Photographer

ITV: Marco Dormino

TITLE: Photographer

LANGUAGE: English       

DATE: March 29, 2010      

 

TIMECODE

 

TEXT

00:00:18

WHAT IS YOUR NAME AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

 

My name is Marco Dormino, I am the UN photographer inHaiti, for 3,5 years.

00:00:33

SO YOU WERE HERE ON JANUARY 12TH? WHERE WERE YOU? WHAT HAPPENED?

 

Yes I was. I was sitting in my office, which is a small building beside the main one, the Christopher HQ. We were working, me and my colleague, and suddenly everything started to shake. First very slowly, then it became out of control, it was very scary. So first thing, we ran out as soon as we could and there were the other colleagues in the building. One of them was, I don’t know why, snaking on the ground, he wasn’t running. So, he was in front of me and I couldn’t go faster because of him, so it was very very very bad. But finally I got out. The building stood up, because it was a prefab, so it was very light and it didn’t collapse. And as soon that we got out, we were surrounded by dust and we felt that something was really happening. That was the first shake.

 

After that we ran down towards the Parking Lot and the hurt (?) was still, wasn’t shaking. But the second shake came, and that’s when I realized that it was an earthquake, because from the neighborhood I herd like one voice composed by thousands of voices. So, there were thousands of people screaming at the same time, it was horrible. So, I understood it was an earthquake, it wasn’t just our building that collapsed for some strange reason, it was an earthquake. At that time we realized that the HQ, the Christopher, wasn’t there anymore.

00:03:30

DO YOU REMEMBER HOW YOU FELT? HOW DID YOU REALIZE AND WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION THAT THE BUILDING YOU HAD WORKED IN FOR THREE YEARS WAS NO LONGER THERE?

 

In that very moment I wasn’t thinking straight, I was very scared; my hart was beating very hard. I was afraid to die actually. So I was looking at the building that wasn’t there anymore, but I was worried for myself and for the people that were around me. And I remember I was very very scared, I was afraid to die. We kept climbing down towards another parking lot and my first reaction was to stay there, look around, see if someone needs help. But you know I was like petrified. And then I saw two of my colleagues, Logan and Blago, one is the photographer and the other one is the cameraman and they were running up towards my office, our office to get the cameras and, you know, to start to shoot. So even if I was very afraid, they were calling me so I ran up with them and we started to work. We started to cover the situation. Then the people were pulled out from the breeze (?). Not just from the Christopher, but also from a school, diplomat school that was not far from Christopher. And a lot of Haitians, from the surrounding areas were taking towards the HQ. They set up for like an emergency room in the Filipinos camp. We were covering that. We were covering very few people among the rubbles, trying to move things, trying to pull out people. And it was already night, they didn’t have any lights, they didn’t have any tools actually. They were doing that by bare hands. It was very bad.

00:05:42

WAS THAT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE BEHIND THE CAMERA? WATCHING, LOOKING AT EVERYTHING AND OBSERVING WHAT WAS HAPPENING. YOU WERE STANDING ON THE TOP OF THIS BUILDING THAT FELL DOWN. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE UPTHERE? YOU WERE ONE OF THE FEW PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY WENT TO THE TOP.

 

Well, you know, pffff, to be a photographer you need to be … you need to be, I don’t know, cold.

 

So while you’re shooting, even if in front of you something terrible is happening, you’ll need to be focusing on the exposure, on the background, the composition. So it’s very strange. While I shoot usually I don’t feel a lot. It’s softer. When I’m finished, things come back from inside me and they start to hunt me a little bit. And that’s what happened the days after the earthquake. I was shooting, I was very cold, but during the night I had images flashing in my mind and sometimes I still feel that they come back and they don’t let me sleep well. But I think you need to be… I don’t know, maybe cold is not the right word, but you need to be like, divided, divided in to arts; one is the professional one, you have to be there and you have to focus and not loose your concentration or even your mind. And that’s what happened I think.

00:07:30

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT COME BACK TO YOU?

 

Well, the shake was very very scary. I am back inHaitinow, but we have aftershocks almost every day. And it’s very scary and still fearing that something bad could happen. Every time I feel one of these aftershocks I stop doing whatever I’m doing. I’m like petrified. And even if someone around me just moves the table or shut the door and the walls shake a little bit, for me it’s the same feeling, it’s very hard. And still we have to hold up, so, you know, we will try to keep going.

 

So, the shake was very bad, but also the devastation that I saw the day after and for the next days, it was also a very strong emotion for me. The devastation, the number of the bodies, I mean, I never saw anything like that and I don’t want to see those kind of things. I just found myself in the situation. So, I saw very desperate people doing horrible things to each other, fighting for nothing and killing each other for nothing. It was a very strange feeling. I thought thatHaiti,Port-au-Princewas actually like after a war, a random bombing. It was very strange. It reminded me of the images that I remember about World War II. It’s kind of tuff. I think I saw something that maybe my grandparents, grandfathers and grandmothers, saw when they were young.

00:09:37

THERE WAS A DAY WHEN YOU WENT DOWNTOWN, TO SHOOT THE CITY, THE COMMERCIAL DISTRICT. MANY OF THE BUILDINGS WERE DOWN AND THERE WAS A LOT OF MOVING. CAN YOU REMEMBER THAT DAY? WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

 

Yeah, yeah of course. It was like the far West. There were like hundreds of people assaulting stores, loading nothing actually. I saw people fighting for bailons (??) for perfumes, you know for very useless things in that situation. And they were really fighting each other with knives and they were very very aggressive. Because they are desperate. I remember one day they looted a big store; they were stealing fridges and ovens and suddenly they start towards me, because the security guard from a private security company was shooting at them. So they run away. But this guy entered the store. And I don’t know why, usually I am, when they shoot I am very scared, but that day, maybe it was the adrenaline, I just ran after him. I entered the story and I see him shooting, pointing his gun and shooting. A few seconds later I saw a little boy praying this guy not to shoot him, to let him go. And beside this little child, there was a man lying on the stair and the blood was coming out from his head. I had the feeling that this guard didn’t shoot the boy, because I was there. With another photographer, we were witnesses. So, I had this feeling. And there were a lot of other people hiding themselves in the next room. The marines came, the PNH and UNPOL came. They arrested everybody. It was crazy. These people were very desperate. They still are, but that very moment, they were crazy, they were mad.

00:12:12

I THINK YOU WITNESSED ANOTHER VERY DESPERATE SITUATION OF SOMETHING IN PETIONVILLE, DO YOU REMEMBER THAT DAY?

 

Yeah, I’m not going to forget that event. It was I think the most horrible things that I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

We were driving up to Petionville and suddenly we saw a crowd and then we saw a naked man, who was pulled and dragged, his hands and feet were tied and they were dragging him down and they were beating him with sticks. I have been told that it was a thief, or a supposed thief, so they caught him. So they took his clothes off and they started to beat him. He was almost dead actually. He was breathing out medically (??) but for them it wasn’t enough so they start to discuss about what to do next. And then they set him on fire while he was breathing. I was there, I was shooting. I was cold, but I was shaking at the same time. It’s very strange. I was trying to focus on the composition, the light, very absurd things if I think about that now. That moment it was the only way for me to not lose my mind. And remember that I was thinking “I need to help this guy, I need to do something”, but I was scared. There were like 30 people surrounding this poor guy. He was probably going to die in a few minutes anyway, but I felt a lot about that afterwards, I didn’t do anything to help this guy or to stop them. I was feeling guilty; I’m still feeling guilty sometimes. That was the most horrible moment. I never saw a man being killed and dying. I see his hart stopping. It was like; it made me realize a lot of things, like life is very short and we cannot act like we are going to live forever. We need to do things now, because you never know.

00:14:52

THAT’S A LOT OF TRAGIC THINGS THAT YOU SAW. I’M SURE YOU MUST HAVE ALSO SEEN THINGS THAT MADE YOU LAUGH OR THAT TOUCHED YOU IN A GOOD WAY. DO YOU REMEMBER ANY?

 

Well, I’m sure, there were, but I was very shocked. In those days I wasn’t feeling well at all. But of course I saw a lot of people helping the others, coming from other countries, like 20 hours later. They were already here, downtown, everywhere, trying to save people and pull them out from the rubbles. And after that I saw a lot of medics trying to help children and women and distributing food, water. So there were a lot of positive things of course.

00:16:00

DO YOU REMEMBER SOME OF THE FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS? SOME OF THEM SEMED TO BE… THERE WAS A LOT OF CRITISISM FOR A WHILE THAT THE FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS WERE CHAOTIC. AND I AM SURE YOU’VE COVERED A NUMBER OF THEM. WHAT WAS THE FEELING AT THOSE DAYS AT THE DISTRIBUTIONS, WHAT WAS THE MOOD AND WHAT WAS HAPPENING BEHIND THE SCENES?

 

Well, as I said, people were very desperate so, it was impossible to control them. There were thousands of people I remember in front of theNationalPalaceduring the distributions with the Brazilian UN Peacekeepers, providing security, that were distributing food and water. And the situation went bad, because there were too many people waiting to receive food. So it wasn’t easy at all.

 

The very first days it was very very chaotic. And it was impossible I think to set things in a very good way. But still a lot of people received food and water. Not all of them, but a lot of them received that and I think they could survive for the next days until the international community found a way to set things in a good way, to organize themselves. And to start to distribute food and water in a less chaotic way. So the mood was that there wasn’t enough, actually. The mood was that there were too many people, and even if they came soon from other countries, it wasn’t enough. They weren’t ready, nobody was ready for such a tragedy, nobody.

00:18:12

YOU ARE PROBABLY ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE SEEN THE MOST. YOU’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE, YOU’VE COVERED PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING AND YOU SAW SOME VERY DIFFICULT THINGS. DEATH AND DESTRUCTION. HOW DID YOU COPE WITH THIS? WHEN SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS, MOST PEOPLE WOULD RUN AWAY, BUT YOU’RE NOT THAT PERSON, YOU’RE THE PERSON THAT HAS TO RUN TO IT AND YOU’LL HAVE TO PHOTOGRAPH IT. HOW DO YOU DO IT?

 

I don’t know, I think it’s my nature, I don’t know. I’m sure, most of the people that I know, would have run away from that situation. And, let me get this straight. I don’t like photographing this stuff. I’m not a war photographer. I don’t want to be in those situations, I just found myself in that situation. So I was like forced to do that. I’m not going somewhere, where there is war, to be that kind of a photographer. But that day, it was the only thing I could do. I had nightmares, I didn’t sleep well for a long time, but during those days I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t able to think. I was just waking up, going out, shoot, sending and editing photos, trying to sleep and go back again the next day. So I really don’t know. I think it’s my personality. I mean, you have to be (..) for this maybe. But I really cannot give an answer to your question, I just did it.

00:20:12

YOU MUST BE WORKING ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT NOW. DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL PROJECT? YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER AND YOU WANT TO TELL PEOPLE’S STORY. RIGHT NOW, TWO MONTHS AFTER.

 

The big start is what happening now. The earthquake, the shake, the number of death, which is past now. Now is about helping people, the displaced people. There are millions of Haitians who are living in make shift camps. And it’s almost the raining season and the hurricane season is going to come. And they are living in tents, but their situation is bad and is about to become more bad. So now the story is to tell to the people that we need to do something now!

 

We need to come here and help all the Haitians, because their situation is going to be very bad soon. So I think we know how the media circle works; nowHaitiis not in the news anymore. Nobody is actually talking aboutHaiti, or covering stories inHaiti. But for people it is kind of easy to forget and to move on, but it’s not right. These people need our help. So my job now is, maybe it is more necessary than it was before, we need to keep alive the conscience. We need to make it happen. We need that these people get all the help that they need. They need tents, they need food, they need a better life, because most of them they will live in this situation I think for the next months, maybe years. We need to keep helping them, we don’t want to forget. We need to show to the people what’s going on here.

00:22:33

THERE IS ONE LAST QUESTION I HAD FOR YOU. BESIDES BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER, YOU ARE ALSO A UN VOLUNTEER. SO IN SOME WAYS IT’S ALMOST LIKE YOU HAVE MORE CHALLENGES IN A WAY. YOU’RE A VOLUNTEER. WHY DO YOU DO IT? DO YOU FEEL COMPELLED TO BE HERE? IT’S NOT EASY FOR YOU TO BE HERE. FINANCIALLY, YOURE WHOLE LIFE, IT’S A SACRIFICE TO BE HERE. WHY DO YOU DO IT?

 

I have to think about that. You’re asking me something to say maybe about the volunteeri8ng spirit, but I don’t have it. Nobody has it. And we’re discriminated here and I don’t need to say that. We are discriminated.

 

For example, Kyara lost her house, and they’re going to give her 3,500 dollars when an international is going to get 12,000. It’s like, they don’t want to pay MTR/RTM (?). I don’t want to say it’s nice to be a volunteer, that it’s great to help people, I don’t believe in this thing. Nobody is here for this reason.

00:24:44

IS THERE ANY REASON THAT YOU NEED TO BE HERE AND IF THERE’S NOT THEN…

 

Well, I love this country and my girlfriend, I want to be here but I am also trying to get an international position and it seems I cannot do it here, because there are these stupid rules. I’ll try to leave sooner or later. I like it here a lot. If I could be able to getLogan’s position if he decides to leave, I’ll stay, but it’s not going to happen. So, I don’t want to be a UN-V forever. And of course I have like six years and after that I have to leave theMissionanyway and I’m already three years here.

 

I like it here. My voodoo project is still going on, so I have a lot of things to do here. I have a lot of people that I love, but I’m going to leave. I need to leave. Maybe I’ll be back, but I need to leave.

00:25:47

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT I SHOULD HAVE ASKED YOU THAT I DIDN’T?

 

Not really. Maybe I was too negative? How was my English? That is what I wrote down. I don’t see anything else. Now, what we need to do is to still covering and inform people about that.