Full Frame: Haiti's megaquake


Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers.

Only once I was home looking at images on my computer did I realize something: Every look, every expression is the same, it is the look of loss. I had spent 10 days in Port au Prince. Never had I imagined shooting a disaster of this magnitude. The smell of death was everywhere; there was desolation in the ruined streets.

Being in Port au Prince with a camera is to be a privileged witness, and it carries responsibilities. All of a sudden only one thing matters: to be able to properly convey the drama, the atmosphere, fear, solidarity and hope of the Haitian people. I am convinced that photography and the image has a particular power. It humanizes, well beyond words, the unspeakable tragedy and devastation that is the Haiti earthquake. (See the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake through the lens of another photographer.)

I’ve always been passionate about images and photography, but I didn’t find my way as a photographer until I connected this passion with journalism and the larger human story. I am increasingly troubled by the degree of inequality among people, and disappointed in the traditional media. But I am also convinced of the power of photojournalism, fascinated by the ways a photograph can touch someone. I made a conscious choice: I would use photography to speak of the human condition. Photography allows me to express my own personal, subjective vision. I want to dedicate my life to caring about people.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice the changes photography makes. Yet I remain convinced that powerful, authentic images allow us to see the connections we are often too self-centered to grasp. When a photograph opens our eyes in this way, we better understand and accept other traditions, cultures and people. And when we witness the suffering of people like us, we have a responsibility to share what we see with our friends and loved ones. Everything is connected.

Photography is above all a moment of intimate contact between people, an opportunity to share your common humanity with someone who may not always have a voice but always has something to teach you. It is a human medium. You put yourself in someone else’s shoes. A transposition occurs: you see what you have in common with a Masai, an Arab, an Indian; you see what these people have in common with you.

In a globalized world our neighbors are not only those who live next door. If you accept the logic of the “global village” for international trade, you have to accept the flipside: social problems abroad are our problems as well; we are inextricably linked to them. In my photographs I leave room for hope, a long-term hope for a better, more harmonious world.

About the photographer:

Renaud Philippe is a French freelance photojournalist based in Quebec City, Canada. He flew to Haiti and began documenting the tragedy 48 hours after the megaquake devasted the country. He co-founded the collective Stigmat Photo. A self-taught photographer, Renaud is very active in the local press and teaches photojournalism to Somalian refugees in Kenya and Bhutanese refugees in Canada. At 25 years old and at the beginning of his career, Renaud is deeply determined to follow his way and to make his pictures become a tool to awaken the collective conscience on social issues.