If you knew of the cracked roads and rubble.

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January 1st, 2011

It’s been about 48 hours since my return back into Brooklyn, and I am just now feeling able to process my short trip to Ayiti, “the land of the hills”.  The past 24 hours I’ve been wallowing in my deep emotions of regret and self-pity, as my already-short-trip to Haiti was cut even shorter by a severe allergic reaction on just my second day of the trip.  I left my partner on the 31st right before all the festivities, much to my dismay, with worry that my condition would worsen.

Thoughts like, “but I went to Haiti to document and experience their Independence Day,” and, “I didn’t shoot all I could shoot,” interrupt my thoughts disturbing my workflow from time to time, but as I view these photos, the streets of Port-au-Prince from the perspective as a passenger in the backseat of a moving car, I am taken back to the sounds and the rhythm of a nation that holds its people as if it were a collective grid, everyone having such stolid looks of purpose on their faces, gracefully walking while carrying unimaginably heavy loads on their heads, not an easy thing to do if you knew of the cracked roads and rubble, an obstacle of balance for any foreigner to this magical island.

I am delighted by the fact that Haiti is truly my first international trip as a photojournalist and adult, as it has given me more the perspective of a young child experiencing something for the very first time.  What I had thought would be my Achilles’ Heel for the trip (and might still have been in many ways) actually in retrospect has become my greatest gift as I edit these colorful vignettes of a nation that’s sacrifice of independence two hundred years ago still remains to be the people’s greatest but most beautiful burden.  For, through the eyes of a child, all things remain new, and arguably, objective, without the filters of culture or previous experience, these images that I have taken on my short journey are truly representative of my visual experience in Haiti.

Before we had reached Port-au-Prince, we had a chance to visit the shore of Miami and give thanks and receive blessings for our time.  I didn’t know at the time what to ask for and what to say, but now I realize that what was given and received was a message asking for patience, humility and reflection through the practice of analyzing photographic art, something that has been difficult for me as of late.  So, again, humbled, I am also grateful to be given the opportunity to walk through these images with our audience.  I hope that these images bring to you a memorable experience, not just documentation, but a transferring of the warm and generous spirits I was graced with during my short stay from December 28th to December 31th, 2010.

Image 1,  Oja looking out at his homeland.

We landed in PaP around 3:30PM, on December 28th, 2010.   The international flight was generous, surprisingly, with the amount of luggage we were able to carry on.  2 checked bags, 50 lbs each, 2 carry-on items equating a total of 40 lbs.  Not too shabby.  From the plane we were taken to a shuttle to drive us from the aircraft to the airport.  The shuttle had large windows which complemented the scenic view of the hills and mountains on the horizon.  With purpose, caution, and love in his eyes, Oja looked out the shuttle, receiving the energy given off by the mountains.

Image 2, the view of the hills from the shuttle.

The Canadian maple leaf on the tail of the plane is demonstrative of the international presence in Haiti.  Throughout the trip I would be met with many flags, branded like brand names on merchandise, with the purpose of advertising the outside countries, as if to say, “See, we did this for you.”

Image 3, the view plus Haitian walking by.

Image 4, view from backseat window.

My first memory of the airport is comforted by live Haitian music performed by Haitian musicians with bright smiles.  As we exited the airport to search for our arranged taxi, several cabdrivers approached us asking repeatedly if we needed a cab.  We were finally met with our driver, Gregory, who held a sign that spelled, “OJA.”  Even though we had found our driver, other drivers asked to assist us with our luggage in hopes that they could be tipped.  As we walked to the car, people continued to approach us offering their services.  When I finally got to the backseat, I looked behind me to watch Oja tip one dollar bills to drivers that had assisted us with our luggage.

I remember looking out the window and seeing UN trucks carrying UN soldiers armed with large guns, their white faces looking down at a sea of black Haitian cabdrivers.  An image I regretfully did not capture.

Image 5, The 3 hands.

The globe held up by three hands representing France, the US, and Canada, displaying their imperialistic nature upon the world, built by Aristide can be found by the airport, encircled by waving Haitian flags, a sculpture that represents the consciousness of the nation.  As cars pass by with people standing in the back, Oja points out to me this epochal sculpture.

Image 6, passengers and flags.

Image 7, red glowing building.

As the sun was setting, we sped through the streets of PaP, passing bright buildings that appear as blurs.  Even though it was getting dark out, these buildings all had an intense glow to them.

Image 8, from the back passenger’s view.

Image 9, election graffiti.

Graffiti displaying various political opinions displaying the political unrest that exists in current day Haiti.

Image 10, the balance of the Haitian people.

This image captures one of my first sightings of witnessing Haitian people walk with magical and collective grace.

Image 11, Club 31.

As the sunsets, the buildings continue to glow with palm tree silhouettes in the background.

Image 12, presidential election posters.

A fairly mild display of a presidential candidate on a wall.

Image 13, wild chickens that know how to dodge traffic.

Vanissa, ACD