Haiti: beyond the rubble
Posted on 09 June 2011, 0:22
I went yesterday to the Tearfund photographic exhibition, Haiti: Beyond the Rubble, featuring pictures by Richard Hanson. It’s showing at Central Hall Westminster until 30 June.
I’ve worked with Richard a lot over the past 15 years on photo shoots with several of my clients, and aside from his brilliant photographer’s eye, it’s his warmth and ability to connect with people which help to capture truth and depth of insight in his images.
The exhibition brings together Richard’s photographs of people who survived the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and something of the stories of the people shown. The picture above, for example, shows three year-old Andy La Martiniere, who was playing happily with his brothers and sisters when the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince.
His right arm was trapped when a piece of concrete fell from the ceiling and pinned his body to the floor. Andy’s arm was so badly damaged it had to be amputated. The family were helped by Tearfund, with a cash grant that went towards their medical expenses.
But his father Louison says their needs are still great. ‘We have nothing at all. This time last year he had two arms. Just this morning I stared at him and got really sad.’
Richard spent a total of eight weeks in Haiti for Tearfund in three visits since the earthquake. It’s been one of the most complex disasters there’s ever been according to the UN, as 17 per cent of government people were killed and the reconstruction has been complicated.
The role of journalists and photographers often verged on the pastoral, Richard told me. ‘Everybody had lost someone, so the problem was, who do you talk to? As journalists going in, there would be groups of maybe about 30 people around us, and people would be chipping in and telling their story. That was the first time they could talk to other people about what they had suffered.’
I asked him how the experience compared for shock with his other visits to countries which have suffered disasters.
‘It’s the weight of concrete that is most shocking. You can almost feel the weight of these buildings that have collapsed. The ones of three or four storeys which have come down into a height of about 10 feet. You just get a sense, standing next to them of how much force is involved. That lingers with you. Everywhere I went in Haiti I was always thinking, what is the way out of this room?’
Photo: Richard Hanson