Pulitzer Center responds
This morning, I was pleased to find that the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting responded swiftly to criticism of Marco Vernaschi’s photographs of Babirye Margret, who was exhumed so that he could photograph her remains, and Mukisa, a three-year-old boy whose genitals were mutilated.
Jon Sawyer, Executive Director, posted an apology yesterday on behalf of the Pulitzer Center and of Vernaschi:
Vernaschi’s photographs are gut-wrenching, black-and-white portraits of pain and abuse. We share his belief that photography can play a powerful role in mobilizing public opinion, in Uganda and beyond, to stop this abuse. But we now believe — and Vernaschi agrees — that we were wrong in the way we handled the cases of Mukisa and Babirye.
Sawyer goes on to note that this error “had the effect of focusing attention on the actions of one journalist, as opposed to a horrific crime that needs to be exposed.”
He’s right, in a sense: the side-show surrounding Vernaschi’s conduct has received more attention than the story Vernaschi was trying to tell. That story is important, and it should be told—but that end cannot justify Vernaschi’s means. And there remains the question of how the story is told—how the presentation defines the story, how Uganda is represented, whether the photographic narrative expands our understanding or plays on existing stereotypes.
In my post yesterday on this subject, I said that I hoped Vernaschi would recognize his error. It seems that he has. Now we can turn to the story.