A Thousand Words
Photo caption: William J. Clinton (background, centre), United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti and former President of the United States of America, gives an interview outside the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince as a child badly injured in Haiti’s earthquake (forefront) takes a nap.
18/Jan/2010. Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi. www.un.org/av/photo/
While the aftershocks continue to rock the rolled and crush Haiti, the International Medical Corps will remain long after the world public moves on to another crisis, having arrived there just 23 hours after the 7.0 quake hit. I learned about this group at Photo LA because of a book recently published called “A Thousand Words, Photos from the Field.”
Edward Robinson, associate curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Dept. at LACMA, moderated a panel featuring author/editor Stacy Twilley, six-time Picture of the Year International winner Colin Finlay, photojournalist Sara Terry, and Stacey Freeman from IMC, along with stunning images from the book, published in 2009. The current horror in Haiti hung in the air, underscoring the urgency and importance of IMC’s work.
Twilley discovered 25 years of photos in the files of the Santa Monica-based humanitarian organization that trains locals in basic medical care while she was a volunteer. From 10,000 photographs taken by pro photographers and aid workers, she, with the help of notable collectors including Richard Gere and Anjelica Huston, and museum curators, culled the collection to the most powerful, disturbing and haunting images that told the stories of 21 countries in crisis.
“I realized that I had stumbled onto an unprecedented account of history,” says Twilley. “I knew that more people needed to see these photos to understand the tremendously important work International Medical Corps was doing.”
Emotion won the vote, not who shot it. So the two-year labor of love melded the work of pros and aid workers with one-third shot by pro photographers and two-thirds by volunteer workers. The book traces the paths “from war, genocide, conflict, and devastation, to compassion, healing, resilience, and hope.”
Colin Finlay’s passion is palpable in the darkened room as his heart-wrenching images appear on screen. His voice nearly quivers as he speaks about his volunteer missions. “It’s all about building awareness. We’re not there for the money or a job. This is the job of being witness, to convey emotion, show empathy, compassion. And I wonder, am I going to be given a photograph? A person has to allow me, share that soul agreement, permission, to take the photo. That’s an essential energetic element, the engagement process. I kneeled before this starving man and he allowed me, without words, to take this photo.”