Photographing earthquake victims

I had a couple of spats this evening, both on and off-line, over the ethics of an AFP photo from the Haitian earthquake. I won’t post it directly as it’s a little distressing, but it’s picture 5/16 on this BBC slideshow. It shows a girl, alive but buried up to her waist in rubble.

I tweeted that someone should ask the photographer why the hell they took it. This fell out of my general opinion that photojournalists shouldn’t be photographing in situations where they could be helpful in saving lives. And this photo felt like one of those times.

There are situations where this photo would be ok. If there’s a team of rescuers figuring out the best way to pull her out, and the photographer is no use – fine. But I first saw the shot at 7 this morning1, and the timing suggested the photo was taken in post-quake chaos, where it’s all hands on deck to get the survivors out. It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong, that I shouldn’t have said anything without all the facts, and that it’s a morally defensible image. It just seems unlikely to me.

There’s also the argument that imagery is needed to get the word out. Which is true. But you only need one camera crew…

Anyway. The ethics of photojournalism aside, it’s obviously a horrific situation. The Red Cross is the place to go.

Update: It looks like the guy who took that picture may well have been the only photographer around – the real disaster-zone shots on The Big Picture are all by him. All the Corbis images are here (warning: some graphic shots).

  1. then it was on the front of the Evening Standard, which reminded me []