Haiti Image by Image – 1 of 2
April 25, 2011
The editorial work that I shot in Haiti will be coming out elsewhere, but I still wanted to put a few images that have special meaning for me on this blog. The stories behind each photo were stories that moved me, and although they may not fit with the upcoming editorial I think that they should be told.
The newspapers and world fact websites would have us believe that Haiti is an awful place. That as soon as you step out of the airport you should expect to be shot. Haiti is suffering, but in the midst of the pain, hunger, and loss there always seem to be smiles. For the most part, if a visitor just takes the time to actually talk, or if language is a barrier to simply communicate with a warm smile and a handshake then the Haitian people respond with warmth.
It was a year before people started to enter the collapsed Bel Air Cathedral. Haitians are mostly Catholic, and the collapsed cathedral was one of the few places that wasn’t looted, or hardly even disturbed for quite a while. Now though, with people hungry and desperate, a few pathways are starting to emerge in the debris. There’s not much to be found under the tons of crumbled concrete, but by digging out scraps of rebar this man can collect enough every day to earn himself a meal. The cathedral is one of the few places that still has enough rebar to be worth visiting. Still though, very few people dare enter the church.
There are so many metaphors in this photo. The background is full of empty buildings, leaning dangerously over the street vendors who are too afraid to work inside; the downcast eyes of the Haitian people, and the trash piling up in the streets all represent the current state of the capitol. What the earthquake did not destroy immediately, it crippled. The buildings will fall, it’s just a question of when. Yet life must go on. Street vendors have taken over the store fronts, and the buildings sit empty devoid of any industry. Haiti waits, there is so much to rebuild, but first it must be torn apart.
Would you take a job that would most likely kill you before your 40th birthday? For the cart pullers in Haiti, there is little choice. To eat tomorrow, they must torture their bodies today. I imagine one of these men would destroy the “Strongest Man in the World” competition. I’ve seen them pulling loads the size of semi truck trailers down the road and a slow and steady crawl. They are looked upon as the lowest of the low in Haiti, the people you pay when a car would cost too much. A friend even told me once he’d seen one of these men pulling a car, flipped upside down onto his cart. It’s sad but true that in a lot of countries, even our own, the hardest workers are the least paid, and least respected.