August 19, 2014  

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Photojournalism Students Win National Award for Haiti Earthquake Project

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A Haitian boy stands in front of what will be his new neighborhood. After the earthquake most buildings are considered unsafe, so people moved into the streets and built tent cities wherever they could. (Photo by David N.B. Jackson)

In January of last year, the world watched as the small country of Haiti was rocked by a catastrophic earthquake that left thousands dead, millions homeless and communities in ruin. 

In the aftermath of the quake, two University of Southern Mississippi photojournalism students journeyed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to document the devastation. The Associated Collegiate Press recently honored David N.B. Jackson, a recent graduate from Hattiesburg, Miss., and Eli Baylis, a senior photojournalism major from New Orleans, La. for their gripping slideshow of photos that captured the tragic consequences.

“For them to be acknowledged with an award in relation to their work is just the icing on the cake,” said Clarence Williams, Pulitzer Prize winner and Southern Miss Photojournalist in Residence. “For them to have gone is incredible in itself.”

Jackson and Baylis placed first out of 239 entries in the Photo Slideshow category of the 2010 Multimedia Story of the Year award, which is co-sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The Story of the Year competition recognizes initiative and original reporting of a situation problem or issue affecting students.

“This stark portfolio on the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti shows that the photographers have learned the lesson of the great Robert Capa: Get close,” noted the contest’s judges.

“Brandishing a camera in the face of the poorest and the dead, and doing it well, is not easy even for seasoned veterans. This slideshow proves that having the right stuff for serious photojournalism does not always depend on age or experience.”

Jackson and Baylis decided to venture to Haiti after speaking with Williams. The two stayed with collective friends of Williams in Miami before making their way to Port-au-Prince.

“When I answered the first thing he said was, “Are you on your way to Haiti?’” recalled Jackson, who now works as a photographer for The Vicksburg Evening Post alongside two other Southern Miss graduates.

“I realized that I had to get down there to see if I could have even a small impact on the Haitian people. I fell in love with photojournalism because of the idea that my images could change lives. Haiti was a perfect situation for this.”

According to a subsequent U.N. report, more than 220,000 were killed, 300,000-plus injured and more than 1 million left homeless by the massive earthquake.

“Part of me wanted to close my eyes, but I knew that wouldn’t help anyone but me,” Jackson said. “So, I put the camera to my eye and documented what I could.I'm glad more people will see the images and think about the people in Haiti again. Americans tend to move on to the next news story and forget about people who are still struggling to live.”

To view the Haiti earthquake slideshow, visit David N.B. Jackson’s website at http://dnbjackson.photoshelter.com/gallery/Haiti/G0000zKdVJcSUfvs/.