Well, a week on and I’m barely halfway through last week’s stories. I’m sorry to those I didn’t reach; to those I did, I really enjoyed seeing the variety and quality of stories inspired by my snapshot between the corn cars.
This week’s photo comes from Roger Bultot. I have taken to heart Rochelle’s comment about inspiration rather than illustration and gone at least hundreds (possible thousands) of miles away with my story. An explanation follows for those with time and interest, but is intended to be unnecessary if you just want to read the fiction and move on. Comments and critique are always welcome.
The throb of helicopter blades promised salvation: an answer to all our prayers.
They disembarked with bottled water and healthy-looking sandwiches. They brought tents to keep out the weather, warm blankets and waterproof jackets. They gave candy to the kids and asked us to pose for photographs in front of our devastated homes, roads and schools.
They talked of international aid, of the sympathy the pictures would bring: sympathy, cold hard cash and ultimately help. And then they left, taking everything but some empty bottles and a discarded Subway menu.
And we waited again for salvation to come from above.
I know there are journalistic reasons not to interfere – I’ve heard all the arguments that their job is to record not intervene and I get that as far as it goes, but the humanity in me doesn’t. Whenever I see pictures and video taken from disaster sites, I wonder how someone could swoop in (presumably with plenty of provisions for their own safety and comfort), record the scene, and then swoop out again back to the comfort of their own homes and countries.
I appreciate the irony of my stance – from the safety and comfort of my own armchair I endeavour help by donating exactly because some journalist has been out to the afflicted area and shown me the devastation – but I still wonder whether those early helicopters wouldn’t be more usefully filled with supplies than camera equipment.
Roger’s photo is obviously of a different breed. I have similar thoughts sometimes about photographs of more minor disasters but I also acknowledge that in most cases it is absolutely the right thing for witnesses to stay away and let the professionals do their jobs. No criticism of Roger is implied in my story inspired by his photograph.