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Tuesday, 09 February 2010


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Awesome photos, gave me the chills!

Thanks to Mr. Turnley and TOP for presenting this. Photo #20 is really touching, really incredible.

A number of times, I found myself want to magnify a certain part of an image to see what was there: to look at faces in a crowd, to see what is being sold in a market. The extra detail available in the original photos seems like a resource that's untapped online. I'd to have a digital loupe of sorts while looking at such a great presentation of photos.

A landmark post all the way, Mike; and the pictures are truly moving, besides their technical excellence.

Just outstanding on all fronts...

From the doctors, to the journalists, all the way to the Haitian people themselves for having such a stiff upper lip in the face of such overwhelmingly miserable odds.

Thank You Mike and Peter.

Thank you for this presentation Mike. I'll need to revisit, it's hard to see the photographs through the tears.


If you think having more photographs is the way to go then a flickr search for "Haiti Earthquake" will give you 20,000 or so.

I though photojournalism was about quality over quantity and about editing the mass of information in the many into something more telling amd meaningful pf the few and succinct.

"I though photojournalism was about quality over quantity"

Yes, and it's also about giving photographers the space they need to present the edit of their work that they think is most effective. Let's ask Jim Nachtwey if he thought the four photographs in last week's Time magazine photo essay told the full story he wanted to tell about the aftermath of the earthquake, and then maybe you'll see my point.


Somehow I feel that the best photojournalism of tragedies is still most effective in B&W. These are pure color pictures, no doubt about it, and a few are only effective because of the color, but it almost "prettyfies" the situation.
As much as I admire and respect Peter Turley's work, I can't help wonderng what if these had been done 50 years ago by Gene Smith or DDD?
(PS, Don't think that I've seen ANY B&W photos from this event.)

I know these photos don't tell the whole story of the devastation in Haiti, but they certainly speak to me. Peter Turnley is a master at telling a story of pain and suffering with beautiful images. Thank you!

TOP-notch coverage, Peter. Thanks so much for presenting it here.

I choose to abstain from discussing the state and future of photojournalism in this article. I'd rather just let Peter's images speak for their subject.

Thank you Peter for your moving, excellent photo-essay.
Thank you Mike for hosting it.

For me, it is this kind of still photography series
that reveals the depths of this Haitian tragedy
because we are not panned past it at high speed
as we are in video news reports.
We stop at each photo, linger and begin to truly feel
the pain caused by the earthquake.

Peter and Mike, thanks for sharing (and Mike, BTW - yes, I _do_ like the format, but I am not one for sound bytes...)

To me, Peter, it is about the things you caught, the resignation, the religiosity, the daily struggle - and also the promise, as in the new mom's image.

But yes, not letting the media (politicians, governments, etc) forget Haiti

mike c

I don't understand how the question of quality v. quantity can be brought forth in this post. ALL of Mr. Turnley's pictures here are of very high quality.

Great series of photos. Very powerful stuff. If the rich nations had just contributed to Haiti's well being for the past 100 years rather than ignore their plight then maybe, just maybe, the death toll would have been significantly less. Haiti has nothing resource hungry nations want so they were easily passed over. Then again where do you draw the line when it comes to welfare for poor nations.

Brilliant work Peter!

The coverage of the aftermath has been significant with many great photojournalists creating images. Yet the true level of desperation of a mother and child seems much stronger . There is something truly special about your work . It is quite obvious to me that you are able to transfer your feelings into this essay.

I am very glad that you had the opportunity to create it and then for Mike s helping you share it with others.

They went from desperate to Hobbesian.

I'm not sure if this TOP posting is about the tragedy in Haiti and the people there - in which case these photos and the '20,000' on Flkr are worth looking at and thinking about and trying to help - or about photojournalism, ala Gene Smith, etc. - in which case these photos are open to another type comment. In thinking further, and I hope not stretching things too far, it's sort of like showing a set of pictures from the camps at the end of WWII and talking about the photographer. This ain't about photojournalism. Just my 2 cents.

@ Bill Mitchell: "Somehow I feel that the best photojournalism of tragedies is still most effective in B&W."

Perhaps true of European or Asian settings. But not here. Haiti is all about vibrant Caribbean color. Seeing such energetic, festive colors as a backdrop for such misery greatly strengthens the statement of these images in a very genuine, honest manner.

i am totally with Bill Mitchell here.. when looking at the images the colour didnt add any information for me. and the composition and light that Peter Turnley is seeing and capturing just cries "greyscale!" to me...
still, the pictures are very impactful.

Eloquent story telling.

Wow. This is both exceptional and exceptionally sad and Andrea Blum said exactly what I would have struggled to say. Thanks to everyone involved in getting this work out here.

Thank you Mike for the TOP presentation. It is a very moving photo-essay. As to Stephen House's comment: "I though photojournalism was about quality over quantity ..."
I would add to Mike's response, that this IS a quality presentation, done with enough photography to deeply convey the emotional impact of this tragedy, and stands as a testament to the Haitian peoples will power to carry on in the face of adversity.
What it isn't, is a presentation done in typical internet snippets and for that, I say thanks again MIke. this is what makes this site a part of my daily life.

The story lines are innumerable. Did Peter G. find his son? Did that bag of rice make it 'home' safely? What becomes of the Grande Cemetery once the rains come? What did we see and, take a stop watch, when did we see it? Then we look again. And again.

I knew Peter Turnley would get there to capture his account of the post-quake experience but couldn't imagine the depth of feelings these images evoke. Thanks to Mike for hosting and, well, Peter: "Carry on." We need you, our lens on the ground in Haiti.

Just superb.

A tip, just in case some people haven't discovered this: I've noticed previously that my RSS feed reader will show the 'pop-up' (i.e. bigger) version of the image rather than the smaller one you see on the website.

Normally this is a minor convenience, but both for the last Peter Turnley post and this one it is a huge improvement to read in the RSS reader.

Thanks for these photographs.
I agree with Andrea Blum. This series gives us essentially a number of stories on the earthquake. I think it more effective in communicating the chaos and pain than the coverage in news programmes with video footage, giving us every few seconds another scene without the time to ponder.
Gert Visser

Impressive work and selective focusing masterfully applied. Simply no comparison to tv reporters hangin'round the airport. Thank you for posting the entire series.

"To put you in context, the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti killed as many people as were killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that ended World War II, in roughly the same time frame."

Small, but significant correction: The people in Haiti were killed and injured directly by their dwellings, buildings and structures. A seven point earthquake should be survivable with mostly minor injuries. I hope that they can rebuild with better designs.

I've been wrestling with this all day. Please feel free to edit or moderate this comment out entirely, since I am obviously reacting emotionally!

These photos irritate me -- these could have been taken any day in Haiti during the last 40 years. There's no story in these photos beyond 'holy cow, there sure are a lot of black people in Haiti, and there's some busted stuff' which is a story that every sequence of photos we're seen has told, and which is a story that has been true every day for 40 years -- earthquake or no. This looks like a bunch of colorful, random snapshots. Some of them are quite good as photographs. As photojournalism, there's no there there, that I can see.

This is not really a criticism of Peter Turnley as it is a criticism of ALL the photojournalism going on in Haiti now.

Just thinking out loud here, but for instance: Can you tell me more about Bemur Lidthany and her baby? How about Jean Grousse and his search for his son? These are stories that I am NOT going to see on every single news web site. These are stories that are NOT simply 'Holy crap there are a lot of black people in Haiti, and a bunch of fallen-down buildings.'

I apologize for my tone, which I'm sure is wilder-eyed and more ranty than I want it to be.

I also direct your attention to: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/essay-13/ which probably informs my irritation far too much.

Most amazing!

Keith B: ..."Small, but significant correction:"

Wrong. Small and insignificant.

Leigh and Keith,
Let's not get into an argument here. Keith has a point: better construction standards would have saved lives. But Leigh has a point too: it is what it is, and a person killed by a falling building is no less dead. We live in the buildings that exist in our societies: most Haitians, just like most Americans or Europeans, don't have a chance to change the status quo. How many buildings can YOU change? I'm sure most Haitians would love to own a building, and I'm sure most don't. I didn't even specify the construction standards of the house I live in, and it's the only building I can come close to saying I own. Just because a tragedy is by some measure preventable doesn't mean it's less of a tragedy. Maybe the opposite, even (as was the case in China when substandard contracting in the construction of schools, together with the earthquake there, caused many children's deaths).


If you'll pardon me for saying so, I think you're a candidate to donate a month of your time in Haiti as a volunteer. Or even a week. You seem to find it easy to dismiss the suffering of the earthquake victims just because they come from a poor (even, yes, backward) country, and you seem not to see their humanity, just that they're black. That's your only real indictment of Peter's work here--he hasn't helped you to see that this is an extraordinary situation and that it has happened to real people.

I suspect you might benefit from some "time on the ground." Forgive me if you feel that's not appropriate for me to suggest, or if I'm not seeing more subtlety in your argument.


Haiti was a very troubled country already before the earthquake. To anyone interested in the reasons I recommend reading the comparison between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in Jared Diamond's book "Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed".


These photos are a wonderful balance between competence and giving the world an insight. Photojournalism must be a combination of both and these are excellent.

Thanks for posting Peter's photo essay Mike. I have a daughter in Haiti. She is the medical liaison to DART, Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team and has been there since the earthquake began (within hours of course). I am sure she has seen much of the devastation and misery experienced by the Haitian people who remain strong in the face of such a horror.


What contrasts. The sheer scale of the devastation and obliteration are difficult to comprehend, yet amongst the horror is joy in the face of the woman with the new baby. Learning to walk again, yet the expression of the woman with her arm just amputated. Prayers in the street yet so many coffins.
Great storytelling and many thanks for posting. Please ensure these moving images (and others of similar ilk) remind us that Haiti needs sustained help, not just in the immediate aftermath.

I was watching the story unfold and didn't think of the pictures as color "or should have been black-and-white". Peter has done a wonderful job in showing a narrative of emotion and spirit.
Thanks Mike!

Over and over I am overwhelmed by the "EYE" of Peter Turnley. I sat and viewed each image and felt the sadness. The horror of losing so many people so quickly makes for a loss of words. How much more can the Haitian people endure? Thank you Peter

"Thanks Mike!"

Don't thank me, really. It's all P.T.


These photos really bring home the magnitude of the catastrophe. Thank you

I've been to Haiti, and while I certainly claim no special knowledge, that's how it looked when I was there 20 years ago. An essay indistinguishable from this one save for the captions could have been done then.

The suffering and damage is, as we all know, staggeringly huge -- this essay does nothing to show that, which is in no way an indictment of the essay. This essay appears to be striving for something more intimate, and I respect the effort. It's a sound idea.

The problem, for me, is that the essay, in stepping back from the gigantic, the staggering, the mind-destroying horror, retreats too far and winds up completely unconnected from it. It looks like some nice photographs of Haiti and Haitians, with some funeral shots, and a handful of recently injured people.

I don't know how to solve the problem of doing an intimate photo essay, focusing in on the small and personal in the midst of a disaster, but (again, for me) this essay isn't a solution.

Again, I apologize if my tone is ranty or unpleasant, I mean no disrespect to you, Mike, or to Peter. I will take no offense if you assume all problems lie with the viewer!

200,000 dead in Haiti, and here we are, debating whether these photos would be more impactful in black & white. We Americans sure have our priorities straight, don't we?

There's only so much any photo-essay can DO. Even a powerful photograph, whatever that may be to you or mean to you, is still JUST a photograph. Is a photo better if it makes you cry? Is it worse if it's doesn't meet the same technical standards we expect from an arranged photo?
I think Peter-the-Photographer has done an outstanding job working with what he had to work with. These are real people genuinely captured during emotional moments, and they made me want to give (I have, and will more); made me think about religion and God and missionaries and prayers and whether Belief helps or hurts. Photos make you think like that.
There has been no shortage of photos of Haiti--it's been impossible to avoid them. Showing us more here is helpful and good because ultimately cameras are not just about glass lust and brandery, but about writing with light (or pixels?), and Peter did a great job with that. Good work, Peter, and thanks for hosting-posting, Mike.

Just wanted to say that these photos appear bigger (their original size) by default in my RSS reader than they do on the site itself. Here we have to click on a photo to see it bigger. Not sure if this is a limitation of the blog format but it does diminish the impact of the photos somewhat.

"I choose to abstain from discussing the state and future of photojournalism in this article. I'd rather just let Peter's images speak for their subject." Ken Tanaka

A discussion worth having, and we should.

"The problem, for me, is that the essay, in stepping back from the gigantic, the staggering, the mind-destroying horror, retreats too far and winds up completely unconnected from it." - Andrew Molitor

I understand what you're talking about, quite exactly. The last major story I covered as a newspaper journalist was the burning of Yellowstone National Park in the late 80s, and there is no way that photography can cover it: you take a picture, and you get burning trees. The story wasn't burning trees, it was millions of burning trees. How do you take a picture of millions of burning trees? You can't -- if you back up, or fly over it, all you get is smoke.

Turnley faced the same problem -- dead and injured people in Haiti is hardly something new. Two hundred thousand dead and injured? That's appalling, almost beyond belief, but, how do you photograph it? This is one situation where photos and words have to support each other -- each is greatly enhanced by the other.

That said, there are some great statements among this work.


another images from hell:


Hi Mike, re: your phrasing, ''The catastrophic earthquake in Haiti killed as many people as were killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that ended World War II.''

I'm sure the omission of the bombing of Nagasaki was unintended, but of course the timeline stands as follows:

Aug. 6, 1945 -- U.S. drops nuclear weapon on Hiroshima. (Estimated deaths 90,000-170,000)
Aug. 9, 1945 -- U.S. drops nuclear weapon on Nagasaki. (Estimated deaths 60,000-80,000)
Aug. 15, 1945 -- Japan announces surrender to Allied Powers.


There will be and have been many images but they haven't been very different or distinctive. For anybody that’s hoping to make a name covering such disasters, there are workshops going on in Haiti right at $1500 a go. Bring your money and your camera, leave your conscience behind. A lot of people are looking for adventure and pictures and are little more than a burden to an already blighted people

“Most photographers who come to Haiti are there to get the Pulitzer Prize, or to get a promotion at their job,” he says. “There’s only a few who really care about the country.”

Haitian photographer: Daniel Morel


It’s hard for one person to capture the sheer scale of such a tragedy, as a result most sets of images I've seen seem to be ticking boxes. I think a closer more personal study of one family's struggle to survive in the aftermath could be used as stand ins for all Haitians', the same could be done with an aid worker, a Dr or a Priest. I'm sure a photographer of Peter's standing has the kind of sensitivity needed for a such a story and I'm sure somebody will do it, but I've struggled to find it.

Andrew is closer to the mark than many may realise. His view mirrors my thoughts as I browsed the photos (I looked at the set first, then began reading the comments). But then I hail from Africa, and sadly sights such as these, sans the dead bodies, can be seen all across my country. They can also be seen any day of the year in India, SE Asia, South and Central America, but there is no "event" to hang it on.

Haiti is indeed a tragic disaster, but it was a disaster long before the earthquake struck. Perhaps if these photos strike the right chords with Haitians and their leaders it might not be such a disaster into the future.

I must say I feel uncomfortable in front of these pictures. I think that the opinion of Christopher Anderson reported on lensblog (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/essay-13/) is worth some serious reflection.

I offer no judgment on Mr. Turnley's work, but the essay & discussion in the NY Times' "Lens" blog about whether there are too many photographers in Haiti in the earthquake's aftermath seems relevant here:


And, btw, one can see 12 of Nachtwey's Haiti photos on the Time website (who reads the paper version these days!?):


I know, but the numer of casualties of Hiroshima alone is more congruent to those in the Haiti earthquake (both are approximations).


"200,000 dead in Haiti, and here we are, debating whether these photos would be more impactful in black & white. We Americans sure have our priorities straight, don't we?"

20 million dead in WWII and here you are, leaving comments on blog posts.

I have to say I've never understood this type of comment.

But to answer your question, I don't think it says anything whatsoever about the priorities of Americans--or anyone else.


Mike Johnston's moving prefatory essay is eloquently compelling and demonstrates a humane empathic resonance with Peter Turnley's remarkable photographic reportage. Nothing less than what this site has led us to expect.

Thank you, Peter, for such great work.

Thanks for hosting this photo essay, Mr. Johnson. And special thanks to Mr. Turnley for taking them and allowing them to be hosted here.

"These photos irritate me -- these could have been taken any day in Haiti during the last 40 years.


An essay indistinguishable from this one save for the captions could have been done then."

Mr. Molitor, isn't the real problem (from the photographer's perspective) about the nature of an earthquake? It is a generally unpredictable moment of violent chaos that suddenly hits a swath of land and then stops shortly later. How do you photograph "earthquake"? As you and others have stated, a shattered building with dusty and dazed civilians milling around doesn't necessarily convey the concept. It could just as easily be aerial bombing, a sinkhole, civil war, or an architectural failure. It could also simply be How It Always Is There.

It seems nearly impossible for serious photography to create something profoundly new in this situation. You're either in the right place at the right time (and learning quickly whether image stabilization is mandatory or worthless) or, afterwards, you manage to pick out and communicate a detail that relates to the idea of the earth shifting under our feet without our consent. Everything else is typically (though not necessarily average or common in a value sense) the documentary, reportage, and getting-on-with-our-lives style of photography. How many shots of cracked walls work visually? http://bit.ly/bAv2xF

As such, I think criticizing the above photo essay because it doesn't transcend what seems to be a very substantial barrier is criticism misplaced. Valid in a broad sense because we should always press for improvement, but still neglectful of the visual challenge the situation presents.

I want to be involved in the documentation and photography of these events in Haiti. I am a photography student at Texas State University and I was wondering if anyone had any information on places I can contact or work with, or where to stay when I get to Haiti in March? If anyone has any info, email me: [email protected]

Oh my word!!

This is photojournalism at its very best. The portfolio tells the large scale story and the individual photographs are just sensational. I have a dear friend, Roger Dunham, who recently studied with Peter and they are now pretty good friends. He has nothing but superlatives for both the man and his body of work. How, after this, could you not agree.

Woody Spedden

Mike, thanks for giving this amount of space to Peter Turnley's images of the Haiti catastrophy. Events like that shouldn't have to be pressed into singular images, but the attention span the magazines (realistically) calculate with will probably not allow an in-depth coverage, even less an individual view.

What I found interesting in the remarks were the references to b&w images, at least once labelled as 'better suitable' for this kind of reportage. I don't see this purely as a matter of esthetics. Of course you can better abstract when leaving color aside, but this abstraction in the true sense also allows a distancing of the own feelings from the scenery in the image. In Peter's images, many details are so very familiar for us, and now they are shown in the context of such an incredible disaster. They come at us, haunting, at least at me, and this is when an understandable reaction would wish for more distance: this is "their" catastrophy, this is "their" plight.

In this way Peter Turnley's images are powerful in a very subtle way, differently from the Nachtwey images chosen for print/display in Time Magazine.

Great work, Peter. When I heard of the quake, I wondered if you would make the trek to Haiti, and...sure enough. Very well done. Let's hope that in a few weeks we all have not forgotten about the devastation down there.


you have brought your humanism, your dedication and your love to this work. these are brilliant images that tell a story that is long from over. thank you for keeping the thoughts of Haiti alive. thank you for reminding us that there is still a long road ahead.

your work continues to be amazing.

very touching...

This series of photos work like all the rest of Mr. Turnley's photos work because of his immense talent and sense of humanity. It is gratifying to see so many comments on both sides of the issue, those who criticize and those who praise. Those who negatively criticize the work should not just complain, they should either suggest something better or go and do something better. Only then will they have the proper credibility to pontificate. Sure Haiti has been a disgrace for decades. Eventually something happened that points out to all of us our responsibility and complicity in letting such a deplorable situation exist in our neighborhood. Mr. Turnley has made the effort to bring the consequences of our neglect and self absorption front and center. We should praise him and be thankful for such a person to do this for us.

Great job bringing images to us please continue to capture off the beaten path.


Your photographs are both tragic and beautiful...you have captured the horrors in Haiti with empathy. Thank you for sharing your images.


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