Photos of Haiti (22 Pics)

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.

Everybody jump!

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: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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    • Thanks Dalene! Haiti was so inspiring, the kids that make up most of these images are the reason why.

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  1. What powerful images. Really it feels like any comment I think up sounds kind of patronizing or stupid. I just hope all of those happy kids have a chance, that they don’t grow up to be like previous generations suffering corrupt governments, and I hope their strength can lift them out of their poverty, because no matter how much Sean Penn or anyone else helps, at the end of the day it will be up to them.

    Photographs need to witness how it is, both in Haiti and elsewhere in the world, even if it does make you feel guilty, it needs to be told, and it needs to sink in with us. Sometimes it might take just one picture to unlock someone’s sense of what is happening elsewhere.

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    • I completely agree Linda. We can give these kids a hand as well… in a week or so we’ll get these kids some beds 😀

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  2. Such huge smiles! You’re absolutely right – even in the most struggling areas, people still have so much resilience. Beautiful photos, Brendan.

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    • Christy – It’s almost like in places like Haiti there are more smiles and laughter… maybe it’s because they actually value the little things in life that we have forgotten about.

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  3. Wow, such beautiful, powerful images. And those smiles!! Great job.

    It’s good for travelers to highlight both the good and not-so-good when they travel, I think. In the news, we usually only hear about the horrific, the really good, or the banal – but none of it is ever the whole reality. Posts like this help to even it out!

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    • Thanks for the compliment Amanda. You’re right, photos need to show the world. However, it seems like there is just such a fine line between describing the world and being a jerk. It’s tough to do sometimes. As a journalist I feel compelled to share the world I see, as a human being I have to feel compassionate and the two so often juxtapose one and other.

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  4. I love that you captured all the smiling faces. I’m happier just looking at them.

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    • Thanks Leah, how can you not be inspired by the kids hey!?

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  5. What great photos! I’ve volunteered abroad myself and there’s nothing like putting a smile on a child’s face. It seems you did that quite a lot judging by the pictures! 🙂

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    • Thanks Jessie, it was certainly a great experience.

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  6. This really is a beautiful set of images.
    I wonder how you go about the practicalities of taken these kinds of pictures. Do you ask in advance if it’s ok? Maybe in some unspoken way (body gestures, looks)? Or do you just take them and see what happens?

    Great work!

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    • Hey David, I have a rule against taking profile photos without asking people. I speak a bunch of languages, or if I don’t I find out how to say it first, or usually “photo” with a shrug works. However, when there’s a big crowd like this I don’t find it necessary to ask each shot. They see me there with their camera they know what’s up. And the truth is that the kids love having their photos taken. It’s best to ask an elder, in this situation, if there are going to be any issues with you taking photos. If you want some great advice, there’s a guest post on my site called “How Not to be a Photo Vulture” by Crystal Street which is a great read for someone with these questions: .

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  7. Nice Shots Brendan – I think the favourite for me is the Sugar Cane guy – Its that steely look in his eyes.


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    • Thanks Tristan, I like that shot too… although he looks scary! He was actually the nicest guy.

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