Pete Brook, Prison Photographer

When Pete Brook begins to work on the practice of Photography in prison, he didn’t expect to find coverages. Since October of 2008, he collects informations, and pictures. His website works like a magazine, or a diary.

In Photography and Narrative classe, at Coventry University, we have the luck to speak with him about the Haiti earthquake in January of 2010.

This is 4 articles he wrote about that subject:

Haitis national penitentiary crumbles inmates gangs return to slums

Damon winter inside Port-au-Prince prison

Who actually escaped from Haitis penitenciaire national ?

Massacre and cover up at haitian prison



What do I think about that ?

On Tuesday, 12 january 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed Haiti. The Port-au-prince prison has been partly demolished releasing inmates in the Cité Soleil. At Las Cayes the prisoners took the control of the prison for several hours.

This disaster permitted to the whole world to discover the current situation of Haiti: the misery, the violence, the constant terror of the gangs … The new haitian president Rene Prevail took a lot of measure to restore peace in the country, but with the earthquake, the gangs are back and terrorize the population.

It’s complicated for a journalist to explain in one article that very complex situation. The many issues doesn’t make the task easier. We need a patchwork of writings, pictures, videos to clearly understand what’s really happened in Haiti. Unfortunately, the earthquake in Haiti is less covered than the hurricane Katrina in america. Why ? Maybe the medias cover more the events which take place in countries where the hearers are. People feel more concern and shock when the disasters are near to them. When the problem is close to them, they realize that they aren’t invincible, it could happen to them !

The United States offered their help to build a new judicial system. It’s a good example of the consequences of a disaster. In that case, the issues of Haiti are exhibited at the world, and the other countries want to do something. People are asking why a such tragedy happened ? What could we do improve ? What could we do to prevent another one ? The Haitian political, human, economic aspects are judged and reappraised. Would we talk about the misery in Haiti without the earthquake ? Would we denounce the not human conditions in the prison ?

We really can’t answer to these questions, because the media tornado is too much unstable, unpredictable, and depend mostly on the auditors not on the important news.


1 Comment

Filed under Photography and narrative

One response to “Pete Brook, Prison Photographer

  1. We cannot be certain that the gangs are back to “terrorize”. One would presume that in desperate circumstances, desperate acts follow. The removal of gang members between 2003 and 2007 may have been substituted by a citizenry that didn’t break the law or the vacuum of power may have been filled with those of equivalent violence. We cannot know.

    Relief Web has painted a bleak pictures saying that gangs have become family for the thousands of orphans in Port-au-Prince

    On the other hand Felix Kunze’s slideshow of a newly established orphanage is very encouraging:

    I would doubt Haiti got less coverage than Hurricane Katrina. What can be said is that Haiti got far more coverage than other disasters outside the West.

    See the list of photographers … and it is not exhaustive.

    I think the reasons for this are:

    The aftermath of the Haiti earthquake was zealously covered by the media and American networks particularly.

    Several factors likely fed the saturation of disaster over the wires – Haiti’s geographic proximity; Haiti’s diaspora and cultural ties within the US; fresh memories of the controversial, US-backed coup and removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide; and collective guilt over (or, alternatively, the collective amnesia of) the US’ corporate involvement in Haiti.

    The US was going in full-yield again.

    Quoted from my conclusion to my investigation surrounding the photographing of Fabienne Cherisma:

    Louis Quail’s work in May is an example of a different approach.

    Different circumstances, yes and a good antidote to disaster, but has his work been circulated as much as Haiti’s “disaster porn’?

    The Pakistan Floods are the best point of comparison for Western media coverage.

    According to Pakistani government data (National and Provincial Disaster Management Authority report dated September 14) the floods directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll of close to 2,000.

    The number of 20 million individuals affected by the flooding exceeds the combined total of individuals affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

    And, so, to reconstruction.

    Those countries with means have a moral obligation to help out Haiti. Often reconstruction efforts can face criticism because they put in place systems akin to the benefactor (Western systems) but this is a large issue. Rebuilding should be judged by how the efforts serve the people.

    Camille, you say, “The Haitian political, human, economic aspects are judged and reappraised.” And ask, “Would we talk about the misery in Haiti without the earthquake ? Would we denounce the inhumane conditions in the prison ?”

    The earthquake revealed to us briefly the inadequate conditions in prisons. Otherwise I don’t think they’d be on our radar. In the Western world – particularly America – I call for reform because they are an expensive and overly punitive approach to social ills. Prisons in the developing world have significantly different problems; mainly overcrowding, squalid conditions, slow-paced judicial procedure and even corruption.

    You describe the media as a tornado, but it is up to us to place worth on the stories we find (they’re out there!) and make sense of the whirlwind.

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