situation. And yes, much of the nature of that painting can be devastating to watch. But I believe there are times when the unfiltered truth must be seen to be believed, and once believed, to motivate others into action. Such were the thoughts that kept whirling around as we headed into Croix-des-Bouquets.
So many of the Haitian population are exploited photographically by others—perhaps well-intentioned—whom capture moments of devastation and give nothing in return. It's an age-old argument about the role of the photojournalist and whether they are permitted to interfere with their subject matter in order to influence an event. This was particularly evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, where numerous media outlets sent photogs to paint a picture of the damage and loss of life. And they succeeded in their goal. But the sentiment arising from the Haitian people is one of frustration, seeing so many "wealthy white people" taking something from them and leaving them in the exact state they are in.
I began to really struggle with what story I would end up telling and whether it would be unbiased. I was, after all, on assignment for an NGO and had an agenda to document their medical clinics. I was also a human being who felt the weight of the need in front of me. As I look back on this particular trip, I feel I've succeeded in my goal to fulfill my obligations to my client while maintaining journalistic integrity. But more than that, I feel that I can contribute something of more value to those whose lives I document. I can share their story with the world in ways that reflect unaltered truth, and at the same time, look for those moments that elevate them in their own eyes and in the eyes of the world as a whole.
There will always be things in life that break out hearts. And it is of utmost importance that we uphold the truth. It is also equally important that we always look to the things that unite us and share our universal human experiences—good and bad—so that the conversation never becomes one-sided, because the moment it does, it's no longer unbiased nor does it reflect the whole truth. And the truth is for every catastrophe that takes a life, another life enters this existence. What kind of picture will we paint for them?