Chile: The earthquake picture I never sent
Caption for an unchosen picture:
Constitución, March 1 – An earthquake survivor carries the dog that he rescued from the ruins of his home, along a street devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
“Take my picture with the dog,” the survivor tells me. I take it as if ordered to, and see that his face shows tremendous pain. “I lost my home, the sea took my son and my wife, and this is all that was left. I can’t leave the dog here. He was my son’s.” He pauses. “I found my wife (alive), but my boy is still missing.” Before he finishes speaking I lower my camera and cry. I walk together with him thinking what to say to lessen his suffering, but there is only silence.
I never sent this poorly-focused photo of the earthquake survivor. The preconception of what makes a good photograph, the aesthetics, the layers of composition, and the sharpness or lack of it, all became reasons not to choose it. It was some time later when I realized that the sadness of the out-of-focus man with his pet is still transmitted as pain and devastation even through the picture’s technical defects, and banishes all the photographic concepts I hold true in my own little world. I blame Reason for overcoming Emotion.
Technically the photograph isn’t good but, all modesty aside, I think it’s the best photo I took. Today, it’s clearer than ever to me that in editing a story we don’t always show all we’ve seen, and that we never stop learning in the process.
I feel fortunate that this was the only person I encountered who had suffered a death first hand in Constitución. I like to believe that we never met again while roaming the same streets because he eventually found his son.
The photo of the man with his dog was never sent to the news media, but nevertheless it is the earthquake image that remains engraved in my mind out of the 3,645 shutter clicks that my camera registered.