Twenty-Three Pictures of Haiti

A little over a year ago I was in Haiti.

I’d packed away my hard-core little first-aid kit, a few containers of hand sanitizer, a bottle of chloroquine and a bottle of ciprofloaxacin, signed up for some good medical travel insurance and made my way, via Miami, to Port-au-Prince.

I was there for about two weeks and was stunned by how that tiny, troubled nation enchanted me as might be evident from some of the things I’ve posted here like Manje Kreyol: A Day in the Life of Haitian Food Culture and the short-story The Invincibility of Madame Mathilde. A Story of Haiti that came from several stories I heard from people while I was down there.

By this time, I had hoped to have returned there several times. Sadly, my plans did not work out and I haven’t made it back even once and yet I think every day about how I can get back down there.


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Shopping in Port-au-Prince

I came home with a slew of pictures of Haiti (I know, shocking) and I posted some of them here and here along with some Pictures of Haiti- Flowers but I haven’t really splashed out many of the shots from that trip for a number of different reasons.

First of all, I found Haiti to be an incredibly hard place to shoot pictures for one main reason. The idea of sticking my $700 camera in the face of someone who barely has enough to eat and may be facing famine at the next tropical storm or political upheaval put me in a place of incredible ethical discomfort.

Port-au-Prince in a light rain – from the Lamothe area

Second, I didn’t want to engage in any disaster porn or get into exploitative shots of people that might eat away at me as some sort of poverty porn…..

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Carrefour Area – Just south of Port-au-Prince

Finally, everywhere I went I heard stories of North American and Europeans who had come to Haiti, stuck their cameras in the faces of truly impoverished people and then retreated back to their safe urban centers to profit professionally and/or financially from the images they captured in Haiti – without the consent of the Haitian people they’d photographed nor a sense of ‘return’ to those people.

And yet at the same time I was there to help assess an soil health project I’d hoped to work on and part of the project involved me taking pictures that I could use to fundraiser for the implementation of the project.

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Haitian male nurses return to a medical clinic after a lunch-time walk. Port-au-Prince.


None of this is to say that there are not fabulous, emotive images from Haiti that skip over disaster porn and poverty porn to tell a real story about real people. This all has more to do with ME learning about MYSELF as a photographer. For me the being there, taking pictures there and the thoughts I’ve had about it all since have all been a big learning experience for me when it comes to photography.

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Ridiculously stubborn goats on a misty afternoon in Port-au-Prince

Photography is, by its very nature an ethically conflicted pursuit. Should there be some DIS-passion or should it be full passionate?  Can you take a picture of something or someone to which you have an emotional connection?  And if you don’t, are you being dishonest?  A photographer informs the world about life and lives – but the way a photographer goes about the job CAN look pretty ugly.

Puits Blain area – Port-au-Prince

Regardless, here are twenty-three images of Haiti that I haven’t really put out there yet.  All were shot in July 2011.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m putting in effort into getting back to Haiti in 2013.

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Refugee Camp east of Port-au-Prince near Trou Caiman



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Refugee Camp east of Port-au-Prince near Trou Caiman


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Ouanga Bay – North-West of Port-au-Prince


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Ouanga Bay – North-West of Port-au-Prince


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Fishing in the Canal de Saint-Marc northwest of Port-au-Prince. The large island in the background is Ile de la Gonave


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A farmer of the Artibonite Valley


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Denuded hillslopes near Fond de Negres


Les Cayes


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In the Artibonite Valley


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Denuded hillslopes near Petite Goave


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A colonial era aqueduct at Camp Perrin


Farming the heavy-clay soils of the Artibonite River


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The Bank. Deslandes. Artibonite Valley


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The muddy Artibonite River


Taking a break from farming corn in the Artibonite Valley


An American missionary out in the road, gathering the flock. Artibonite Valley

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8 Responses to Twenty-Three Pictures of Haiti

  1. Molly McHugh October 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Cool thought – the learning about yourself through learning photography – I agree just never thought of it that way.

    • Jim O'Donnell October 25, 2012 at 4:29 am #

      This trip put me in a place where I was forced to confront myself a bit because I had already thought of myself as a photographer….and then I didnt like being that.

    • Molly McHugh October 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      Makes good sense, and probably has made you a much better photographer.

    • Jim O'Donnell October 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      I hope so. It is one of the reasons I'd like to go back… face that challlenge…

  2. Lynne Ayers October 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I was touched and impressed with your sensitivity to the Haitian people. And then there's the paparazzi…

  3. Byron Edwards November 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    A true photographer has an obligation to tell as story. If not for photography much of the world would not know the "state of things". You should not feel bad about "sticking your camera in the face" of anyone! I applaud your sense of compassion but you have an opportunity to make a change in peoples lives and you are doing it! Keep up the great work! Thanks.

    • Jim O'Donnell November 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      Byron, You know, I tend to agree. I think another challenge of being a photographer is finding the right balance between sensitivity, respect and telling the vitally important story that needs to be told. There is an obligation to tell the story to incite the changes. Thank you so much for your comment.

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