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Illegal exhumation - A debate about Marco Vernaschi´s methods

I like to share with you one case that I think as a turning point in the debate of ethics in conflict and social photography in poor countries.

I´m referring my self to Mr. Marco´s Vernaschi´s story of Human Sacrifice in Uganda

I´m a brazilian/norwegian photo and video journalist working now in a documentary project in Uganda about Human Sacrifice for the Brazilian television network SBT. I decided to come to Uganda and cover this story for my television channel, after I saw the photo documentary produced by Mr. Marco Vernaschi, with support from the Pulitzer Center.

On January 25th 2010 a 10 years old girl named Babirye Margret was found killed by the police in the Katugwe village, with a part of the right leg and the whole left arm cut off. Three suspects including the caretaker, his wife and a traditional healer have been arrested to help in the investigations and later charged with murder. The investigations were conducted by Mr. Moses Binoga, head of the Anti Human Sacrifice and Trafficking task force and after the police closed the investigations the little girl´s body was returned to the family for burial.

The members of the NGO RACHO (the same organisation that was helping Mr. Vernaschi in Uganda) told me that Mr. Vernaschi was not present at the day the police found the body, neither he was present at her burial ceremony.

So I asked how could he than have taken the pictures of that case. They informed me that Mr. Vernaschi and his crew decided to go to the village where the body was buried and by means of payment and promises of help from the international community, Mr Vernaschi convinced the family to let him to violate the grave exposing the mutilated cadaver for him to photograph and film it. They affirmed that Mister Moses Binoga was aware of the case what I immediately decided to confirm. In my meeting with Mr Moses he confirms that he knew it and that he had a meeting with Mr. Vernaschi and the ROCHA´s members. I asked if this action was legal in Uganda and he answered that the action was illegal. I asked why Mr. Vernaschi and the members from ROCHA were not arrested and he answered that he decided not to do so and being wrongly accused by the international press community for obstruction of free press.

I exposed his methods in a debate on Facebook where several other journalists were enquiring him about this particular story. After that, Babirye Margret´s pictures captions were changed from the original caption; Jessica, a 12 year old girl, was first raped before being mutilated and killed in a horrific way. They chopped off her arm and leg, cut out her heart and removed her brain from the skull with a machete – to Babirye Mergre, a 10 year old girl, was first raped before being mutilated and killed in a horrific way. They chopped off her arm and leg, cut out her heart and removed her brain from the skull with a machete.

He called me as defamatory and promised he would come out with a series of articles that would prove that I´m a lier.. Today he published at the Pulitzer Center a series of articles. In his article, Mr. Vernaschi is just confirming everything I said about this case. Just that in his text he uses a flamboyant lyric. He promised help if the family showed him the body. And he says “I explain to them that this evidence will be crucial in several ways;” So I ask; What kind of ways? It is easy to be in front of a mourning, poor and traumatized family as the strongest part promising help that he cannot guarantee. Why is the evidence produced by him crucial? The case was documented before by local journalists. Crucial for what?
He payed for it. He just don´t say how much but I suppose it was a substantial value since he says “making sure this amount will be enough to hire a lawyer” choosing to explain like “the chief of the community ask me for a “contribution”. I’m a bit surprised, and I ask what this would be for.” With such engagement have he ever asked the lawyer´s name? I´m sure that a good journalist would like to have his contact and find more facts that could bring better light to the case.

If Marco Vernaschi´s ethical lines on how to document a murder turn to be a new trend, places like Bosnia could have their ground looking like the moon, with photographers violating graves after “visual evidences” of suffering.

My position is clear. I have no personal feelings regarding Marco, and I disagree with his working methods where he sacrifices ethical values in favor of graphic power. The girl had been photographed before by local journalists. He can feel that he is a better or more important photographer than the local ones, but it does not give him the right to violate a grave to prove it.

I have no personal feelings regarding Marco, and I disagree with his working methods where he sacrifices ethical values in favor of graphic power. We all, as humans will constantly face situations where we will need to confront our values and believes. Moralism and pre conceptions are not the best sources of inspiration during this moments, but ethics, respect and even admiration for the diverse ways of being are fundamental roots for good understand and criticism. Mr. Vernaschi sacrificed those values in profit of his story and to enhance the graphic power of his pictures. Good and denouncing journalism is a crucial element in the work to find this trend an end (not just in Uganda)

I also like to inform that The Pulitzer center was the first I ever contacted in concern with this case. I strongly believe that any person acting professionally in any field, has the moral obligation to expose fellow colleagues abusing their position in their own benefit or in prejudicial ways to others. I never received any answer from the Pulitzer Center but Marco confirmed that they forwarded my e-mail to him. I´m curious to see how their ethical opinion about this case.

A journalist´s work is public and its methods must be confronted publicly if necessary. At the Facebook talk I was not the first to criticize Marco, just that I have privileged information since I have been in the field where he was and presented to facts that I feel must be part of an profound ethical debate.

What do other professionals think about those methods? Is it ok to break the law and violate a grave to photograph a dead child? And if, when is it ok?? Why does Pulitzer Center stand behind and defend something that is obviously must be in conflict with their vision

I would like to propose a debate. I´m sure that Mr. Vernaschi would be more than happy to expose his thoughts here and to debate it with other photographers.

by account not in use at 2010-04-18 08:45:40 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

After reading all the information presented, I think Pulitzer Center or else someone authorized by the center, should confirm or deny the veracity of the facts herein. I think the issue is sufficiently serious and important to ascertain the truth of what happened.

This is not a dispute between two people, is a catharsis to the fundamentals of our profession and the boundaries of their ethical and moral.

In my opinion the main point of discussion of Mr. Liohn outlined here, is that as photojournalists, obviously must not overstep certain limits, and we can not distort, manipulate, or create a scenario,( premise which I believe would have to give in all our work inherently ) although this is the benefit of a higher order.

I sincerely hope that this whole affair does not fall into oblivion and serve as reflection for us all.

by Ricardo Garcia | 18 Apr 2010 10:04 (ed. Apr 20 2010) | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
Hello all,

I’ve been writing a post for www.adevelopingstory.org about Vernaschi’s work on this story for a little while now. I was of the misinformed opinion that these photos were not being funded by the Purlitzer Centre and I am horrified to discover that I was wrong.

The publication of some of these photos are in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That’s before we even start getting into some of the more disturbing details about how these photos may or may not have been taken.

I would be very surprised if before the next week is out these photos have not been pulled from Purlitzer site. If they have editorial guidelines they are either grossly insufficient or need to be enforced better.

Thanks Andre for the further information on this case.


by duckrabbit | 18 Apr 2010 20:04 (ed. Apr 18 2010) | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
In order to make this debate fair, I like to suggest that the persons interested to expose their opinions to visit the Pulitzer Center web page where Mr. Vernaschi published his article and to visit his own web page where his display his pictures.

The links are:

article: http://untoldstories.pulitzercenter.org/2010/04/uganda-babirye-the-girl-from-katugwe.html

pictures: http://www.photoshelter.com/c/marco_vernaschi/gallery/CHILD-SACRIFICE-Uganda/G0000x1HawSRNvQo/?bqH=eJzL9A0PdfYrTY8PSg4rMHULNSo2NS6vLEhyM_C1MjO0MjQwsLJyj_d0sXU3AIIKQ4_E8uAgv7LAfLUAkKiau2e8u6OPj2tQJDZFAEfQHDs-&bqO=58



by account not in use | 18 Apr 2010 23:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
I was curious as to which of the Univ Dec of HR was in violation.

the most likely seems this

article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

yet even then Im not sure if a corpse has privacy rights, since the dead dont have any rights- they are no longer seen as legally existing exigent entities. yes, many nations have laws forbidding grave desecration, and rightfully so. Now surely the family’s privacy was violated, yet according to the above accounts they allowed it- as did local law enforcement- thereby negating the charge that this was a violation of anyones human rights- privacy laws the world over only come into effect if the person’s privacy is violated against their will.

UNethical and immoral arguments may apply, yes. not having the whole story- and doubtful the public ever really will- judgment must be suspended.
using the DUHR as a guide is at best existing in a dream land- that document, while good in its intentions, is violated knowingly and openly by virtually all signers, not just the traditional “bad guys” you might expect. No one, including all Western Nations (even perhaps most progressive like Sweden and Norway) follow these precepts and apply them into actual law; indeed, the UDHR is routinely ignored by everyone except perhaps NGOS and politicians giving speeches. Not to say that the DUHR is a bad thing or an unworthy goal; but lets get realistic.
Something unethical happened here? It seems likely, but not certain. Its he said vs he said. Money exchanged hands, illegally it seems, so those most directly involved (families and law enforcement with legal authority in the case) were in total violation of both ethics and local, national and international law.
One question, once you remove the moral/ethical question, is this- yes local journos had photographed already, and maybe Marco and the locals are just as skilled or whatever. But realistically- its not about who had better images but who had the means to disseminate the images and the story, thereby creating awareness and hopefully pushing for change. Lets not kid ourselves- in this case, clearly Marco had the means to disseminate more (not arguing whether this is right or not or whether this is a good or fair thing- just stating that it IS a factual thing) there by making more of the world aware of the situation. Yes being involved with the Pulitzer Center helps this spread of the story. Even the controversy helps the spread of the story.
Removing ethical violations, who was more successful in bringing awareness of this evil, horrific practice to those who may be able to actually stop it, thru legislation, law enforcement, funding, etc ? Im not in any way arguing that Marco did right or with integrity or ethics, not arguing ends vs the means- which i think are crucial- just looking at the end result.

by [former member] | 19 Apr 2010 04:04 | New Delhi, India | | Report spam→
So tell me Eric which principles do you think its OK to break when taking photos?

by duckrabbit | 19 Apr 2010 09:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hi mate, you are binging some good points in the debate. I´m not prepared to make a legally technical opinion regarding Human Rights violation.

What I know is that an exhumation is a serious procedure and requires a long process before it can be done. Here is how the British government describes it.

- Exhumation is the removal of remains from a grave. Exhumations are generally rare and can be traumatic for the bereaved family involved. It is a requirement of a proposed exhumation that all close relatives of the deceased are contacted and sign to say they agree to the proposed exhumation.

It is an offence at law to exhume any human remains or cremated remains without first obtaining the necessary lawful permission. The person requesting the exhumation should be advised to contact a Funeral Director to assist them.
A licence must be obtained from the Department of Constitutional Affairs. The application completed by the next-of-kin should be submitted to the Burial Authority for authorisation.

If the person is currently interred in ground consecrated in accordance with the canon law of the Church of England, a Bishop’s Faculty must be obtained.
On receipt of lawful permission to exhume the body of a deceased person the Burial Authority will notify the Environmental Health Officer so that he can be present at the exhumation site.

Decency and safety

An Environmental Health Officer, and possibly a representative of the authority’s health and safety section will be present at the exhumation to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health, and health and safety regulations, are observed and protected.
The Officer in charge Registrar of Cemeteries / Bereavement Services Manager will oversee the exhumation and re-burial, or removal of the deceased.
The Officer will also ensure that:
the correct grave is re-opened
the exhumation commences as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy
the grave is screened as appropriate for privacy
health and safety of all workers is maintained, for example the use of protective clothing including masks and gloves, task lights and all other necessary equipment
everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person and to adjoining grave sites
the new coffin or casket has been approved by the Environmental Health Officer
all human remains and all the pieces of the original coffin or casket are placed in the new coffin or casket
the new coffin or casket is properly sealed and identified
the area of the exhumation is properly disinfected
satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains.
If the conditions of the licence or faculty cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation will not be proceeded with.

Of course this is in England and much of the technical and material procedures are not available in Uganda, but The Ugandan law and the police (Mr. Moses Binoga confirms it) also have their procedures and in this case they were ignored.

by account not in use | 19 Apr 2010 12:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Hi all, I have received some e-mails in private with people interested to know more about this case. I like to ask everyone to keep the communication here as the proposal of this post is to have an open debate.

I don´t think this case as a competition where one most loose for the other to win. this would make no sense in a open reflection about ethics.

Marco is choosing to maintain silence and this is in my opinion very unfortunate as he is the only person that can bring new light over his decisions.

I posted the case not to judge but as I insistently say to reflect about it. We can come out of it learning something.

by account not in use | 19 Apr 2010 22:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
It seems to me that sometimes it’s necessary to break rules to get photos and to get a story out. The typical example being taking pictures somewhere where you’re forbidden to do so – perhaps in a gold mine of child labour, or, say, in a concentration camp like Guantanamo Bay.

Then again, this one does seem to be a bit of an extreme case and extraordinarily insensitive towards the family involved. Perhaps the family would be the best judge of whether the trauma of the exhumation was worth the benefit of getting the story out (assuming that’s what the family wanted).

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 17:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
Bypassing government or corporate restrictions to uncover illegal or immoral acts is a valid journalistic enterprise. Asking a family to dig up the body of their dead daughter to make a picture of it, seems to me an entirely different thing. He could have photographed the burial site. He could have done a number of things. Should we now go about digging up bodies wherever we please because we need pictures of corpses to better tell stories? I’m astonished so few people seem to find this troubling.

by Nina Berman | 20 Apr 2010 17:04 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I guess I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here and not necessarily condoning what was done. But as far as I can see “bypassing government restrictions” is the same thing as breaking the law, just a nicer way of putting it. So you seem to be agreeing that breaking the law to uncover illegal or immoral acts can be OK?

You say: “asking a family to dig up the family of their dead daughter” is a bad thing, and I would have to agree. But the way of phrasing it is loaded. Was there any suggestion that he actually asked the family to dig up their daughter? Or did he just ask their permission to allow someone else to do it? Aside from any incentive, were the family in favour of it, believing for example it might help to publicise their daughter’s case and prevent something similar happening to others?

I don’t know the answer to this, and it must be hard to know where to draw the line. I agree it looks like a very insensitive approach on the face. But using emotive and (if I understood the situqtion correctly) inaccurate phrasing like ‘asking the family to dig up the body’ doesn’t help, IMHO.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
For me this isn’t about what is legal or illegal. It’s about respect for certain boundaries. In my opinion it is not OK to ask a family to dig up the remains of their buried daughter which is precisely what he says he did in the quest for visual evidence. Perhaps it means I am not as enterprising a photographer. So be it but it concerns me that this activity seems to be condoned. Would it be Ok for instance if a girl had been murdered and mutilated in London in some bizarre practice and a photographer who missed the burial came along a few hours later and said, please I need evidence to help your case. Can you dig her up so I can make a picture?

by Nina Berman | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I agree, if he actually asked the family to dig her up that would certainly be an appalling thing to do.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
But assuming Andre’s account above is accurate, he didn’t ask them to do that. Do you have other evidence that he actually got the family to dig her up?

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
His own words:

At this point I feel the barriers have someway gone and I explain it is part of my job to gather what a journalist would call “visual evidences”. Of the many things I have done in my life, this was among the hardest. Being there, out of the blue, in the darkness of this creepy night asking a broken-hearted mother to show me the mutilated corpse of her daughter, is one thing that someway changed my perspective on life. But that is another story.


by Nina Berman | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I don’t think anyone’s disputing that it was quite probably illegal (not knowing Ugandan law). I just didn’t like the fact that Nina was saying the family was actually asked to dig. I don’t think it helps to tweak the facts to fit the agenda, even if Nina’s conclusion is right. In the blog it seems the family were closely involved, and the burial had just been three hours before, but it doesn’t state that the family themselves dug her up. It says three people did it.

Personally, not knowing much about the project, I’m in two minds about whether the approach is justified. At the moment, I actually think that maybe it’s just about possible that it might be. But willing to be persuaded the other way.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 18:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
He asked the family to see the corpse. The corpse was buried in the ground. Who did the actual digging wasn’t the issue for me but that he asked it be dug up for his camera. End of story for me.

by Nina Berman | 20 Apr 2010 19:04 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
For me the illegality (if it was) is (almost) irrelevant. It is a moral issue. Does the importance of drawing attention to the story outweigh any additional suffering caused to the family. I don’t know the answer in this case. Perhaps it depends to some extent to what extent the photojournalist is a good one, does his/her job well and actually draws attention to the issues?

The issue is often faced when photographing people for example who are dying. Sometimes it may be distressing for victims to be interviewed and photographed. Sometimes they agree to do it anyway because they think that highlighting their plight may help counter some evil.

I don’t know how much extra suffering was caused by the actions of the photographer in this case. I think it’s conceivable that it might actually have brought the family some comfort, knowing that someone somewhere was interested in their plight. Maybe not, not knowing them it’s impossible to say.

I have a feeling that a lot of our distaste for what happened here might come from our own western sensibilities about dead bodies. A friend of mine had to drive is grandfather’s body home for a hundred miles sitting in the passenger seat of his car. That would be inconceivable and shocking behaviour in Britain.

But to me it is just conceivable that highlighting the issues – the practise of ritualistic and brutal murder of young girls – is more important than worrying about the niceties of whether official permission was obtained for an exhumation. And maybe diverting the discussion away from the awfulness of the crime behind the death into whether the means of gathering the evidence is tasteful for us, is undermining discussion of much more important issues. Maybe the girl’s family would be more mortified to know that we seem to be more hung up by the niceties of the exhumation than we seem to be about the horrible murder of their daughter, and the continuation of practices of ritual sacrifice in the region.

That’s my immediate reaction. As I say, I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 19:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
To Simon
“The mother and the elder chief talk, I don´t understand what they say, but then they consent to show me the body. – I explain to them that this evidence will be crucial in several ways; – Here is a very important moment. What kind of ways? A payment of a lawyer? The help from a NGO? The police would pay more attention? The international community? He never explains the reasons and by doing it he could put an end in all this.
Mr. Binoga from the police force against human sacrifice in Uganda, said that one of the reasons why he decided not to arrest Marco was the family´s concession. What can in the first place be easy to accept as a “Ok than!”.
But even if the family agreed or even if the family had suggested it, what is not the case. In accordance with an ethical or at least on the ground of responsibility Marco could say thank you I accept. But I need to have it cleared with the law first.

Everyone in this situation would be in a difficult position. What call my attention however, is that for what I see from him, from the debates I saw and the pictures he shows. He does not seam to be in this difficult position at all.
This case is very complex and deserve respect for it´s complexity and for the possible consequences of it.

Marco has accused me of trying to put him in a bad light, on the contrary I like to put the story on a better light because until now he has being terrible unlucky with it.

by account not in use | 20 Apr 2010 19:04 (ed. Apr 20 2010) | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
“at least on the ground of responsibility Marco could say thank you I accept. But I need to have it cleared with the law first”

As I say, for me it seems to be an ethical not a legal issue. Bits of legal paper don’t necessarily mean much in countries like Uganda.

For me what’s much more important is what the family really felt about it – whether they were misled in some way, whether they wanted the picture to be taken, whether they understood why it was being taken. Much more important than legal niceties and cheap bits of paper.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 19:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→

Why do we always have to think that the police or the government are against us?

In some case it us true. North Korea, Burma, Sudan are not easy places to work, but in this case I can ensure you that the police in Uganda is more than cooperative and that they are welcoming everyone interested to cover cases related to human sacrifice. And exactly because of it, I think that Marco acted irresponsibly. I´m not saying that the police would easy say.
Do you want to see the corpse? Sure? Let´s go. But they would give him good reasons not to and even guide him to the right place were to apply for it. The case was well documented by the local photographers and television and by forensic specialists including photographers. His pictures in this case could never be so important in the point of an exhumation and I believe he knew it. Therefore the immorality and illegality of this case are so close related.

It is extremely important to erase the myth of the good western journalist constantly fighting against the corrupt African police. This is (with a bold) fortunately not the reality everywhere. We need to fight the right fights.

More and more photographers go guided by the spectacular and not by the good feelings of having the responsibility to enter other people´s lives. They have no regards with the consequences their work represents for the people in the ground. I think the today´s moralism is feeding this kind of attitudes. The west does not really want to know the trues. We only want to be sorry for someone living far from our daily reality.

I´m sure that Marco is not the only one capable to use such methods. The blog culture where people with no editor competence go around publishing material that they have no means to verify is a major danger for the serious press.

by account not in use | 20 Apr 2010 20:04 (ed. Apr 20 2010) | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
I wasn’t assuming the police or government in Uganda were against exposing the truthphotojournalists, I wasn’t trying to imply that at all.

Having said that, and not knowing the situation in Uganda – it’s many years since I was there, but having worked in other second/third world countries, it’s usually the case that you have to pay something to get a bit of paper like this. If you pay, you get it, if you don’t you don’t. It can take weeks or months to get it anyway, unless you pay a lot more. Maybe Uganda’s different.

Would delay have made it easier for the family? I guess the body in the photo would have looked rather different.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 21:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
Ok, I understand you. But the what do you think would be the right thing to do?

by account not in use | 20 Apr 2010 21:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
I don’t know, to be honest, I don’t know enough about the subject, I was just giving my shallow reaction to the facts presented.

I suspect there is never a perfect situation in countries with rough administrative systems and imperfect protections for individuals. In fact, no perfect solutions anywhere. In some ways, I think there are advantages to countries where you can do things without red tape. Stories get told that wouldn’t otherwise get told. Diane Arbus’s pictures of inmates in a lunatic asylum in New York would never have got taken and highlighted their plight if she’d looked for permission, or if she tried to take them nowadays. Probably the photos would be regarded as humiliating for the patients. Who knows what happens in modern western institutions behind closed doors – Guantanamo the obvious example.

Maybe a lot of it comes down to the photojournalist, to judge the situation. Is he doing it for his own personal glory, or really to tell the story? Does the means justify the ends? Is the family involved really giving informed consent and want it to go ahead, or is he taking advantage of them at a vulnerable moment?

I don’t know how these questions can be answered except through the conscience of the individual. It’s a problem if the individual has no conscience or is insensitive, or is just seeking self-glory.

Will the finished pictures actually be powerful and get the story across and have an impact on the problem? If the end is crappy then it’s difficult to justify the means.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 21:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
The point in this case was never the legal aspect I think. The problem with Marco’s work reaches far deeper then just if journalists should “break” the law or not…its much bigger.
I have the feeling that modern photojournalism is much more about the image then about the content, meaning that everyone is fighting for the most dramatic picture, but seems to forget sometimes what he has to do to achieve that.
I understand that the competition is extreme and everyone tries to get on top of the heap, to get the award, the grant, the exposure. Its not so much about revealing a story anymore then of greating the most dramatic picture ( leading also to a completely scewed view of the world ).
Based on the information that I have Marco Vernashi might went to far. First I thought his interest might be genuine in bringing a story to light, but on the other hand he might sacrificed one of the main pillars of journalism: credibility. If there was a possible case of him paying off people to work how Andre suspects, where do you stop ? As a photojournalist I always try to work after the credo “if I don’t have it on film/memory it never happened to me”. Going back and trying to reproduce an issue which was already set to rest I think its first moral questionable and second not after the rules in my oppinion.
If I can’t get the picture because I’m too late…too bad. Then I either have to wait or find other ways of illustrating this issue. Of course everyone has his own moral standards and what is applying to me doesnt have to apply to others.
And the argument “it was covered by rules and he uncovered it” is not valid in my oppinion. If he would be there during the burial or during the time she was found, fair enough. But not going back to an buried body and examine it, paying the people some money how Andre implies and then mentioning in the statement on the Pulizer site that he was around when it happened.

Working in East Africa, if you like it or not, has some complications showing up at some engrieved peoples home as a white journalist exmplaining that by covering this story everything might be turn out good for the people. That is difficult line you walk along. If you raise hopes with people just that you get the image you want makes it almost vulture like because we all know that our work can barely live up to the expectations of many people on the ground.

by marc hofer | 20 Apr 2010 22:04 (ed. Apr 20 2010) | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Another point that crossed my mind is the example character for upcoming photojournalists. If this work gets a lot of recognition and people find out how it was done, what do you think will happen in the future when such acts are considered “alright” or “necessary evils” !?

by marc hofer | 20 Apr 2010 22:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Marc you make some very valid points, but:-

“If you pay off people to undig the corps to take a picture, where do you stop?”

Again, according to the account on his blog, he didn’t pay them to dig up the body. He was asked to make a contribution when it was over. Unless there’s evidence to the contrary, I guess we have to take it that that is true?

I think when discussing it we have to stick to the facts as far as we know them. Subtle distortions like ‘he asked the family to dig up the corpse’ or ‘he paid them to dig it up’ are emotive and don’t help unless there’s good evidence that those facts are true.

by Simon Crofts | 20 Apr 2010 23:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
Yes Simon, you have a point there, I made accusations based on Andre’s statement:
“So I asked how could he than have taken the pictures of that case. They informed me that Mr. Vernaschi and his crew decided to go to the village where the body was buried and by means of payment and promises of help from the international community, Mr Vernaschi convinced the family to let him to violate the grave exposing the mutilated cadaver for him to photograph and film it. They affirmed that Mister Moses Binoga was aware of the case what I immediately decided to confirm. In my meeting with Mr Moses he confirms that he knew it and that he had a meeting with Mr. Vernaschi and the ROCHA´s members. I asked if this action was legal in Uganda and he answered that the action was illegal. I asked why Mr. Vernaschi and the members from ROCHA were not arrested and he answered that he decided not to do so and being wrongly accused by the international press community for obstruction of free press.”

So I might have to say that my statement applies only IF this case that Andre brought to public is true. I don’t have a reason to mistrust Andre but of course I don’t have hard evidence to back it up. I don’t want to be responsible for libel. And you are right about my “subtle distortions”.

by marc hofer | 20 Apr 2010 23:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
I cannot find any reference to it online, but I seem to remember reading in Edward Behr’s 1978 memoir, “Bearings: A Foreign Correspondent’s Life Behind the Lines,” an account of how Margaret Bourke-White made a family dig up and rebury their dead during the violence of Indian Partition in 1947.

Or perhaps this is from Phillip Knightley’s “The First Casualty”?

In any case not then, and not now, do I think it would be OK to ask a family to exhume a body, unless the circumstances were so extreme that this might be their request, as other posters have written. They can ask you. You CAN’T ask them.

by [former member] | 21 Apr 2010 02:04 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→

by account not in use | 21 Apr 2010 09:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
Apart from the ethical boundaries for each of us will be different ( in which the conscience of each one decides ), more if the event had already been photographed from other photojournalists in the country; I think the other problem is the recreation of an event that already happened, created by the interference of a third.I’m not saying that is not lawful to do so, but the value testimonial is not the same, and therefore I think that moves away from the concept of photojournalism.

For me the question is that if we accept the recreation of an event even if the benefit of a higher order, that prevents us start paying for them, and recreate scenes in any country in conflict, or because we were not there at the right time, or because we failed to capture that moment?

by Ricardo Garcia | 21 Apr 2010 09:04 (ed. Apr 22 2010) | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
On this particular case, Marco just got carried away. Point period.
And his credibility takes a huge blow from that.
There was no need to exhume the girls body to tell his story, he has pictures powerful enough in this work to reach the audience…
I don’t have any doubts on the importance of this issue but there are several other ways to go about collecting “visual evidences” to show it.


by Armando Ribeiro | 21 Apr 2010 11:04 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Yea but it adds a bit of spice to the whole sad tale

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 11:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Journalism is not about adding “spices” to a story. It is about REPORTING it fairly!
Many cheers,


by Armando Ribeiro | 21 Apr 2010 11:04 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
No it’s not is is about the game we play and how we play it……..

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 12:04 (ed. Apr 21 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Ah! I see. So that is probably the problem…
To many players and not enough photojournalists.



by Armando Ribeiro | 21 Apr 2010 12:04 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Just for the record I think Marco Vernashi is a really talented photographer but both these readings make him no favors: Pulitzer Center Crisis in Ethics @ A Developing Story and TO STAGE OR NOT TO STAGE… by Jørn Stjerneklar
He should definitely shed some light over the issue.


by Armando Ribeiro | 21 Apr 2010 13:04 (ed. Apr 21 2010) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, but all ethics matters put aside, Vernachi was right on one thing : that his taking of the picture brought what happened to a much wider audience.

How many of us actually, honestly saw the pictures, and footage, of the burial taken by the local photographers that Andre is referring to ?

by [former member] | 21 Apr 2010 15:04 | | Report spam→
Well, but isn’t that the dangerous thing that happens. Sure, the local story is not going to go to the western audience if it wasn’t for foreign correspondents. That is not the point, if he should have done the story in the first place or not, i think.

THIS time it might have led to attention to one case, next time no one is even going to bother because everyone is going to think the stuff is not right anyways…that is the problem with putting credebility on the line. And it erodes the reputation of all of us. Now looking at Marcos photoessay about Guinea Bissau I just look at every picture and ask myself “is this really true”, I can’t help it…so what do you think a broader mainstream audience is going to do if they hear the rumours !?

by marc hofer | 21 Apr 2010 16:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Marc, the broader audience is tuning out the message….

by [former member] | 21 Apr 2010 17:04 | | Report spam→
You have got to have blinkers on if you think that the mainstream audiences consume essays of this nature.

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 21:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Face book is more mainstream, places like Lightstalkers are mainly full of “PJs” looking for work and keeping their egos intact. Better to respond in Facebook even though it is full of crap and hearsay etc and a diverse audience

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 21:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
I deleted my last post, because I don´t want to get personal, but sometimes it is really hard to see somethings. Sorry for that.

by account not in use | 21 Apr 2010 21:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
"""""""I deleted my last post, because I don´t want to get personal, but sometimes it is really hard to see somethings. Sorry for that.""""" Yea well that sort of sums up the so called debate and why Marcos doesn’t want to respond to stuff. The whole debate is about people jumping on and off the ship and living with contradictions…… contradictions within one self should be accepted not made into a battleground of egomania

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 21:04 (ed. Apr 21 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
I´m not jumping on and off Imants. I can tell you that I´m very much on and I accept the consequences of it. I do think that Marco is not paying respect with us. I believe that everyone here is trying to have a fair debate about this case. It´s not fair of him to stay behind the Facebook spreading inaccurate information like he has being accused of pedophilia. I have not seen it here and in no other post.

by account not in use | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
Marcos has been accused of all sorts of things of late, mostly it is hearsay. I am sure that there is a blog, or whatever that the pedophilia aspect has come up.

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
I could not find it, but I agree with you and therefore I decided to delete my post thinking that the fact can be true and I don´t want to be unfair.

by account not in use | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
Even if Marcos stuffed up somewhere along the line so be it, it happens and he will move on just as we have to. Too many so called PJs are over passionate and personal about the issue and that is coming from a group that insists that passion/personal stances shouldn’t override content…….go figure

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 (ed. Apr 21 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Imants. I agree that we all have to move on, but before we have to think and rethink about the fact. Are we going to find a perfect answer? No, there is no perfect answer, but I´m sure that this reflection can open new and better ways to make good journalism.

by account not in use | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
Imants, I’m intrigued, what has Marcos been accused of that is hearsay, or do you find him so unreliable that even the things that come out of his own mouth are hearsay?

by duckrabbit | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I am sure I stated mostly hearsay

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 22:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Oh, that kind of hearsay.

by duckrabbit | 21 Apr 2010 23:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

by Imants | 21 Apr 2010 23:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→



by | 22 Apr 2010 04:04 | Buenos aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Thanks Marco……….. reads like: time to move on,………yea but the naysayers probably won’t, their loss

by Imants | 22 Apr 2010 04:04 (ed. Apr 22 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Well Imants, It sounds like you put in into the “the world against Marco Vernashi” corner. But I think that is not true. The whole thing is not a personal attack on him to bring him down. Maybe the way the way he works, but thats it. Giving the complaint “oh they all just want to bring him down with their egos” I think doesn’t really apply.

But you said it actually right on the pulitzer site:
“……… mistakes are made and time moves on but the problems remain”.

And yea, Andy is right, no one cares apart from other photojournalists in the end ( but I do believe that the public would care if confronted with this issue, but that is a different story ).

by marc hofer | 22 Apr 2010 05:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
“oh they all just want to bring him down with their egos” who said that? not me

by Imants | 22 Apr 2010 05:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Thanks, Marco.

by eva mbk | 22 Apr 2010 06:04 | Tuscany, Italy | | Report spam→
Thanks for clarifying that imants, I just got that feeling by reading your last posts, but I was wrong I guess. No offense.

by marc hofer | 22 Apr 2010 09:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
All I said is that is the nature of the beast on places like lightstalkers and why some don’t post…….

by Imants | 22 Apr 2010 09:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Great to see the Pulitzer Center put out a statement. I think this goes beyond ethics. It goes back to the question as to whether as a photographer you want to have credibility as a journalist. A few, it seems, are committing themselves to award wining photo fantasy (a la Vernaschi) as opposed to journalism. I think the academic David Campbell expressed this really well in a comment on A Developing Story:

’There’s much to say about the so-called ethics of this story, and many above have said it. I certainly side with those who find it hard to comprehend how a talented photojournalist collaborated in the exhumation of a child’s body in order to take a photograph.

But, I think in the way the debate has unfolded there is also a danger of insufficient attention to what for me is an even larger and more damning point…what do Marco’s photographs tell us about the story? How do the photos contribute to the journalism?

I think both Marco and the Pulitzer Center have failed lamentably in their telling of the story of child sacrifice to date. Reading the text on the Pulitzer Center site (at http://www.pulitzercenter.org/showproject.cfm?id=157 you get no sense whatsoever of the scale or history or context of the issue. It ends with the claim that “nobody has done anything to stop the killings,” implicitly suggesting that coverage like Marco’s will be essential to making the problem visible.

But click on the links to the BBC in the left menu and you find detailed accounts of this issue that reveal government concern, police action and local NGOs at work. In an excellent story (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/8441813.stm) we even read, under the heading “activism,” that the “former witch-doctor turned anti-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela says he has persuaded 2,400 other witch-doctors to give up the trade since he himself repented in 1990.”

Given these reports, how is it justified for Marco and the Pulitzer centre to claim “nobody has done anything to stop the killings”?

If photojournalism is to succeed, it has to deal with the ‘journalism’ bit as much as the ‘photo’ part. Producing a series of black and white images of victims — while potentially part of the story — is worthless without proper coverage of the context. Indeed, in the absence of the context, those photographs could have the opposite effect from that intended.

The noted American photographer and Yale professor Tod Papergeorge reworked Cartier-Bresson’s dictum to say that “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough.” Both Marco and the Pulitzer Center need to get reading, starting with their own links.

by duckrabbit | 22 Apr 2010 12:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I’m not a fan of LS debates but wish to share this with you. This story has consumed so much of my time and I need to move on and get back to my own work. http://vigilantejournalist.com/blog/archives/1615

by Anne Holmes | 22 Apr 2010 12:04 (ed. May 7 2010) | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
The horror, the horror. I still can’t believe that Pulitzer knew this and yet put out a statement backing the project. Surely they must know once trust has gone the game is over?

Interview with Marco Vernaschi Retracted

This is written by Anne Holmes and published at the following link http://vigilantejournalist.com/blog/archives/1615

For those of you who check in regularly, you may have noticed that I have removed two posts on the subject of child sacrifice in Uganda by the photographer Marco Vernaschi. I took my time in making this decision and I believe that the details should be revealed to the public so that it is clear how I became involved in this story and what led to my decision to retract the interview. If you have not already read Mr. Vernaschi’s aricle on the Pulitzer Center’s website, please do so now.

Mr. Vernaschi is an extremely talented photographer. His photographs hit you like a ton of bricks. I don’t think anyone will argue with me on this point. However, the manner in which he acquired some of these images and the way in which the supporting data was related begged a number of troubling questions.

I interviewed Marco, first because I felt his work was strong and covered an issue that sincerely needed attention. But I also wanted to pose some questions to him because I felt that the captions provided on his archive made sweeping statements, which were either the result of a language barrier (Mr. Vernaschi is Italian) or of carelessness and/or preconceived notions about Ugandan society. His answers were unsettling to me, and I told him he might catch hell in the comments section, but since I had never been to Uganda and knew virtually nothing of the subject, I would not be the one to argue with him. The discussion I was hoping for never materialized in the comments, but I soon started to receive electronic correspondences from various people who questioned the context of Mr. Vernaschi’s work and his approach to his subject.

Then, on April 15, I received a mail from photographer Andre Liohn who was just returning from Uganda and had apparently uncovered some rather unsettling details about how one of Mr. Vernaschi’s images was acquired. I make reference here to a photograph that was featured with the interview of a 10 year-old girl by the name of Babirye Mergret, who was allegedly brutally murdered in a ritual sacrifice.

Mr. Liohn’s mail was difficult to read as he is not a native English speaker, and his motives were not clear to me, but he claimed that Mr. Vernaschi had asked the family of Babirye to dig up the body of their daughter so he could photograph it. I was incredulous at first but after further correspondence with Mr. Liohn, I was rather convinced what he was saying was true. Before jumping to any conclusions, however, I wanted to hear everyone’s side of the story.

I confronted Mr. Vernaschi on this issue and he did not deny that Babirye’s body had been exhumed, and, in confidence, provided a draft of the text that was soon to be published on the Pulitzer Center’s website that recounts the events of that fateful night. In my conversation with Mr. Vernaschi, I also noted a discrepancy between the caption on the photo of Babirye on his archive and the caption he provided me with the photograph for the interview. The girl’s name he initially provided to me was Jessica, aged 12. He excused himself for his carelessness in consulting a list of victims, and I made an adjustment to the caption. I did not think there was anything more to it than that, but now fail to understand how one could “forget” the name of a girl whose body you pushed a grieving mother to dig up in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, I contacted Mr. Moses Binoga, head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Department in Kampala and asked him to corroborate some of the claims Mr. Liohn made to me in his emails. We spoke first by telephone at which point he asked me to submit my interview questions to him in written format so that he could be sure he would not be misquoted. Mr. Binoga responded by saying that he did not wish to be involved in what he saw as a kind of jealous rivalry between two international journalists and that his main concern was helping his country to eradicate human sacrifice. The case was not closed in my mind, but clearly the star witness was not talking. So I waited.

I did not engage in the public debate that was exploding on Facebook about this issue except to relate Mr. Binoga’s response to my inquiry. I also needed to wait for Mr. Vernaschi to publish his final report on the Pulitzer Center’s website, and wanted to take the time to think things through properly. The draft Mr. Vernaschi provided me was rough, but clearly stated that the body of Babirye had been illegally exhumed, yet somehow this reality had not yet sunk in. I believe it came as such a shock that I was unable to properly process the information for several days, or perhaps I was unable to confront my own sense of guilt by association. I couldn’t reconcile the lovely gentleman I had had on the telephone and the image of a crazed journalist digging up a body in the middle of the night.

As soon as I read the article that went up on the Pulitzer site, I sent a mail to Mr. Vernaschi telling him I needed time to digest. Just as I was retiring to bed I received a mail from him asking me to make a note to the interview caption that Babirye had not been raped, as police had initially suspected, and then he asked me to delete a line which said that her brain and heart had been removed. At this point, things really started to unravel in my head.

I contacted Mr. Binoga asking him to verify the forensics data regarding this case. I knew something was profoundly wrong here, but I couldn’t figure out how exactly I should proceed. I wanted to be fair and not fly off the handle, but that required time. A colleague came to visit for a few days, so I took the opportunity to take a short trip to the country, clear my head, and discuss the matter with him. When I returned, I had a mail from Mr. Binoga who volunteered the following information to me:

According to official records based on the postmortem report, there is no proof of rape or removal of brain and the heart. In fact I made this clarrification to Marco when he sent me a raft of his report. I also made the following clarrifications to Marco, which i want you to take note, in case he ignored them:- • That the case of Babirye is still in court and the suspects are on remand and not convicted. According to Ugandan juducial system, capital offences including murder are usually concluded after one year. At a certain stage, the State Prosecutor will be required to produce evidence against the accused, then they waill give their defence before a final verdict shall be made. • It was very wrong to indicate that justice in Uganda is for those with money. The money he gave the mother was actually to influence her to allow for the illegal exhumation of the body but not for a defence lawyer over a crimial case because according to our juducial system, the suspects in such cases are accused by the State and not by the relatives of the victim. However, at a later stage the relatives of the victim may open up a civil suit against the accused party. I know he was misled by the Ugandan people he was with and thats why i decided to keep quiet over the same. • I wish to tell you that the situation of human sacrifice in Uganda has continued to reduce and very soon those opportunists may have nothing to lie about. From BINOGA MOSES

I related the mail to the Pulitzer Center, informing them that I was retracting my interview because I could not in good conscience associate myself with Mr. Vernaschi’s work, and asked them to also remove the link to my post on the project page. Mr. Vernaschi’s inability to get his facts straight and the horrifying manner in which he made this photograph led me to one clear conclusion: that the report on Babirye was deeply flawed, unethical, and I could not be seen as supporting such irresponsible journalism.

Moreover, after consulting a contact in Africa who knows a great deal about ritual sacrifice on the continent, I was informed that the case of Babirye Mergret hardly exhibits traits typical in this practice. The wound to her head is not made in such a way when removal of brain is intended, and indeed, Mr. Binoga maintains that the brain was left intact. My contact relates that rituals involving brain removal typically involves making a cut along the cranium in circular fashion with a very sharp tool, not a perpendicular wound made with a blunt object as we see in the picture. Additionally, the missing left leg and right arm would more likely indicate Islamic punishment for thievery rather than ritual sacrifice, throwing the assertion that Babirye was murdered in ritual sacrifice seriously into doubt.

Nothing surrounding this case holds water. Mr. Vernaschi was unable to stick to a story line, constantly changed the “facts” about Babirye, was very likely manipulated by Ugandan elements, and publicly confessed to something that is so hard to fathom, and so far from the ethics of journalism that I cannot comprehend how the Pulitzer Center ever allowed for it to be published in their name. I spoke with them at length yesterday and clearly they were grappling with the moral issues at hand. Late last night, they issued a public statement, which can be read here. They also removed the photograph of Babirye as did Mr. Vernaschi from his website. This is a welcome development, to say the least, but I suspect it will be difficult for them to live this one down. Everyone makes mistakes, yes, but such an error of judgment in editorial as well as human terms is sure to haunt them for some time to come.

I manage a small, insignificant blog with no remuneration and no time to properly take on the role of an editor. I naively assumed that Mr. Vernaschi, having come thus far in his career and being sponsored by an institute as prestigious as the Pulitzer Center, would have similar ethics to mine. In that I was gravely mistaken. When I learned of the exhumation I could only come to one conclusion and that was that Mr. Vernaschi’s report was profoundly unethical both in human terms and within the ethics of journalism. It pained me to “turn my back” on Mr. Vernaschi amid this polemic because, on the whole, my dealings with him have been genuinely positive, and I still maintain that he is a great photographer. His credibility as a journalist, however, has been seriously cast into doubt. I believe he truly felt that what he was doing was going to help bring attention to a very real problem, but it’s remarkable how easily we can delude ourselves when years spent covering violence makes the moral compass go haywire. Clearly he has a lot of thinking to do, and he will have to go to great pains to restore his reputation among his colleagues, but the western editorial world might overlook this issue just as they do so many others worth redressing.

I started this blog in 2007 and I am largely responsible for most of its content. Over the last year I decided to make this more of a community project, giving other photographers a space to showcase their work covering issues that have largely been ignored by the mainstream press. Taking on an editorial role has proved to be much more complex than I imagined, and I wish to apologize to my public for not properly vetting Mr. Vernaschi’s work. I wish also to express my deepest condolences to the family of Babirye Mergret. This act, this desecration in the name of journalism is beyond debate. It is immoral, perverse and cannot be endorsed, condoned or explained away by Mr. Vernaschi or the Pulitzer Center. What’s done is done. As you make your bed so you must lie in it.

by duckrabbit | 22 Apr 2010 13:04 (ed. Apr 22 2010) | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I am concerned about the use of the word “immoral.” Unethical, illegal, dishonest whatever. Lets leave morality to the Pope and Jerry Falwell……

by [former member] | 22 Apr 2010 13:04 | | Report spam→
Another note to the BBC Story…

the claim of the former “witchdoctor” that he might have killed 70 people during his “career” was declared very unlikely by Mr.Binoga and caused quiet a depate in the local media as well as the BBC.
And apparently the author raised concerns about the credibility of his source which was later on not mention directly in the broadcast.

This story seemed to invoke so much imagination with the journalists and editors alike that certain details just fell unter the table.

by marc hofer | 22 Apr 2010 13:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Marc, its very hard be critical of someone who is trying to expose abuse against children….its sad that all of this seems to be filtering out, and I feel for Marco, who I hope can overcome all of this.

There seems to be some part of the process of learning how to be a photojournalist that is really lacking, or that people are getting increasingly desperate for attention, which is probably the case.

by [former member] | 22 Apr 2010 14:04 | | Report spam→
Ummm, Benjamin, Duckrabbit or whoever, can you please make it clearer that these are Anne’s words, not yours….

by [former member] | 22 Apr 2010 15:04 (ed. Apr 22 2010) | | Report spam→
Good point, thanks Andy

by duckrabbit | 22 Apr 2010 16:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
i am being repetitive here because i have posted the same ideas in FB already. but for me it is a matter of being a good or a bad journalist, not talking about photographs.
there’s a tendency to find more and more photographers who do not accept the reality they want to tell about. they would like it to be different: more glamorous, more dramatic, softer… more whatever. and they do not know what to do with the –in their opinion– limited resources they find in front of them. they want more. sometimes we imagine situations for our stories, we foresee the pix we would love to have. but most of the times they are not there for us and we need to manage to get other different images that can tell the same message. and that’s how our job works or should work. it is not I WANT IT, I GET IT, unless you think you are more important than the story itself.
i do not know marco. but really… i am not sure i want to know him. we all make mistakes, but this is, rather than a professional one a human atrocity. and before journalists we are human beings.
of course, that’s only my opinion.
nina, i agree with all your opinions. thanks.

by lourdes segade | 22 Apr 2010 16:04 | barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
Thanks Mark, I was quoting David Campbell. Though I wish I had said it.

Joerg Colburg had now commented on Concientious


The story is also running on The Guardian website:


Interesting to see if American Media pick up on it.

by duckrabbit | 22 Apr 2010 19:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Sorry to keep posting, but whilst people write new stuff about this I think its worth it.

The best post on the subject is here:


Journalism.co.uk also covers it here, though as a news item, not a comment piece:


by duckrabbit | 23 Apr 2010 16:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
so much energy invested into repeating how awful what Marco did was. and while I imagine a lot of people think it’s necessary for all of us to hear over and over again where grave digging might be ethically problematic, wouldn’t it benefit the case more if this discussion detoured from philosophical into constructive? concrete examples of better work delivered to pulitzer’s doorstep?

by [former member] | 23 Apr 2010 17:04 | Copenhagen, Denmark | | Report spam→
Hello, just wanted to correct a reference i made above to Diane Arbus taking pics at a mental asylum in New York. Nina has pointed out to me it wasn’t Arbus. I was confusing with another photographer whose works i was looking through at the same time. The series I had in mind appeared in Life magazine and were illicit photos of a mental asylum called Philadelphia State Hospital taken by photographer Charles Lord.

I dontt think it changes the point of my reference, but dont want to leave the wrong attribution. Apparently the grevious error is causing harm to my reputation.

Talking of which, I think someone above quoted Robert Capa and attributed it to Cartier Bresson? Or maybe just my memory going skew wiff again.

Would love to participate further in the debate, bt I’m struggling tapping this out on a mobile as you can no doubt tell from the spelling (i guess causing even further damage to credibility) and expensive international roaming charges and trying to have a nice relaxing holiday abroad, so enjoy the debate without me!

Lord’s pics are well worth a look. Amazing that such things existed in the States – or maybe not so surprising.


by Simon Crofts | 23 Apr 2010 18:04 | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→
Philip Jones-Griffiths once said that the most important thing in a photojournalist work is exposing the “Why”. There is no point of showing disgusting picture because the normal reaction would be to turn the page, and the objective would not be attained. He said also that he prefer his book makes a reader to cry instead of making him go and throwing up in the bathroom.


by Marc Andre Pauze | 24 Apr 2010 03:04 (ed. Apr 24 2010) | Winneway, Qc, Canada | | Report spam→
Stark stuff from Charles Lord http://www.galerielux.com/?p=790

by Imants | 24 Apr 2010 08:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
I also like to invite everyone here to pay attention in another short part of Mr. Vernaschi´s article.

“so I push it a little further and, with their permission, I show them some pictures I took from similar cases I’ve been following through the past month.”

If you again visit Mr. Vernaschi´s web page you will not find any picture showing a similar case. At least not anymore. I like to ask Mr. Vernaschi why he deleted the picture MRV_Aedit (14).jpeg. This picture was documenting a second murder. Please Mr. Vernaschi, tell us the story behind this picture as well.

I also like to make a second observation:

Regarding Mr. Vernaschi´s web page, Child Sacrifice is not a rampant phenomenon anymore as he claimed so loudly before. How many more things does Mr. Vernaschi has to correct about this project?

The Pulitzer Center and it´s administration knows how many more. They just don´t want to come out with it.

After one week on the net, and a few excuses the Pulitzer Center Administration is only waiting everyone to “move on”. Please Mr. Sawyer. Help us to move on exposing everything that you know about this case.

by account not in use | 24 Apr 2010 22:04 | Nairobi, Kenya | | Report spam→
Please see my statement on Untold Stories regarding the Child Sacrifice matter, which includes a new statement from the Pulitzer Center and links to video interviews with the mother of Margaret Babirye Nankya and Richard Omongole, a Ugandan lawyer and former country director for Amnesty International.




by | 25 Apr 2010 19:04 | Buenos aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Why did Marco need to wait me to once again expose that he had 3 other bodies exhumed as well? I like to remind that I have being saying that i don´t agree with Marco´s “methods”, because I knew he was using the illegal exhumation as a current method in Uganda. The way he explains about how his decision to exhume the girl was so terrifying for him, is just not true, because he had done it 3 times before.

But instead to assume it, he deleted the picture that could incriminate him hoping that people would not see it. He says “Earlier this month I deleted from my website another photograph, one showing a coffin.” Well he is for once saying the trues here. The picture was sure deleted early this month… 2 days ago…… See more

Here you can see the day the police found the bodies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKsT7D-7rO8 Please not that the video was posted on 07.Jan.2010

Marco came to do this exhumation long after the bodies were buried. I just cannot understand how a photographer with the experience like that Marco have could commit the same “error” more than once.

I just have to think that staging pictures is for him a common thing.

by account not in use | 25 Apr 2010 22:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
Thanks Marco, can you clarify. Is part of your defense that you asked for three more bodies to be dug up?

by duckrabbit | 25 Apr 2010 23:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
So… big question: did the International Community rush to help? Was this lurid story ultimately a game-changer for Ugandan policy? I doubt it. While we argue and nitpick about who did what, other equally important stories are passing us by. Sometimes I think we as photojournalists have our heads so far up our own asses, we can’t see what the fuck our initial noble intentions were.

by Liam Maloney | 26 Apr 2010 01:04 | Beirut, Lebanon | | Report spam→
Also, it’s nice to see that Mr. Vernaschi has finally gotten Babirye’s name right. We went from Jessica, to Babirye Mergret to Margaret Babirye Nankya. The latter comes from the Ugandan newspaper New Vision which was pointed out by Helle Maj on April 24 in the Pulitzer Center comment section as likely being the correct spelling of her full name. Please, Mr. Vernaschi, if you’re going to dig up a girl’s body and pour hot oil in her mother’s fresh wounds, the least you could do is get her name right.

by Anne Holmes | 26 Apr 2010 02:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Anne , Barbirye Margret is mentioned in the police reports as her name , Nankya as the family name.
Marco had neither names and has no factual confidence to maintain his opinion.

by account not in use | 26 Apr 2010 06:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
“I think this goes beyond ethics. It goes back to the question as to whether as a photographer you want to have credibility as a journalist. A few, it seems, are committing themselves to award wining photo fantasy (…) as opposed to journalism.”

The honorable Duckrabbit wrote this. I am not taking
Mr. Duckrabbit to task here but just want to make the
simple point that it never goes beyond ethics.

When the conversation strayed away from Nina Berman’s
clear statement, lasar sharp in its simplicity, it
all goes in the ditch. Life is not that difficult
when it comes right down to it. Ethics can be a little
different for different people or different cultures
sometimes but definitely not always. Rationalize.
Equivocate. Obfuscate. That just clouds the fact that you
are in an ethics check mate. At 2am, after a few too many
espressi,and the truth comes for an univited visit, who
cares if you have credibility as a journalist if you do not
have credibility as a person.

by [former member] | 26 Apr 2010 10:04 (ed. Apr 26 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
’At 2am, after a few too many
espressi,and the truth comes for an univited visit, who
cares if you have credibility as a journalist if you do not
have credibility as a person. ’

Plenty do James, too many. Isn’t that the point?

by duckrabbit | 26 Apr 2010 13:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→



by [former member] | 26 Apr 2010 13:04 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
what a sad story.
I think this is an exemple of extreme inhumanity.
I reject this way of doing, we, as photojournalists, have to pay respect to the people we picture, without making a show of their conditions. I appreciated the words of Asim Rafiqui in his blog very much.
In this case I only see a horrific show that brings nothing to the cause.

by [former member] | 26 Apr 2010 15:04 | Rome, Italy | | Report spam→
“If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Sebastiao Salgado

I think we can tell a story without losing our focus on respect, dignity and humanity. It is up to our creative and storyteller skills to create an emotional impact and have a compelling story to share, to document a situation with the “Why” of that story and turn on the alarm signs.

As journalist we have to collect information, and as visual storyteller, we have to find ways our story will reach the greatest number and thus (perhaps) have an impact.


by Marc Andre Pauze | 26 Apr 2010 16:04 | Winneway, Qc, Canada | | Report spam→
In photography as in life, it takes a certain amount of faith to believe that your best is good enough. But it is.

by [former member] | 26 Apr 2010 18:04 | | Report spam→
The ethical questions have been raised and well addressed, but what I feel is at the crux of this specific case is whether or not Marco used exhumation systematically, as André Llohn so accuses.

I also think that we all make mistakes, mistakes that we learn from. Marco has acknowledged that he made a mistake. Now we are debating the limits of ethics in photojournalism.

by David Lauer | 26 Apr 2010 20:04 | Chihuahua, Mexico | | Report spam→
I think that we should leave this case as it is now. Marco and the Pulitzer administration have admitted their acts and decided to keep the project as it is.

I´m sure that photojournalists around the world know about this case and they are now digesting all this information. We all need to do it.

Today I got an email from a dear friend in NY, a dinosaur in photojournalism talking about cases like Horst Faas, Michel Laurant and J. Ross Baughman.

I don´t agree very much with he said but I understood that wee have to respect time and at the same time fight against moralisms.

I hope that this debate can be taken further than the internet. to a place where we can meet face to face to discover more about each other and to use it as a possibility to develop photojournalism.

Marco; you have being brave but unlucky with your way to accept your acts. You never needed the exhumations to prove you were the right person to expose Human Sacrifice to the world. I´m sorry you did it. I said it before to you and I like to say it again. I wish you wisdom.

Now I have to concentrate my self in the work I´m doing today.

Cheers everyone.

by account not in use | 26 Apr 2010 22:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
André, I’ll second that.

by J-F Vergel | 26 Apr 2010 23:04 | New York, NY, USA, United States | | Report spam→
Andre why leave it when people like you and Duckrabbit and A Developing Story and the alias etc willingly made all sorts of accusations good, bad indifferent. Your ethics are up up for questioning now. “I think that we should leave this case as it is now”…….. that smacks of I don’t want to play any more therefore no one else can play

by Imants | 26 Apr 2010 23:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Imants. Just to remind you that everything I said was confirmed by Marco him self. If you feel like you have anything new to increment this debate, please! Don´t think I will try to discourage you or anyone. Every new opinion are mostly welcome. I will be two weeks without internet. Hope to see many new thoughts from you when I get back.

by account not in use | 27 Apr 2010 00:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
I think that we should leave this case as it is now…… Andre calls this encouragement to post, weird way of saying keep posting!

by Imants | 27 Apr 2010 01:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
It is probably a mistake to weigh in on this
but in the interest of fairness, and having no
desire to defend anyone, I want to comment on
the unspeakably gory photographs of the scene
of the president’s assasination on a post on
another blog shared by Duckrabbit that seems
to have been edited from the blog.


I question the calibration of the exif files,
if an “analog capture” photog is allowed to
question almighty technology.

Hear me out:
The top photo, the alleged first made, has
the “shadows” of sprayed blood on the walls
made from the legs of chairs. There are none
in that room.

The second (Vernaschi’s) has one chair but the
2 “shadows” of blood. The bottom photo, allegedly the
last, has two chairs set where they could plausibly
create “shadows” or “stensils” for the blood
pattern on the wall. I am suggesting that the
sequence may be reversed and that we do not know
what happened. We were not there. Obviously
others went through the room. Evidence was
tampered with but by whom we will never know.

It is nasty subject matter but as someone said
before, Marco has plenty on his plate to deal
with but, in my opinion again in the interest of
fairness, no conclusions should be drawn from
these photographs. The police in Guinea-Bissau
have plenty to worry about though. Someone
contaminated their crime scene.

by [former member] | 27 Apr 2010 05:04 (ed. Apr 27 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
@Imants, it may have escaped your attention but it was only because people have written about this story that the Pulitzer Center have admitted that Marco had not one, not two, not three but four bodies dug up for a photoshoot.

I’m puzzled. What accusation was made on Adevelopingstory which is not based in the evidence as Marco presented it? Show me and I’ll be happy to amend.

by duckrabbit | 27 Apr 2010 07:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Duckrabbit and A Developing Story are you both of these? How can you be trusted, no name no nothing, duckrabbit initially stated things differently!!

by Imants | 27 Apr 2010 10:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Excellent point James

by Anne Holmes | 27 Apr 2010 10:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
@Eve, As you know I did not censor your comment. We closed the comments on the blog. I have been contacted by people from both sides of the argument who wanted to write more. In respect of your feelings I have now put your comment that you sent me by email up on the blog, so that you can have the last word.

by duckrabbit | 27 Apr 2010 11:04 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
So it seems I’m not the only one whom’s comments are not being published on the duckrabbit blog.. I tried to do so a while back when Andy Levin was being dragged all over the blogs.. oh well..

by eva mbk | 27 Apr 2010 11:04 | Tuscany, Italy | | Report spam→
Thanks Anne,

I just think that this is an incredibly
important ethical occurence in our industry
and that it is important to be fair and focused
in deconstructing what happened and what it all
means on a broader scale.

There is no need to conflate two different
events from two separate stories unless they
are definitely related and germane to the
central issue of the child’s body that was



by [former member] | 27 Apr 2010 12:04 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
last weekend, i wrote a long response, spent 2 days writing…almost as long as Asim’s post….and then, as events continued to unfold, on both sides, it increasingly grew more maddening, more profoundly discouraging and more heart-breakingly convoluted….and i gave up to publish what’d i’d written….

i struggled a great deal with the issue of the exhumation AND THE PUBLICATION of the photographs (i’m still awaiting a case when the photograph of a white, western child, who’d been abused/killed and subsequently photographed and whose body had been exhumed, outside of a judicial investigation, would have been published/countenanced), increasingly i’m left wearied by both the original act (a grave mistep of hubris and ethics) and the subsequent battering on the blog….

all journalistic images and reporting that have involved exhumation (at least that i know of) have been done outside of the journalist’s request for said exhumation, nor did they precipitate the unearthing of the body, and all photographs that i know of that involved the photographing of dead children were again done as on-the-scene depiction through war or natural disaster…for me, even the depiction of the child’s body is an act of post-colonial arrogance and not so much about the reporting of the story….if this were not the case, more images from the maming and mutilation and slaughter of children that continues in the West would also be reported, photographically…and yet, it does not….

but even the arguments now that continue to surface and post-factum quiries, for example the issue of Guinea-Bissau and a publishing/editing/redacting of conversations/emails, etc, all splayed out on the blogosphere, seems again to speak, to me at least, more about the need to high-horse than to get at the basic fact:

for me, regardless of the importance and necessity of the story, it was wrong to have the bodies exhumed outside the context of an official investigation and it was wrong to not properly consider whether or not the mother understood the future use of these images….has she ever seen them?….and why must we have images such as this to tell or to appease the truth of of the circumstances…

we’re a broken lot…

long after this has died down, there were still be a mother and brother whose cloven lives shall not be repaired and that shall remain with that awful truth….

we, each of us, should do better, and in the aftermath, we all should have done better…….

“It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.”-edward said

by [former member] | 27 Apr 2010 12:04 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→

I couldn’t agree more. Your measured assessments are always appreciated.

by Anne Holmes | 27 Apr 2010 14:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
For my fellow lemmings:


by Anne Holmes | 27 Apr 2010 17:04 (ed. May 7 2010) | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
What disturbs me is that after all of this, I have no more idea if “child sacrifice” is actually practiced in Uganda or not….

by [former member] | 27 Apr 2010 17:04 | | Report spam→

A third tragedy in this affair is just what you express. A fourth would be the painful irony in the realization that one of the most esteemed institutions of journalism is using scare tactics to curtail our freedom of speech on an extremely crucial ethical matter. Case in point: I posted a link to Marco’s response to his critics on my facebook page the other day. An artist friend read it and then wrote this on my page: “How Dare They!” Then he read the piece again and went back and removed his comment. When I asked him why, he said he was afraid some kind of legal problems could result. This was not the only time I received such private communications from people afraid for me or for themselves. If we want to get into the bigger debate here, this element cannot be overlooked. It’s beyond outrageous.

by Anne Holmes | 28 Apr 2010 00:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Hi Andy,

not to keep you in the dark:
Yes, there are child sacrifices in Uganda. The local media, out of whatever reason, hasn’t mentioned many cases lately and the police claims its because of their better organized programm to battle this issue, but general speaking the story in its core is real.

by marc hofer | 28 Apr 2010 06:04 | Kampala, Uganda | | Report spam→
When I asked him why, he said he was afraid some kind of legal problems could result. This was not the only time I received such private communications from people afraid for me or for themselves. If we want to get into the bigger debate here, this element cannot be overlooked. It’s beyond outrageous.
Sounds like paranoia or hysterics are overtaking some bloggers

by Imants | 28 Apr 2010 06:04 (ed. Apr 28 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Imants, I’m, not referring to a blogger here. I am referring to someone from the general public. The point is, most people don’t understand the law, so when you start using legal language to threaten people, the general result is fear.

by Anne Holmes | 28 Apr 2010 10:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Anne the general public are the bloggers of today………

by Imants | 28 Apr 2010 11:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
A fun fact about defamation cases is that it’s often quite easy to turn the accuser into the accused, which is why most of them never end up in a court of law. Here’s a thought though: I’m not sure it’s technically possible for someone to take oneself to court for defaming one’s own character, but there’s always a first for everything…

by Anne Holmes | 28 Apr 2010 22:04 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
My 2 cents. There was a much simpler and “ethical” way of getting to visually show the girl’s body IF he deemed necessary to do so: just to reproduce with due credits a picture by the local photographers in his photoessay. Simple. But in NO circumstances should you ever CREATE a situation in order to photograph it.


by [former member] | 30 Apr 2010 15:04 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
Jon Sawyer speaking at ethics conference: http://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/session-3/

Should be a proper podcast coming soon for those who missed his speech.

by Anne Holmes | 30 Apr 2010 19:04 (ed. May 7 2010) | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
But in NO circumstances should you ever CREATE a situation in order to photograph it……. every photographer creates a situation as they select what is included in the frame and what will be excluded. That coupled with personal prejudices, environmental/ethical/ cultural prefences lead to a pretty lethal cocktail. The closest thing we have to neutral are the static surveillance cameras.

by Imants | 30 Apr 2010 22:04 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Imants, I am sure you see the difference. Anyone should.

Every photographer is SUBJECTIVE in selecting what is included in the frame and what will be excluded. That includes with personal prejudices, environmental/ethical/ cultural preferences while ‘recording’ selectively WHAT IS TAKING PLACE in front of him/her.

Subjectivity is GOOD.

COMPLETELY different from above is to CREATE a situation.
CREATING or MODIFYING a situation is NOT acceptable. In ANY circumstances.


by [former member] | 01 May 2010 06:05 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
Often our mere presence modifies a situation or encourages people to play to the lens, which is another form of modification. But that´s not the discussion here, really.

I don´t know if we´re beating a dead horse yet or not, but I would like to think that Marco V. is giving very serious thought to what he did and why, and those of us who have read the news are questioning our own code of ethics in the profession, what our own limits would be. I think we should all try to make the best out of this sad situation, and hope that child or any other form of human sacrifice will soon be brought to an end. I also think that there is another side to the story, which has been alluded to: professionals competing for the best coverage of a story, the battle of Titanic egos. How much of that is true?

I can´t help thinking about the thousands of Mexicans who have been slaughtered without any formal investigations having taken place. We´re up to about 20,000 now. You photograph a hit, and you´re dead meat. That simple. So how do you cover a story like this? How do you make images that tell the story and inform public opinion? Just questions.

by David Lauer | 01 May 2010 06:05 | Chihuahua, Mexico | | Report spam→
NO photographers are selective……….. Makes no difference if the situation is created/ modified as in props or in the mind of the photographer the recreation is still there and the results reflect the attitude. What has the lens got to do with it, you are the one that brought it up. Photographers try to present a story, not the reality

by Imants | 01 May 2010 07:05 (ed. May 1 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
I’m also coming in late into this, but I’d like to defend Vernaschi, to an extent. I’m shocked, like many are, by what happened. The choice he made, in those circumstances, would almost certainly not have been mine. At the same time, I can try to understand where he came from. Maybe he didn’t do it to be a fraud. Maybe he did it because he was much too persuaded of his own importance as a witness, and of the importance of his testimony. Maybe he thought this compromise would change things. In other words, it’s possible that his only mistake was believing too much in what many here believe in.

by [former member] | 01 May 2010 07:05 | | Report spam→

“Makes no difference if the situation is created/ modified as in props or in the mind of the photographer the recreation is still there and the results reflect the attitude. What has the lens got to do with it, you are the one that brought it up. Photographers try to present a story, not a reality "

Presenting a subjective assessment of a reality. Quite different. Except if your goal in life is to become a CCTV. Your choice.


by [former member] | 01 May 2010 08:05 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
Actually, Bruno, you could consider that even a CCTV is subjective – its positioning depends on the choices of an operator, and so does the choice of images that you take from the feed. Thus, following the logic, the only possible choice is to accept that, since objectivity is impossible, it is time to switch the camera off. Or accept the limitations in the process, and aim towards the most transparency. And avoid the emo line and the associated blurry photoshopped black and white dripping mascara at all costs.

by [former member] | 01 May 2010 08:05 | | Report spam→
There he goes. Imants just committed Seppuku.

by [former member] | 01 May 2010 08:05 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
one has to be aware that all stories will be tainted, no harm there as long as there is an acceptance of the reality being recreated for someone’s benefit and at the detriment of others. The photographers very presence is an intervention in itself

by Imants | 01 May 2010 08:05 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Each of us should carefully consider what our opinions are based upon. We all know that media coverage – blogposts included – filters and edits. The speed of the web can be a pitfall and influential on the development of other people’s opinions. Often, people’s opinions are only based on other people’s opinions and on expectations about truth and right/wrong that have been colored by media coverage previously consulted. Bloggers should uphold journalistic standards of research and talking to all parties involved. For these reasons, I think bloggers should refrain from posting too soon, at a time when their rightful questions are not answered satisfactory. They should then dig deeper, persevere and perform true research journalism, especially in a case like this.

by diederik meijer | 02 May 2010 18:05 (ed. May 3 2010) | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
A writer for a well-respected magazine told me that they had an opportunity to use Marco’s work——but couldn’t touch a story as sensational as “child sacrifice” unless there were “two reporters standing on each side of him.” The more sensational the story the more responsibility to get the facts correctly, and without equally sensational stunts like exhuming bodies, or using blurred and confusing images, which can only be explained in captions. Shots of children in the streets, in jail evidence of child abuse by not of child sacrifice…..what is missing is some editorial control or guidance in all of this.

by [former member] | 03 May 2010 13:05 | | Report spam→
By the way, Imants comments are all true in a philosophical and purist sense, but serious allegations about “child sacrifice” are no place for artistic license….

by [former member] | 03 May 2010 13:05 | | Report spam→
Andy it is allegations that are controlling, distorting the piece and others ………..one has to be aware that all stories will be tainted, Remember all the Haiti workshop innuendos etc

by Imants | 03 May 2010 22:05 (ed. May 4 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
How can I forget Imants? But in this case I think that Marco should have come out a few weeks ago and simply taken responsibility for his own bad judgement and learned from the experience…..I don’t mean to pile onto Marco’s problems, but I think he needs to acknowledge that some of the criticism is valid.

by [former member] | 04 May 2010 15:05 | | Report spam→
Imants, with all due respect, we are talking about a
baby being dug up to be photographed. There are no
hairs to split in this instance. You are losing the
rainforest worrying about millipede wandering around
in the leaf litter.

I like your irreverence, mate, but choose a different
fight to take the piss out of. There is no irony here.
It is just pure nastiness, insanity to dig up a baby…PERIOD
(unless you are a detective investigating a crime).

I think we can all agree that it is outside the purview of
reportage photographers to exhume babies? May, I have a show
of hands? Unanimous?

Cheers from Borneo,


by [former member] | 05 May 2010 10:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Ethics are everything or we are nothing.

by [former member] | 05 May 2010 10:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→

by Anne Holmes | 05 May 2010 11:05 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Who’s ethics are correct yours James?…….the western world’s who are you to make that decision on ethical correctness. All that I am stating is that PJs taint story by just being there and make personal decisions on what is s right or wrong in their perspective, then there are innuendos without facts etc. I never stated that what Marcos did was right so don’t give me that shit that I did. I can look at your photos and say well what about all the things he chose not to include, why does there only seem to one side to his story etc. Maybe your impressions of China are way off the mark in terms of fair visual reporting etc

by Imants | 05 May 2010 11:05 | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Regarding the ethics question anyone that studied journalism should be familiar with something like this or this, it has small variations depending on the country you are but the core is pretty much the same.

Many cheers,


by Armando Ribeiro | 05 May 2010 12:05 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hi Imants,

Not-exhuming-babies ethics are correct. Look, I was
walking with Penan yesterday. They are not westerners.
A funny coincidence. They don’t exhume babies either.
I stayed with Kelabits too. Unlike the Penan, they used
to be headhunters. The funny thing is, they don’t exhume
babies either, not even during the time they used to lop off
heads. (I am not defending headhunting, nor will I ever
encourage a headhunter to exhume a headless adult corpse
to prove the practice continues, which I could have done
on the Indonesian side of the border in 1998. It never entered
my mind.) That is my point.

If you find a people, nation, ethnicity, etc. that enjoy or
regularly engage in exhuming the dead of any age, I still will
not give up my “culture bias” when it comes to this particular

Geez, Imants, you have me sounding like you!

BTW: In the real world, you have a point but that
is so off point here in this outlandish situation.
Start another thread for that but this subject is
too important to dilute. These other points are almost
quaint compared to the central discussion. That was the
other point I wanted to make.

Anyhow, it is better to air this out (on point) than not.
Armando is right.



by [former member] | 05 May 2010 13:05 (ed. May 5 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
James: Even if I totally agree with your position in regards that situation, in Madagascar, there is a ritual of exhuming dead body once a year for religious matters. It is not encourage by officials but still in practice. BUT that is another topics and has nothing to do with the situation that started that thread.

Imants position is, in my opinion, more a general philosophical rethoric on journalism and doen’t help much the important debate and reflexion that come out of that situation.

I’ll stick to Bruno’s intervention:
CREATING or MODIFYING a situation is NOT acceptable. In ANY circumstances.”

As I wrote it, I think we can tell a story without losing our focus on respect, dignity and humanity. It is up to our creative and storytelling skills to find ways of documenting a situation without losing that focus.



by Marc Andre Pauze | 05 May 2010 16:05 | Winneway, Qc, Canada | | Report spam→
James you are still accusing me of agreeing to exhumation of the bodies by Marco and that is a lie …….. in light of that I wonder about the credibility of your ethics in taking photos…….. maybe you better have a look at your own ethics in responding to comments on forums with your selective responding.

by Imants | 05 May 2010 21:05 (ed. May 5 2010) | The Boneyard 017º,, Australia | | Report spam→
Good points, Marc-Andre.

Imants, I am just playing with your head. I thought
you knew that. No offense, mate! I enjoy your comments.

Talk soon. I know your are a decent person and would never
accuse of that.

by [former member] | 06 May 2010 00:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
There are two paramountly important issues to this thread:
1. Exhumation of an murdered infant for a photograph.
2. The alleged tampering of a crime scene where an
the assasination of a head of state took place.

Otherwise, I am out of here.

by [former member] | 06 May 2010 13:05 (ed. May 6 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
My first remark on LS for months and it could only be

‘Oh the humanity…I have lost my voice. This is the worst thing I have ever witnessed.’

Yes I am equating this to the Hindenburg Disaster… this has gotta be the most fucked up thing I have ever heard. And really maybe, like the Hindenburg, the last credbility of our profession…

Regardless of anyone’s moral, legal or ethical viewpoint- what on earth can be said about someone digging up a body to ILLUSTRATE a story?

And don’t get me wrong- we might call ourselves photo JOURNALISTS but believe me all we are is picture takers and glorified caption writers.

When did anyone get so delusional about what they are doing to EXHUME bodies to make a picture?

And then have it backed by a pion of journalistic intergrity? And then debated endlessly by more educated and well read people than you can poke a stick at?

What has happened to this so called profession? It has become dizzy and confused with self agrandisement, it is now not about the story but the prize-winning photographer. Its about names and branding and authorship and WPP and all of the gloves are off because in amongst that cloying mass of photogs like pigs at the trough, back-slapping their way through exhibition openings ‘witnessing’ (Oh James I bet you wish you’d never said that…) atrocities, while sucking up excellent Chardonnay, it is now necessary to dig up bodies to ILLUSTRATE a story?

Will the next logical move be to actually shoot someone to death to provide a body to ILLUSTRATE a story?

I think there was a post about making up a name to suit photojournalists, like ‘a herd of cows’ or something like that… Maybe we truly are a ‘Wankery of Photojournalists’…

‘Oh the humanity…’

by lisa hogben | 06 May 2010 15:05 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
well said Ms Hogben.

illustrations vs illuminations.

i suggest those who posted in this thread read Asim Rafiqui’s post:


by [former member] | 06 May 2010 19:05 | New York, United States | | Report spam→

I do fully agree with what you write.

WPP and prize-winning do have deeply corrupt so many so-called photojournalists.

Sad state of humanity…

by Daniel Legendre | 06 May 2010 19:05 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
On a more positive note I am looking for stories for the next 100Eyes that deal with “home, housing.”
I know it is very general—I want to see what people come up with.

5-8 jpegs 1200 pixels across to: levin.pix at gmail.com. No graves currently occupied.

by [former member] | 06 May 2010 19:05 | | Report spam→
“Will the next logical move be to actually shoot someone to death to provide a body to ILLUSTRATE a story?” – Thank you Lisa, I have been wondering it from the moment I started to read about all this.

And yet, the poll result at the “Annual Conference: New Journalism, New Ethics” (link that Anne Holmes has posted above) tells us that in front of the question “Can exhumation for journalistic purposes to detail crimes ever be sufficiently justified?” 85% of the answerers think it’s POSSIBLY justified (and 8% says YES). I’m quite sure they’ll never convince me.

by Laura Larmo | 06 May 2010 19:05 (ed. May 6 2010) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Hey Laura, I would imagine that most people would associate exhumations in terms of finding evidence of mass violence as in war crimes. These would be legally sanctioned actions and not ad hoc manipulation of grieving families.

No-one will ever convince me that ‘cheque book journalism’ is a good thing and whilst there are photojournalists out there creating this kind of environment (paying people to dig up their kids mutilated body) to create ‘arty’ photos then well no wonder this profession has less credibility than used car sales!

Its not even that the act of exhuming a body is difficult and emotional enough in any circumstances, unless there is a damn good reason and that the body should be treated with care and respect in those situations, it is the idea someone would try and use a vulnerable family by even asking them to dig up their daughters remains to take photographs to further their career trajectory, is what I find quite repugnant.

Anyway I have said my piece, I am glad that Andre Liohn has drawn our attention to it and I hope that this kind of thing never happens again.

by lisa hogben | 07 May 2010 08:05 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Laura, that struck me as well, though interesting also are the terms in which the question was couched….

“Can exhumation for journalistic purposes to detail crimes ever be sufficiently justified?”

The photographic documentation of an official exhumation such as a mass grave uncovered, for example, would certainly be a valid endeavour, in my opinion. But what we are dealing with here isn’t just exhumation as a general concept, but rather the circumstances under which it was carried out, ie. illegally, on a lark, in the night, and at the request of the photographer to a grieving, impoverished, African mother (these are the circumstances surrounding only one case – - we don’t know much about the case with the three children, but for what Mr. Vernaschi briefly described).

I’m always wary of statistics…for example, what did the students study in class that day….ethics and cases in which exhumation is justified to detail crimes? We don’t know. How many people voted? We don’t know. Who voted? We don’t know. At what point in time did they vote? We don’t know. How many people actually read all the documentation surrounding this particular case? We don’t know. All these variables could affect the curve considerably and I would read that statistic with a big grain of salt.

by Anne Holmes | 07 May 2010 12:05 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Another tack:

I suppose another thing that has drawn me into this discussion at my
own peril, again and again, has been this sense of outright disregard
for right and wrong and then the dismissive response to it with the
exception of a few. (Can we suspend cultural bias issues for a second?)

Does anyone remember writer, Stephen Glass, the reporter for the New
Republic Magazine who ended up being a serial fraud after cooking up
sensational investigative articles for that magazine? He pulled it off
for a while. All he did was lie, by the way.

Then there was Jayson Blair who fabricated interviews for
investigative stories for the New York Times. He too got away
with it for a while and appeared to be a rising star with
these too good to be true articles.

They had the same motivation. Attention and fame through
sensational, too good to be true exposes. They became
shooting stars! The temptation can be strong and the
rewards sweet as long as the lies remain hidden.

What if the New York Times walked away from this or the
Republic did the same? Thankfully fact checkers sniffed
them out.

They were staff. We are dealing with a freelance
situation but the consequences of walking away
from this without getting to the truth are the
same. Maybe this alleged staged photo wasn’t.
Why not find out? Why not officially investigate?
If the image is legitimate, it will hold up. If it is
not…? Is the truth that scary?

by [former member] | 07 May 2010 13:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Sadly, it is as if no ‘right’ has been achieved by Marco Vernaschi’s story. Which is extremely tragic given the importance of the subject matter. Child sacrifice (shaking my head)…can people get any more insane or savage? Vernaschi is going to have a difficult time salvaging his credibility. As photographers, our reputation as journalists is everything. Our methodology is everything. Unfortunately, it seems that these days because so few photographers actually go through any kind of formal training in journalism, there is a more lax attitude toward ethics, a nonchalance toward verified information. As a result, what suffers the most is the stories and the people we seek to portray.

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 02:05 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia | | Report spam→
As you sow, so shall you reap……

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 13:05 | | Report spam→
I would just like to point out, in the interest of accuracy, that there is no evidence Vernaschi ‘paid’ for an exhumation.

@Will you are so right.

by duckrabbit | 08 May 2010 13:05 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
we have become so blinded and howled by our own ceaselessly looking selves that we have become in fact blind, ironically, to the lives often around us…..

but again, it does seem that all to often the essence of this story, the death of a child and the using of her has been buried beneath the failure of reason and compassion over a macabre dance of intellectualization and photographic aspiration…

photographing corpses, photographing exhumation within the context of either an investigation or a called-for witnessing (for example, the exhumation of the mass graves at Srebrenica which were photographed, or post-factum documentation for example after the death camps in German, Poland, Czch were liberated) are necessary but in no way do these resemble this case, not at all.

As i tried to write prior, this is not a question of subjectifying/qualifying/changing truth. Imants, it is true that each of us willing and knowingly changes/alters life/people/truth through the use of our cameras, including journalists. that is a fundamental understanding that MORE journalists and photographers alike your recognize and that conversation too must be a part of the understanding and negotiation of ethics. It has not often enough come up in the conversation, historically, and it should.

However, in this case clearly an ethical standard (as a profession) and (to me, in my humble opinion) a more fundamental barrier has been crossed. The story WAS manipulated and the mother was used, her grief was use to make way for the work. In other words, even if i believe that Vernaschi was genuinely interested in helping the children of uganda and this particular mother and brother, he lost sight of that the moment he ask or participated in the exhumation. The story did not need the child’s body and more importantly the story would, a priori, switch from the real truth (the death of this child) to the manufactured truth (a photographer’s story of what happened). In other words, once again the family is lost to the world and ‘importance’ of the photographer, even if that ‘importance’ is now involved with the questioning of the ethics.

I continue to ask a simple question: did the family REALLY know the use of these pictures, did they know why the child was exhumed? In the mothers anquish and grief, of course she would consent to anything that would weed out and assuage that profound loss. Again, it seems to me an heroically indifferent and compassionless understanding of both the importance of the power of the photographer’s role and wealth vis-a-vis subjects, and in particular people in moments of awesome suffering. This issue is more than the creating/manipulating of reality (which we all do and accept as the ‘marginal’ price to pay for using images to tell stories) and is far far different. The photographer here at the least willing participated in the post-factum exhumation of a child outside the context of any legal investigation with the SOLE purpose of gaining visual notoriety to the story. It was not only an extraordinary lapse of professional judgment but a depressingly numbing and disengaged reaction to the way we conduct ourselves. How could he not understand that that picture(s) and the information surrounding the photographic act NOT BECOME larger than the death of the young girl? That he failed to understand this, clearly, shows me that there is something profoundly amiss….

in many senses, i dont know who is to blame: each of us in truth. we gorge ourselves on a steady diet of awards and images…we USE suffering as a way to trump ourselves up…we fail to really consider others, thinking our stories are the stories which matter and help and change and in truth we’re still solipstically stuck in the throats of ourselves…period….

“Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks,
Ten thousand men that fishes gnawed upon,
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scattered in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men’s skulls; and in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,
As ’t were in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep,
And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by.”
—Richard III, 1. 4, Shakespeare

“The intellectual fads have affected successive generations of African intellectuals and shaped their thinking on Africa and the world, but have hardly provided viable inspiration or ideological sources for transformation which translate into the betterment of the quality of African humanity.”’—Kwesi Prah

“First it has been the external factor of foreign invasion, occupation, and control, and
second, the internal factor of collaboration with the external threat. Whether under
Western slavery and the slave trade, under colonialism and today under neo-colonialism, the two factors have interacted to the detriment of our being. The greedy Chief and other elements bred by the new colonial overlords, collaborated with the main external imperialist factor. The storm repeats itself, in a more painful way under neo-colonialism.”—Ngugui wa Thiong’o

“It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.”-Edward Said

And we are a howling and often hideously hate-filled creature, defined and defiled by our own blindness and acts of hubris, our own self-deceptions and betrayals, our failing and fecund fears. We who pledge ourselves as keepers of stories and tellers of tales so often fail and, it often seems to me now more than ever, have traded ourselves and our loyalty to those we have been entrusted by for some bottom-sea jewel that in it’s muck and moss have stuck us, tucked us awful and foul and lost.

I do not feel well nor at ease with all of this and it’s been with reluctance and failing energy that I’ve tucked all these comments and thoughts inside my head for the last 10 days. Be that as it may, I decided to add one more blog of packed and punched-out thoughts, if not as a writer and photographer then as a father and a person of this time.

I have wrestled with the profound shock of both the two photographs of Babirye Margaret, the story itself, the horrid and murky and seemingly Poe-esque details of the exhumation and now all the intended swelling of information and denials and switches and encircled madness that seems, like a raven’s call, to have encircled all of this. For what it is worth, generally, it it very difficult personally to question the ethics and the awareness of another person, but it seems a grave indictment to me on the profession and the spirit of this time that more haven’t been horrified. but it is a profoundly murky and troubled story that is still bound to our colonial and post-colonial hubris, for in the end, this story is larger than the death of this child and for me, that is one of it’s most forlorn and troubling aspects. That her death did and shall but again go unnoticed amid the miasma of detail and panning ideas that issue forth, that again once again a person, an African, shall be but fodder for wearied and paternalistic west, but this itself is a digression.

There was and continues to be an awful parentalism, an atrocious arrogance, when it comes to the West’s relationship to Africa and in some ways this story seems to be a kind of apotheosis of such awful parentalism: the dark, ugly, horrid africa once again, haunted by witch doctors and atrocity shows and yet even that cliche undermines the deep and profound suffering of both the mother’s loss and the child’s unimaginable suffering and I imagine will fail, but again, to help both the solutions and the knowledge (a deeper commitment to awareness) that works to the world’s, not African, but world’s, horrorshow of behavior and torture of children.

What is so obvious, so clear, that in our blindness and our inability to think clearly, seems to have been forfeighted and loss. Can any one of us imagine photographs of a child, recently tortured and killed, raised in Europe or North American be countenanced by any major newspaper or magazine or media outlet. Had a photographer been a part of the exhumation of a recently tortured white girl been supported by a respected organization, would this have even dived the photojournalistic community?

even if the question of whether or not exhumation is a cultural orientation or not, it is clear that that child and the mother’s suffering has become objectifying and transformed into fodder for both sensationalism and for attacks and counter attacks amid the blogosphere and profession….

in the end, photography is NOT IMPORTANT…and photographic stories ARE NOT IMPORTANT….what is important is the way we act the way we behave and the way we countenance others….

i am not even that interested in the question of what was staged or not even or what was done or now (pay, 3 exhumations, etc) because once the first barrier is crossed, nothing else remains for me to countenance….

that many of us still feel that our work is larger, that the stories we tell are more important than, often, the real lives inside….we exploit, always…with the hope that that exploitation will ring some goodness….

i cannot help of the gross and heart-tugging irony of the difference between AK’s compassion, love-directed important work and the honoring of him and those family in the Afghan caves this weekend and the ugly, bloated mess of this story and behavior….

that irony alone, should wake all of us up….


by [former member] | 08 May 2010 17:05 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
People seen to write about the child’s mother assuming that she was not able to understand the possible consequences of Marco’s actions…..it seem to me that some of us who are so for presenting a different view of Africa are making some basic assumptions about Africans that are not flattering…..for example, that the mother was incapable of deciding on her own if it was appropriate to dig up her daughter…..not saying that it was even appropriate for Marco to make the request at all, because I don’t think it was…but can we give any benefit of the doubt to the woman at all?

As far as the rest, we are in an age of propaganda in which it is increasingly difficult to have a voice. I have seen this in New Orleans after Katrina, in Haiti after the earthquake, and now in Louisiana with the oil spill. What has happened is that there are more traditional news sources, but far fewer actual reporters with the time and resources to research and do their jobs. The news cycle is becoming shorter and shorter, attention spans are shorter and shorter, and everyone is trying to cut through what amounts to a wall of Babel, trying to sort through a great amount of information and discern what is credible or not.

What is unfortunate is that journalists and artists have fallen into sensationalism and propaganda themselves to get their message through….and Marco’s techniques (exhumation aside in fact) speak to that. I have no idea how one might counteract all of this—and it may be a trend that is irreversible…and we will look back in 20 years and wonder how simple things were in 2010. I suspect so. :)

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 17:05 | | Report spam→
“In the end, photography is NOT IMPORTANT…and photographic stories ARE NOT IMPORTANT….what is important is the way we act the way we behave and the way we countenance others…”

Amen to that.

by David White | 08 May 2010 17:05 | Bristol, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Andy, I wouldn’t disagree with you, however, below is a mail I received from Tonny Muwangala, the Ugandan journalist who went to interview Babirye’s mother after the exhumation incident. My inclination is to follow and respect the perceptions of people native to Uganda rather than my own assumptions. So decide for yourself, but here is what he had to say:

Babirye’s mother never talked to me about being shown a computer. She howver says she was shown machines. To my mind, I thought this meant the cameras. She is a primitive upcountry woman, thats why the journalist found it easier to exhume her daughter even without her consent. She says she was shown some “Machines” and promised that they will be used to track the person who murdered her kid.

by Anne Holmes | 08 May 2010 17:05 | Lyon, France | | Report spam→
Anne, I would say you are correct…..

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 18:05 | | Report spam→

in no way am I patronizing nor colonializing the mother’s decision to exhume her child. She was in the swelling and horrid circumstances of the slaughter of her child. I neither, not at, judge her decision nor render her incapable of making that profoundly personal decision. it seems to me that AT THE HEART of this story is a gross and misjust behavior that profoundly borders on the continued colonist attitude of west and photographers towards their behavior. I ask you a simple question, please point me to one circumstance when a western/caucasian child had been photographed after their abuse/execution AND whenever as a white/western child been exhumed in the name of a photographic story…..and YET this was countenanced because of the attitude toward africa, generally speaking: that horrific, dark place….see Vice’s ridiculous story on Liberia…..

as Anne has suggested, the argument that the mother consented, in truth, i found suspicious…in other words, not only was she ‘used’ during a moment of grief (as a father i cannot fathom her suffering) but I cannot imagine that she fully understood the ‘reasoning’ behind the exhumation…and that HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HER BEING FROM AFRICA….it’s a simple judgement i made from reading Marco’s posts/interviews and the simple logic of grief…and the question i first raised about whether or not the mother fully understood how the pictures were used AND WHAT THE PICTURES LOOKED LIKE was NEVER addressed after my post….Let us accept that she agreed because of a need/hope that somehow the pictures would lead to the arrest/location of the murders, no problem, but the question remains:




again, it seems clear that this kind of decision was one of compassionlessness…it’s obvious that the mother had hoped that by allowing her child to be photographed that somehow this would help with the story….has it???


it has only become the story…

and that is the profound disconnect…

marco should have udnerstood that…he should have had more compassion….

it appears, to me, to be one of absence, vacuity, a failure to understand both the consequences of a decision and the relationship to the subject….and that is something i know that you yourself would not accept as a seasoned journalist….

remember our conversation 3 years ago: CONTENT/SUBJECTS over STYLE/PHOTOGRAPHS

the interview with the woman was enough to suggest that….

and again, just as damaging was the visual failure, the failure of imagination….that he needed these pictures simply shows me that, visually and ethically, he failed to connect to both the mother and to the circumstances surrounding this story….

as i said, why is it that we continually use to make good decisions and continue to heighten our senses…..whether the mother fully aware/agreed or not and i did give her that and allow for that, this does NOT explain why Marco felt the need to impose that act and that decision upon the mother…

as i said, not only an unethical act, but more profoundly a true failure of compassion and human connection…and while none of us are saints, it does remind me again how in a world trumped up by the need for outdoing others, out sensationalizing others, we have lost our own notions of what human relationships are defined by….

that indifference is what defined the colonial hegemony of africa and still defines the arrogance exploitation…

i have never Å“uestioned the mother’s decision (and do we know what that was?) but the failure of marco to udnerstand that he should NOT have put that mother in that cirumstance to make that decision, but the exhumation happened BECAUSE HE WAS THERE…..that is the ethical line that was broken….

but stories are not as important as how we think of others and how we behave toward and with others…

anne’s post makes what seem to me the most obvious conclusion….

again, the lament is that this will continue to be about photography rather that the face that but again another child has been killed….

maybe it’s the global festival/award crowd, maybe it’s the increasing insecurity of the profession, maybe we’re all brain-addled, who knows….

but that the clarity of the issues here are as easily felt is to me more a condemnation of the place we’ve all found ourselves in now….

that is a state of loss and numbness…


by [former member] | 08 May 2010 18:05 (ed. May 8 2010) | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Hi everyone. In Marco´s explanation he says that the mother is cooperative with him. I would like to see his films showing it.

I was told a different version where she explain that Marco was insistent and never respected her decision of not exhuming the body.

I have heard that many believe Marco was acting in good faith. I have no doubt that he was acting in his own profit. I´m not saying it as an accusation. This is my personal understanding over the facts I have found.

When I exposed Babirye’s case I was sure that Marco would prompt expose this and the 3 other cases in details all together. I was more than astonished that he never did it and even deleted the pictures from his original series. Why?

Marco has yet not provided any details about the cases of the 3 babies. When will it happen?

I have being without internet for two weeks and I´m sad to hear that the Pulitzer Center has decided to continue to back this project. The Pulitzer is in my opinion as responsible as Marco in this case and every serious photojournalist must not accept their behavior.

The money Marco received to produce this project should be paid back to the Pulitzer Center and they should guarantee that this money would be used to finance a new project from a new journalist. (not necessarily related with Human Sacrifice of course).

The Pulitzer says that they will keep the project in order to raise awareness over Human Sacrifice cases in Uganda. It is unfortunate that they use this as an excuse. Now we all know about human sacrifice. So it is now time for serious news papers, tv stations, magazines to send reliable journalists there to do a descent work. In Uganda I met at least two very good journalists covering this story. Among those I had the great pleasure to share some very good working days with Malcolm Webb doing a documentary for a major international TV Station. Even if Malcolm and I were both working for different TV stations we could see that we had more to win by sharing than by fighting. Marco in the other hand tried to stop me to come to Uganda from the very first moment. Again I ask, Why? We are still not talking about how he manipulated the RACHO NGO. Please, visit RACHO´s official Facebook page and try to find articles, related to their work in the field, the programs, the people, etc, etc, etc… The group is an outdoor for Marco´s work. After I contacted RACHO Marco him self posted in this group.


One thing that really scares me is when the Pulitzer Center says that they don´t have enough resources to do a proper editorial work in the projects they finance.

In my opinion it should not take much for you to ask why the project had to change the name so many times. They should be at least curious about it. Marco started his project as Human Sacrifice not as Child Sacrifice. Why did he changed? He said that it has to do with the fact that more children are killed in those acts. This is not true. I would recommend the interested persons to get the files from the police and you will find that also adults are victims, by the way more valuable because they are harder to find. Like a virgin 30 years old man.

I´m also convinced that the only way to fight against this unfortunate trend of Prize Hunting photo journalism is to boycott all those prizes, grants and blogs that cannot guarantee a serious editorial work. We should support award based in long term achievements, but who has the time to wait??? Some photographers has more prizes than projects in their carriers.

by account not in use | 08 May 2010 19:05 (ed. May 8 2010) | Mogadishu, Somalia | | Report spam→
Of course, Bob, I reject it……completely. At the same time I don’t want to vilify Marco any further, I don’t see him as a predatory monster— he thought he was doing the right thing, and it was a horrible lapse in judgement. He is paying the price.

But I would ask you to respond to my statement. Is is not true that the rules for both journalism and art are changing? Last week I was among hundreds of journalists looking for oil fouled birds, of which there were none to be seen, yet we knew there were hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the gulf thirty miles offshore……I joked that we needed to find a Pink Flamingo and cover it in oil. In other words, exhumation aside, has a concept becomes more important than “objective” reporting based on traditional methods?

For artists, journalism was once a no-go. Now it seems as if the lines are blurred. Again, art or news, digging up bodies is way beyond what we as humans can accept….but hasn’t there been a sea change in the way we are trying to communicate with a mass-audience?

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 19:05 (ed. May 8 2010) | | Report spam→

I agree that vilifying Marco serves no purpose and I have tried to write in the context of the lapse of judgment and concentrate more on this case, in some sense, as a metaphor for the the problems that I see in my own relationship to certain aspects of the profession. I waited a long time to write originally and never posted my original response after reading Asim’s blog post and I know for certain that you would never countenance that. On the same token, I have been saddened too with some of the more defaming suggestions and of which I just do not think it’s necessary to write about.

The rules for journalism and art are not changing. For me there are NO rules for story telling. however, there ARE ETHICS for how one should conduct themselves in relationship to others, especially if the end is to serve ourselves to begin with. This, for me, is the heart of what marks journalistic work. I’m not interested in the difference between fact/fiction as far as photographic stories go (i blur those lines myself and love both fact and fictional books/art/stories). But this is very different (the form of story telling) from the ethics of how one treats a subject for a story. No matter how i use myself and put myself into the public arena, that is my choice; but how i choose to use other people and other people’s lives and suffering is a very very different test and requires a different sent of ethics and awareness. I might watch pornography (or even make it) in my own personal life but i would not watch it in front of my teenage students. thus, we must separate the discussion of our own personal boundaries/ideas/challenges from the very distinct difference of how we use others.

They’ve always been there, it is just that we, the photographers, are changing. for me, growing up on a diet of both art photogrpahy and the images from Vietnam, i’ve never understood the ghettoization of either. they do operate differently, but both worlds are centered on the same task:

to speak out against the darkness of this disappearing live and to tell and share stories.

What is changing, however, is generally photographers awareness of what the possibilities for different types of work can be, long in the waiting. For a long time, I have never understood much of the way both the documentary and art work defines photography (as you know, i’ve been pretty vocal about this for a long time) and have been troubled by the easy way the work of photography (in all her shapes and forms) tends to create a hierarchy of ideas/rules/relationships. I think it is good that certainly the idea and awareness of subjectivity and deconstruction and conceptual relationship to story telling are finally making their way into journalism legitimately just as the importance and relationship to subject and awareness in journalism has streamed into the art world. As a photographer who has feet planted in both, i see this a welcome idea. However, I think my own concerns with the judgment here has no relationship at all with the changing landscape of the photography world in terms of the nomenclature of how to tell stories. far from it.

As Imants pointed out, journalist should be more aware of the inherent subjectivity and manipulativeness of their own practice. this awareness, i hope, should also help to photographers understand better and deeper their responsibility to subject and the nature of story telling. Shit, like chris anderson, i find the need to tell more personal stories more important, that if we begin to tell our own stories and to allow others to tell and shape and shift their own stories, maybe we could begin to get away from the idea of photographer as hero, as sage and the idea of subject as truth/other. None of this is related to the idea that a photogrpher made the decision (journalist or artist) to place at the forefront his idea of the story of suffering and than use the actual victims of suffering as a vehicle for that concept.

In truth, i’m no uptight cat and as a person that has worked in both the newspaper world and the art world, i fully support the pushing of boundaries in all sense, if the people involved in those boundary pushing are aware, or rather, if the photographer rejects their awareness at least be more honest in the initial suggestion of what/why things were done. It is feels profoundly troubling to make ethical claims against another colleague and, in truth, my disillusionment has much more to do with the pulitzer organization.

that being said, ballen’s work or boris mikhailov or araki’s work have played important parts of my own critical thinking, just as the films of chris marker and DuÅ¡an Makavejev or the performance art of Beuys, Chris Burden, Carolee Schneemann, Vito Acconci,Nitsch and the entire movement of Viennese Actionism have help to break boundaries of our relationship to story telling and what we do to ourselves (above all) and others….

however, digging up bodies within the context of journalism seems to be an unwiring of not how to tell stories to a mass audience, in the age of viral numbness, but of how addled our awareness has become….

concepts (for me) are as important as the story itself (as with writing, the form is equal to the content, often), but there was a failure of concept too….

hope that makes sense…

but as i feared, we’ve now all (including myself) turned toward a dissection of the story (and now it’s deconstruction, vis-a-vis conditions of story telling) and that IS also the problem: this became a discussion of intellectualization of the story, rather than the simple truth that a photographer used the vulnerability of a grieving mother to gain a visual shock that would promote the agency of the story…when in fact the ‘shock’ should not have been the depiction of a cloven young girl but the fact that a child was killed to begin with

we did not need that picture(s) to horrify us…and if we did, fucking shame on us….

that is my lamentation…and i only wish it had not happened to begin with….

….and what is clear is that there is a mother and a young brother who will forever have to bare the weight of the loss of a 16 year old girl who should NOT have been part of the story as a simple object of a forensic reclamation by a photographer…

her death and the life that was cut off and the mother and brother’s life, are what mattered…not the picture of a corpse excavated…

that is a failure of both understanding and story telling and yes, for me, ethical responsibility to that child and her family…

and i mean that will all due respect to Marco

p.s. i do like the idea of the pink flamingo….we need more Waters in the world of journalism, for sure….not award ceremonies and festivals….

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 21:05 (ed. May 8 2010) | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
I think we are falling into a to deeply philosophical discussion here, as the core of this issue remains on the Ethics.

I posted earlier a link for this, now I post the full text version to see if we get it straight.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands of
writers, editors and other news professionals. The present version of
the code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months
of study and debate among the Society’s members.

Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible. — Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing. — Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. — Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises. — Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context. — Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations. — Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it. — Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story — Never plagiarize. — Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so. — Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others. — Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status. — Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant. — Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid. — Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context. — Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. — Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects. — Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief. — Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance. — Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy. — Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. — Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes. — Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges. — Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Journalists should:

—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. — Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity. — Disclose unavoidable conflicts. — Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. — Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage. — Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:

— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct. — Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media. — Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. — Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media. — Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

by Armando Ribeiro | 08 May 2010 22:05 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Bob: couldn’t agree more with “we did not need that picture(s) to horrify us…and if we did, fucking shame on us….”

Reporting is in fact a quite simple activity. And it’s main ingredient is trust and being trustworthy.

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 23:05 | Phnom Penh, Centre of the Univ, Cambodia | | Report spam→
You are right Armando. Admit mistakes and correct them promptly…..that was what Pulitzer needed to do and failed abjectly.

by [former member] | 08 May 2010 23:05 | | Report spam→
I think one thing overlooked is a new positive coming to light here.
A photographer/journalist/fixer friend from Mozambique wrote me about
a year ago complaining that a western photojournalist had contacted
him for help on a story in that country, basically lifted his story,
called it his own and left my friend in the dust.

This is now harder to do. People are now better connected
to the outside world and can more easily air their grievances.
We have to be careful to listen.

Frankly, there is nothing you can add to Armando’s last post.
All this talk about how much people have changed. Hmm. Media
certainly has but people have not. Not to put too fine a point
on it, why are we still moved by 500 year old Shakepeare tragedies
and comedies? Because people really have not changed and we can
still relate to the challenges of life.

Bob, you put it well and so did Armando. When we fix our eyes on
these basic principles laid out by Armando, add a dash of cultural
differences, issues are pretty cut and dried.

One other way to look at the Pulitzer situation is that they invested
trust in this photographer and he betrayed their trust too. Time will
tell how this is ultimately responded to and if they will make an example
out of this debacle.

Andy, off shore drilling is safe, eh? Yikes. Get ready for a big
fight over this one. I’m ready. Are you?!

by [former member] | 09 May 2010 10:05 (ed. May 9 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→

One picture’s worth a thousand words, huh. This up to 26,000+ words. Many words spilled here.
Reporting is in fact a quite simple activity. And it’s main ingredient is trust and being trustworthy.
That pretty well sums it up. Thanks, John Vink, for that reminder.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 09 May 2010 15:05 | Irving, Texas, United States | | Report spam→
“Andy, off shore drilling is safe, eh? Yikes. Get ready for a big fight over this one. I’m ready. Are you?! " James Whitlow Delano

Maybe you would like to simply retract your offer of a fight that you are picking due to your apparent inability to read.

This is what I wrote:

“I was among hundreds of journalists looking for oil fouled birds, of which there were none to be seen, yet we knew there were hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the gulf thirty miles offshore……I joked that we needed to find a Pink Flamingo and cover it in oil. In other words, exhumation aside, has a concept becomes more important than “objective” reporting based on traditional methods?”

Please read the words “yet we knew there were hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil polluting the gulf thirty miles offshore…” and tell how you can infer that I believe oil drilling was safe….a hundred words or less.

Thanks. :)

by [former member] | 09 May 2010 15:05 (ed. May 9 2010) | | Report spam→
Now, now Andy,

When I said “fight” and I did say fight, I meant it in the
“Capitol Hill” sense and “fighting” for the environment, not
in the put-up-your-dukes way. It was meant to be ironic.
I think you know that, right?

I am in Borneo doing exactly that with my camera right now.
So, I am putting my camera where my mouth is, and “fighting”
logging companies.

Now, let’s get back to the thread.

BTW: Good luck covering the spill. This may be a HUGE
environmental disaster. That is another, important subject,
but better not to deviate from this thread.

by [former member] | 10 May 2010 05:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Personally, I think Marco has been sufficiently beaten up and deservedly so. I am willing to give him another chance. Are you?

by [former member] | 10 May 2010 14:05 | | Report spam→
http://www.contactpressimages.com/photographers.html ?

by Maria Albensi | 10 May 2010 15:05 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Did I miss something, María?

by David Lauer | 10 May 2010 16:05 | Chihuahua, Mexico | | Report spam→
Agreed, Andy.

Everyone deserves a fair hearing.



by [former member] | 12 May 2010 07:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
This case is horrible… and I thought it even before knowing about the exhumation cause in my opinion is not respectuful to show a dead children like this, even if from Africa… but the photographer admitted the mistake and remouved from the story the incriminated pictures, so I guess there is no meaning on going on talking about this particolar issue… The story itself is very important, it is a shame if this mistake screw all the work.

Still I think that, a part from Marco Vernaschi, there is a kind of “racism” in a lot of photographers showing dead recognizeble people (even children) from third world country while this will never happen with european/american subjects… looks like there are 2 level of respect…
Look from example at the earthquake in Italy or Chile… we haven’t seen any face of the deads… Who took pictures of the deads found a way of hiding their identity, while in Haiti (as in all the poor countries) looks like no one cares. This kind of pictures rarely go on magazines but they are all around the internet and no one say anything :-/

by Albertina D'Urso | 12 May 2010 10:05 | Milano, Italy | | Report spam→
Albertina, I don’t think you can lay a blanket blame down on photographers for the images which get printed in the traditional media. In the end, the pictures which get published are chosen by editors, who, per their job description, “edit out” pictures they decide will not jive with their target audience. I’m not saying that’s right. I disagree with the practice. But it doesn’t mean that photographers have not photographed and submitted those kinds of images for stories in the western world. It just means they have not been selected. I agree that there is inequality on this matter, in terms of the images which get printed, though.

by [former member] | 13 May 2010 17:05 (ed. May 13 2010) | Phnom Penh, Cambodia | | Report spam→
This week’s horrible events in Libya made me think that much of the anger ventilated here may have a lot to do with people simply being shocked by the images discussed here. This is then strengthened by the strong words used on blogs and comments. Shock is transferred and increases. In a way, the quickness of online opinioning can work as a witch hunt. We have had our own media controversy in The Netherlands, practically everybody agreeing that it is unethical to print quotes from the sole, nine year old, surviver of the plane crash and many people feeling the same about showing footage of him lying in the hospital. I am not denying the ethical side of the discussion here. I simply wonder how much is really about the question that, when tragedy comes close to home, who has the stamina to look? So, I think the double standard argument raised by some is spot on. In Africa there simply isn’t enough concern or resources to avoid us from reporting and documenting, whatever our motivations and methods. One day after Dutch officials travelled to Libya the crash site and hospital are now closed much like such spots are in Western Europe. The reason we see these things coming out of Africa may also be that they can be seen and photographed there, which is by a lack of economic power and resources. Could it be that part of the discontent with Mr. Vernaschi is connected to not reporting or not being able to report in photographs about horrible things in our own societies anymore? There are no Weegees in our hometowns anymore. But shouldn’t they be there? So, in my opinion criticising Vernaschi is one side of the coin, and I ask myself what is the other?

by diederik meijer | 15 May 2010 10:05 | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Updated with some additional thoughts

This week’s horrible events in Libya made me think that much of the anger ventilated here may have a lot to do with people simply being shocked by the images discussed here. This is then strengthened by the strong words used on blogs and comments. Shock is transferred and increases. In a way, the quickness of online opinioning can work as a witch hunt. We have had our own media controversy in The Netherlands, practically everybody agreeing that it is unethical to print quotes from the sole, nine year old, surviver of the plane crash and many people feeling the same about showing footage of him lying in the hospital. I am not denying the ethical side of the discussion here. I simply wonder how much is really about the question that, when tragedy comes close to home, who has the stamina to look? So, I think the double standard argument raised by some is spot on. At the same time it is presented one-sidely here. In Africa there simply isn’t enough concern or resources to avoid us from reporting and documenting, whatever our motivations and methods. When people are in survival mode, ethics are not their main concern. One day after Dutch officials travelled to Libya the crash site and hospital are now closed much like such spots are in Western Europe. The reason we see these things coming out of Africa may also be that they can be seen and photographed there, which is by a lack of economic power and resources. Could it be that part of the discontent with Mr. Vernaschi is connected to not reporting or not being able to report in photographs about horrible things in our own societies anymore? There are no Weegees in our hometowns anymore. But shouldn’t they be there? Ever since the beginning of this discussion I personally felt it to be connected to child abuse and what is euphemistically called “family tragedies.” Frustration and rage tends to find its direction to the weakest around. Research shows that in quiet, developed, democratic Holland one child dies at the hand of one of his parents every week. But we never see anything on it in the media. Why? Should we not see it? Why do we want to shy away? I strongly belief this is a way to not get involved, to not take responsibility, to not take action. This mechanism may also be what drives the anger, because now that people have seen the Vernaschi work, aren’t they to some extent challenged to do something? So, in my opinion criticising Vernaschi is only one side of the coin, and I urge you to also look at the other and so something with that side too! Please people, do something positive and help, there are many ways to do that!

by diederik meijer | 15 May 2010 10:05 (ed. May 15 2010) | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Hi Diederik,

Thanks for the comments. Many of us are weeks into
this discussion without any change in feeling. So, this
is not simply an emotional discussion. A child was exhumed,
which 30 years from now will sound no better to me,
personally, than the first shocking moments we learned
about the photographer’s confession in paricipating
in the act. Remember, this is an established fact.

Had the photographer stumbled upon a scene where the
child had been murdered and the body were out in
the open, unchanged by anyone and photographed, then
I would not have even bothered to comment. That would
have been journalism. Then, we could all decide
individually whether or not we would have made a
photograph under similar circumstances.

That is not the case here. A child was murdered and
properly buried by the family. Then the child was dug
out of its grave for no other reason but to make a

This is what distinguishes this case and why it is
worthy of discussion. It is not simply an expression
of emotion, though that is present in many of the posts.
It is an act of profound cynicism.

by [former member] | 16 May 2010 09:05 (ed. May 16 2010) | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
let’s not forget the fact that this act of profound cynicism by the photographer was abetted by the Pulitzer Center by having published the photographs…both are guilty of bad judgment. i place more blame on the Pulitzer…it has a reputation to uphold/protect, and shouldn’t have had it tainted by such an obvious lapse in judgment.

by [former member] | 16 May 2010 13:05 | New York, United States | | Report spam→

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Bangkok , Thailand
Ricardo Garcia, Photojournalist Ricardo Garcia
(Ricardo Garcia)
Barcelona , Spain
duckrabbit, Journalism duckrabbit
(sparks may fly)
Uk , United Kingdom
Simon Crofts, Photographer Simon Crofts
Edinburgh , Scotland
Nina Berman, Photographer Nina Berman
New York City , United States
marc hofer, Photographer marc hofer
Kampala , Uganda
Armando Ribeiro, Freelance Photographer Armando Ribeiro
Freelance Photographer
London , United Kingdom ( GTW )
Imants, gecko hunter Imants
gecko hunter
" The Boneyard" , Australia
Bissau , Guinea Bisseau
eva mbk, cabby eva mbk
Tuscany , Italy ( SAY )
Anne Holmes, Photographer/Writer Anne Holmes
Phnom Penh , Cambodia
lourdes segade, Photographer lourdes segade
Barcelona , Spain
Marc Andre Pauze, Documentary Photographer Marc Andre Pauze
Documentary Photographer
(Storyteller of Humanity)
Kangiqsujuaq , Canada
Liam Maloney, Photojournalist Liam Maloney
Beirut , Lebanon
David Lauer, photographer, translator David Lauer
photographer, translator
Chihuahua , Mexico
J-F Vergel, photographer J-F Vergel
New York, Ny , United States ( JFK )
diederik meijer, Photographer diederik meijer
(your daily dose of inspiring p)
Amsterdam , Netherlands
lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Sydney , Australia
Daniel Legendre, Photographer Daniel Legendre
Paris , France
Laura Larmo, Photographer Laura Larmo
Milan , Italy
David White, photographer David White
(www.nospin.co.uk www.duckrabbi)
Bed , Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
John Robert Fulton Jr., Photographs John Robert Fulton Jr.
Indianapolis, In , United States
Maria Albensi, Assistant Art Director Maria Albensi
Assistant Art Director
New York , United States
Albertina D'Urso, Documentary Photographer Albertina D'Urso
Documentary Photographer
Milano , Italy


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