A friend of mine asked me the other day how I can go to places of poverty and strife, places where such a desperate feeling exists, and take photos of it.
“Doesn’t it make you feel a little bit guilty?” She asked, almost more inquiring for personal sake rather than questioning my motives, “how do you take pictures of poverty without feeling like a complete jerk.”
“It’s actually easier than you think,” I told her, “I just focus on the positive.”
I’m sure that almost anyone who has ever been encountered with a situation of poverty or struggle has wanted to photograph it. However, most people keep their cameras away for the sake of ethics and integrity, and that is fine by all accounts. However, in many ways, I feel it’s my mission to document the world. If images of the world focused on only the good we would be led to believe that there is no struggle, no pain, and that there is no one that needs out help.
Still, in photographing people in places like Haiti I try to focus my camera lens on the positive I see. I focus on the smiling children, I aim my camera at people helping, at children playing, and at situations that give me hope. Just as easy as it would be to paint the world in a positive light, in photographing places like Haiti, it is just as easy to paint the world in a negative light; and I wouldn’t want to do that either.
I try to capture the emotions I feel in a certain situation, and I hope these photos of Haiti capture just that. I hope the images inspire you as much as being their and taking them inspired me.
Typical public transport in Haiti, This photo was taken just as I first entered the country overland from the Dominican Republic.
On Day 2 I visited an orphanage to take part in a dance program with The Groove Method and Future for the Kids
Possibly the cutest kid in Haiti. I may have taught him how to make funny faces.
Such a great smile!
A smile never left this girl's face the entire time we were there. She was less interested in the dance and more interested in the cameras.
The littlest girl at the orphanage dancing from the sidelines.
On day 2, Franz from Future for the Kids and I went to an orphanage with colouring sheets for kids to draw. Most of the kids at this orphanage were under the age of 6, some very young.
I know you're not supposed to have favourites, but this kid was hillarious.
A group of girls at the front of the class... apparently unimpressed by the camera.
Most of the kids just wanted to be picked up and held. This is Franz at the front of the class with a student who, although was deaf and mute, was one of the happiest kids at the ophanage.
On day 3 the security situation was so rough that we were basically on lock down at the compound. Day 4 was much of the same, but I couldn't not get out and explore. I had a man named Willio take me to the roughest part of Port au Prince: Cite Soleil. This is near the entrance to the neighbourhood.
It doesn't matter how rough a neighbourhood, you'll almost always find smiles.
And no matter how poor a people, you will always find love.
Strangely enough, I'm not sure I've felt a stronger community atmosphere than when I walked into the poorest part of Cite Soleil with Willio.
These girls followed me for about 10 minutes yelling "Hey You! Hey You!" as they followed. Every time I turned they would stop and laugh.
I know, in the image he looks terrifying. But the guy was actually really nice. He was prepping sugar cane to be sold.
Willio and his son at his house in Cite Soleil
Willio doesn't know it yet, but he's actually the subject of my feature in the Spring issue of Vagabundo Magazine which is coming out in early April
There are always kids looking to have their photos taken in Haiti! Such a great experience.
I think this is the most powerful image I shot in Haiti. There is just so much strength in those eyes. I think that the strength of the children of this country is what's needed to life it up.
Author: Brendan van Son
Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on Google+. for a little bit more about him.