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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.