The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Staying Human

The supremely talented photojournalist, Masaru Goto, must obviously be a very good person. How do I know this, you ask, considering as I’ve not even met him yet? Well the simple answer is, I don’t but it seems impossible that someone who makes the powerful and troubling images he does, about the subjects he does, could be otherwise. His work always shows he cares about people who have lives less fortunate than our own  and often when he shoots a story he gives them a voice to bring to the world the news of their struggle.

More than all that as can be seen in this image by AP in Thailand (where he is based) when the need to help someone more directly presented itself to him he did exactly that. And he didn’t make a fuss about it all himself. Whatever the story, nothing ever gets in the way of staying human if you ask me. Masaru  has great images of the riots and battles here but it is good to see that despite considerable danger to himself and the chance that he would miss “the shot” in doing so he thought nothing of helping someone who needed help at that moment. I don’t think it is possible to be impartial when there is genuine suffering, and we should react to that in the most human way we can. In photography and all fields this is something we easily forget.

I’ve not rescued someone from a hail of bullets or otherwise risked my own life to save another. Would I if the situation demanded it? Truthfully I don’t know; I hope I would but who can say until such a moment arrives? I have on many occasions been moved to help a little bit though, a small act of charity, a carefully timed warning that danger awaits or the subtle donation to maintain dignity and humanity in someone I meet like the man above. I can’t remember his name or what we talked about but he made me sad, that I do know because the life of a lame rickshaw driver in Georgetown, Panang, Malaysia must be a pretty unlucky don’t you think? He lives/lived on that chair you see him is sitting on in the image, it was his bed, his office, his home and his struggle everyday. Everything he owned was under it and there was not much.

I didn’t want to go anywhere particularly when I met him as I was just walking around near my hostel taking photographs but after talking to him I let him painfully peddle me around the corner to return home and also let him overcharge me a little for the ride. It was not much and I know I could have done more, but a lot of money as a donation would have merely bought drugs and alcohol to help him cope, keeping potential passengers further away than the crutches strapped to the rickshaw already did, and I wanted to give him some help that kept his humanity and pride. As I said it wasn’t much and wasn’t heroic but something that treated him as a human was better than nothing that day

Damon

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One response

  1. I had a very similar experience with a rickshaw driver in India five years ago.
    You can learn so much if you just sit for a while and actually get to know one of these people, instead of just rushing around sightseeing.

    June 20, 2010 at 10:23 pm

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