As I had mentioned at the close of last year, I want to change the format of my blog a bit. I shoot more than just men’s fashion or tests or portraits. And, up until now, I have never had a forum to highlight that ‘other side’ of my brain. When I first started shooting, I really wanted to shoot more documentary style of photography. Or, even, the much looked down upon event photography. There is a value in capturing the moment of something that is ‘real’ and not created in a vacuum of stylists and a make-up team. My original journey was to shoot something that was an ‘ACTUAL’ or a slice of life. So, one of my mentors introduced me to a Relief program in Haiti called Yele Haiti. Yele Haiti was created by recording artist Wyclef Jean. My friend, who I don’t want to name, was one of his many voices in the program’s infancy that was about change. My friend happens to be the real deal when it comes to change. She is one of those people who is fervent and diehard in her beliefs. She is a go getter. She is Lifetime movie in real life. She recognized that I had an eye and suggested that I come to Haiti and document one of their food deliveries.
This trip changed my life and views of the world more than anything that I had experienced save for the death of my Mother who hated my trip to Port-Au-Prince. She was scared for my life. I wasn’t . . . until we delivered food to one of the poorest quartiers in Haiti, Cite Soleil. As we delivered food by the truck loads, a gang had been planning to rob the food from us at gunpoint. Well, let’s just say that their plan went without a hitch. Quickly, a riot followed among the people in disbelief that their food that they lined up for hours was being stolen right before their eyes. I have never been so frightened in my life. However, I could not stop taking pictures. It was exhilarating to watch survival at its most instinctive. Fear is a scary beast when not properly managed for sure. But, I couldn’t stop. In a blink, however, I felt sad, guilty, helpless, hopeless and thirsty. Thirsty? Yep. I kept thinking that while I was capturing these frantic/erratic moments of people throwing bags of beans and canola oil on rooftops to get them away from the gang members that in all of that haste, why was I thirsty?
Now, trust me, I am not a political science major here. But, why can’t this country get this right? Not a fair question, maybe, but I wince at every mention of something else that has gone wrong there. And, watching the news, of course, reminds of my brief time there. There’s lots of devastation. LOTS. And, I witnessed this years ago as my trip was prior to the earthquake. And, I thought that it was bad then. I can’t picture it now. As a Black man, I am proud to have been in a country of Black people; Governed by Black people; Farmed by Black People. There was a lot of beauty that I saw in the culture. And, the irony is that the food is the best meals that I have ever had outside of my Grandmother’s kitchen. However, I watch the news and read reports. And, I can’t help but think that this country is doomed. And, that, I will never see any relevant change in my lifetime. And, now, with the return of Baby Doc? And, his arrival has blindsided the election. Why can’t there be changes NOW? Why can’t Haitians help themselves as a people? Why are they portrayed as helpless? Why did this earthquake hit? And, then, Cholera? What has happened to the money from all of these telethons? And, the questions keep flooding my head. I applaud people who do question and, then, do something about finding a solution. I had the privilege of seeing many people in Haiti do just that from the fellow photographers who gave up their lives to live there to document the corruption; to my friend who still works directly with companies to help Haiti get back on its feet. And, she did this BEFORE it was cool.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to share this experience. But, the news today and of this past week has been a bit much. And, I have never really directly seen this type of devastation. I mean, 9-11 was beyond. I was in NYC when it happened. But, it was just one day. Mind you, a crazy day. And, no disrespect for those who loss and still suffer. But, imagine something akin to 9-11 every day of your life with no escape? I am thankful for what I have. And, I pray for those who need. I wanted to share some shots from that day. I documented my car ride from the hotel to the site. I learned that I didn’t have it in me to shoot this type of photography. I didn’t have it in me at all. It was too sad. And, I felt too guilty knowing that I could get on a plane and go home.