The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Challenged


General Culture, General Photography

You want to take a little time and read this article by Benjamin Chesterton (of duckrabbit fame). In a nutshell, Benjamin looked into a story done in Uganda by photographer Marco Vernashi, to come across a couple of very worrying, if not outright disturbing findings: Some of the photographs probably violate the UK’s Protection of Children Act 1978. What is more, the photographer persuaded the mother of a dead child to have her daughter’s body dug up so he could take pictures. He then interviewed the woman and afterwards gave her money. Yes, you read that right. Benjamin contacted both the photographer and Jon Sawyer, Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which funded and promoted the project. (more)

Sawyer’s response is short of being outright dismissive. In particular, I am struck by the following (quoted from the post):

“In general my view is that the work should speak for itself, and that we should avoid injecting ourselves in side discussions on blogs, especially on a project like this that is both highly sensitive and in the very early stages of presentation.”
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the work does indeed speak for itself, and that is why Benjamin raised these issues in the first place.

And the idea that bringing up violations of various laws created to protect children or asking whether a photographer should be allowed to pay for someone’s child to be exhumed for a photo of the dead body - the idea that asking very crucial questions is just a side discussion that should be avoided because the project is “highly sensitive”? Oh really?

I am not so sure this is the kind of reaction I would have expected from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.