Chile: The earthquake picture I never sent

March 23, 2010

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.

ivan blog photo

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.

10 comments

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[...] La foto del terremoto que nunca envié  blogs.reuters.com/photo/2010/03/23/chile -the-earthquake-pict…  por holiveira hace 2 segundos [...]

It’s like the out-of-focus scene is there because we’re already seeing it with tears in our eyes… I know i was! Great picture, sad story, touching moment.

Posted by anatelma | Report as abusive

I think the small intimate moments are the most valuable, especially to me as a Chilean. It’s like looking into the heart of my brothers and sisters and being there with them, something I need to feel. I’m glad you’ve posted this picture.

Posted by Chilena | Report as abusive

[...] not a settlementFed to keep pro-growth policies: Chicago Fed chief Reuters Photographers Blog Chile: The earthquake picture I never sentCasinos and coasters: A Singapore lifeDon’t drink the water, even if there is any to drinkReuters [...]

This is a photo!!

Posted by migufu | Report as abusive

Clearly a great image. You must not have sent it because you thought (maybe subconsciously) that it was more special, not less.

James
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Posted by jamesco | Report as abusive

He is carrying his son’s dog just like he would be carrying his missing wife or son – tenderly yet securely. THAT is what makes the picture. If the dog was on lead, it would’nt be as powerful.

Love is often a little out-of-focus. I hope that he found his son.

Posted by hauksdottir | Report as abusive

[...] a él pensando qué decirle para aminorar su sufrimiento, pero guardé silencio (traducido del blog de Ivan en [...]

Ivan, que increible, veo esta foto justo hoy. Hoy 24 de Marzo se cumple 1 año desde el fallecimiento de la mejor amiga que he tenido, mi perra llamada Chica.
Entiendo perfectamente y desde el fondo de mi corazón el sufrimiento de ese hombre. Nunca me pareció más adecuado un desenfoque, creo que no es necesario el enfoque para entender lo que refleja su rostro.
Una bellisima foto que refleja de inmejorable manera el amor que podemos llegar a sentir algunos humanos.
Gracias Ivan, es un buen regalo de aniversario.
Hay alguna manera de poder encontrarla más grande para imprimirla? La foto es dramática pero bellísima.
Alguien podrá hablar de la técnica como dices, pero la técnica pura no pude ni podrá superar a la emoción y el sentimiento.

Posted by jffp | Report as abusive

First I viewed that photo as slightly out of focus, but very focused in the message it sent. And then my eyes filled with tears. Life breaks our hearts, and then the scar tissue makes our hearts stronger. Thank you for showing me once again.

Posted by MsBiscuitbarrel | Report as abusive

[...] (178)  Chile: el terremoto de foto i nunca envió [...]

Truly speaking…
The moment i saw the picture,what stuck in my mind was the suffering of that guy.It shows really the pain in his eyes,it reflects the whole story behind the tragedy.
No matter what,
if the picture is out of focus but as (MsBiscuitbarrel ) rightly said it has the focused message.

If you see this pic in a (philosophical) way it has the great depth,and the powerful message,which i can realize.
It shows the focused debris and scattered background which is the reality and the man with his dog out of focus who is lost in this pic and also he is lost in his real life as well.

Posted by Yasiriqbal | Report as abusive

Touching and inspiring story!

Posted by D.Beaumont | Report as abusive

As more cameras surround us, and the human being need more images of “the reality” we subconsciously give to the image an emotional value that is becoming a strong aesthetic value, even more stronger than focus or composition most of the times.

As Benjamin wrote, the photography is not sacred anymore like the painting.

Photography remind us emotions and connections to others, in the world we share.

Posted by denial | Report as abusive