Last night duckrabbit published a post criticizing Andy Levin from 100 Eyes for setting up photography tours to Haiti at $1500 a pop. Andy suggests that duckrabbit are ‘lashing out with out without hearing all the details’.
I’m just wondering Andy what those elusive details might be since we have the same access to the same information about this trip as everybody else?
Here is his response:
Thanks for the advert, interested photographers please contact me through the site…..I still have some slots open.
We are doing great things and breaking new ground, each day brings a new challenge and someone to help. Having photographed in Haiti since 1982, having just documented the destruction of Gonaives for Medicins san Frontiere and Next American City, and having been both in the water helping my neighbors and photographing Katrina, I have a great sense of how to work in disaster situations with sensitivity and responsibility for the victims.
I also believe that there are great stories around the edges of “ground zero” in Port au Prince that are not being covered and part of the workshop will be training emerging and even professional photographers in how to do stories that go beyond the pile of bodies, that we all feel is an affront to the dignity of the victims.
If you have some talent and commitment, and can make the financial commitment, which I am not minimizing, I think that this is a great opportunity to really learn about Haiti the right way, through working with the students at Cine Institute, by going with Zanmi Lakay to Cite Soleil, and working and supporting what I do. In addition I think that there are stories that can be found which are potentially publishable and marketable. In fact I already have interest from a major publication for one story.
I really understand your reaction, I know that a tragedy like this brings out all sorts of contrary emotions, from denial to anger, and often we want to lash out without hearing all the details. No one is forcing anyone to go, and everyone will make their own assessment of the relative dangers involved, as I trust they can……but I do believe that an educated photographer, a thinking photographer, a more human photographer is what we need. And yes, David, a more trained photographer which is exactly the goal.
As I said at the outset please contact me through 100Eyes if you have any questions or would like to sign on, we are looking forward to seeing you in Haiti at some time in the future.
Thanks Andy for your response. Anyone thinking about investing in this workshop might like to contrast Andy’s no doubt sincere comments with these by someone who has experienced first hand just what a bad idea its is for amateur volunteers to descend on just such a crisis Sarajevo:
People do know whether unskilled volunteers are a hiindrance or not. I do, because while these sorts of situations all have unique aspects, they fundamentally are the same.
We had such people show up in Sarajevo, during the war. They were – to a person – a great drag on life there for those of us without the ability to leave. Imagine this – the war means all utilities are gone. No gas, water, electricity, phone service, etc. Constant shelling means that a great percentage of living quarters are no longer habitable. Lack of easy access to the city means basic food and medical supplies cannot easily (or at all) find their way into town. In short, Sarajevo’s people are cold, dirty, miserably unhappy, starving, uncomfortable, sick, tired, homeless and psychologically drained.
But, above all else, most Sarajevans are hospitable and kind and have some class. So what happens when a good-hearted but idiotic “volunteer” shows up to “help?” My mahala (neighborhood) hosted some of these people, and I can tell you.
1) That person displaces someone else from a little corner of habitation and a humble little sleeping spot. In this way, they were a burden to us.
2) Those of us who’d been living through the war were accustomed to daily struggles. For instance, access to water necessitated a long nightmare of pushing a crude cart up and down steep cobble-stoned hills and across a river, in order to fill whatever one could with water. And then back again. Aside from being a torturous chore, this meant continual exposure to “open” areas where snipers would attempt to kill you. In my case, it meant revisiting the place where my parents were killed while waiting in line. This trip was also a tremendous expenditure of valuable calories.
We Sarajevans knew all this. Consequently, we went to the bathroom once daily (if that), because every time you had to flush the toilet, you were that much closer to having to make the water trek again. Our “heroic” visitors showed no such discretion. They often expected baths! (By way of comparison, I cleaned myself in the river.) Nor were the heroic visitors there to do something as “mundane” as spending half the day collecting water. So we made more frequent soul-crushing and scary trips. In this way, they were a burden to us.
3) Of course, they wanted to stay for months but brought food only for a couple of days. They didn’t have rights to Sarajevo’s meek rations (as they were not in the city by force), so we shared ours with them. They complained about the food – what we’d been eating for months or years with gratitude – and occasionally would spend some of their cash for black market goods, which they’d hoard for themselves. Then complain about the cost. They were an embarrassment to us. In this way, they were a burden to us.
The only things I (or anyone I ever knew) received from these sorts of people were the occasional article of clothing, or a weird treat like a chocolate bar. I was grateful for them, but a check to a helpful charitable agency would have been better.
Bear in mind, we adapted to the war over time. So we had an ability to “absorb” these unskilled morons with some amount of grace and humor. In the beginning, we all thought that – at the very least – these heroic visitors would go home and act as witnesses for what we were enduring. Later, we doubted this was so. I was once reunited with a self-described “freelance journalist” (no credentials, never sold a story) in America, who bragged to his friends about what he’d done for us (which was . . . nothing), and how much the trip had cost him, which was plenty. How I wish he’d spent his time and energy helping to raise funds for us, or simply educating others, or – most of all, just writing a check to the Red Crescent or a similar agency.
What just happened in Haiti was immediate. And they died so quickly – more than died in Sarajevo, and in a single day. These people cannot possibly have adapted to the “new” conditions there as we did in Sarajevo – they haven’t had the time. Believe me, their problem isn’t a lack of manpower (aside from those with very specific, high-level skills) – these disasters leave plenty of people with nothing else to do but try to help others. So, as much of a burden as unskilled helpers were in Sarajevo, they’d be a much, much greater burden right now in Haiti.
Everytime I see news of a large-scale disaster such as this, I have panic attacks. I know the desperation of the situation, how much help is needed right away. I speak French and even know a few Creole phrases. I have emergency medical treatment and gave aid to Bosnians injured and sick in wartime, under difficult conditions. I’ve got weeks of vacation time, money in the bank and a longing to help. My sympathy with these poor Haitians is boundless; I’ve experienced a lot of what they have, and will. So I imagine I’d be a fairly qualified volunteer, with a temperment founded in personal experience and a history of dealing with all the sights and smells of death and misery.
Will I go? Absolutely not. I’d like to; it was my first impulse. But I’d be a burden to someone there, somehow. And Haiti doesn’t need even a tiny new burden. So . . . I wrote the biggest check I could afford. I’ll save more lives with a shipment of shovels or some treatment for clean water or some powdered milk than I would spending twice as much going there. It’s just simple mathematics.
Tell your friend to write a check. Please.
And forktine’s right. Haiti’s never really been in great shape. It’s going to need you more in a year than it will now. So your friend can write a check today, then save up and go back in a year or two, when she will be a true hero. And that way, everyone wins.
spotted on twitter by Matt Lutton