Part 2 Journey to Haiti

In Everyone has one, Features, Opinion by Anthony Karen

If you were to ask me to name my favorite place, Haiti would definitely come to mind. It’s in Haiti that I found myself and was able to put my life in focus.

As a young child I saw a documentary on Haiti and it stuck with me into adulthood – it showed a mystical county full of taboo, poverty, culture and a proud, turmoiled history. Many African slaves where brought to Haiti from the port of Benin, Africa. In
the early 1800’s when the slave trade was abolished, the slaves were allowed to remain in Haiti and it was declared a free republic – the first black republic.

Haiti has since been host to terrible dictatorships and natural disasters, resulting from the deforestation of

the jungles to provide charcoal for cooking and urbanization.

Most Haitians struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day, making Haiti the poorest county in the western hemisphere. All of these things make Haiti a top contender for places we don’t really need to see, but it’s because of them that I needed to see it.

I finally made my first trip in July 1999 and I was a little taken back, I wanted to take photographs but felt very uneasy doing so and just spend my time soaking it all in. I came home disappointed and grasping to save the few meager images I did take, but it wasn’t enough – I had to go back and this time it was to make an attempt to be a photojournalist and exclusively document Vodou. July 2003 was the annual pilgrimage to Saut`e deau and Plaine du Nord; they are Vodou water rituals and have great religious importance in Haiti.

I let myself go and started to get more and more involved with the personal moments of what was happening and it lead to a deeper appreciation of what was important in life. Here I am in Haiti, one of the poorest and most feared places in the world; I sit and speak with people that don’t know when their next meal will be, people that could and do die from simple treatable diseases in a country that has been knocked down by every conceivable situation that you could image, yet they are sitting here next to me (a white man) and allowing me into their most private moments. Back at home, my family goes about their day, people go to work in the cool air conditioning, drop by the grocery store for some munchies for their favorite movie, etc., and I am here. Wow, how that puts things into perspective!

I’ve been to Haiti over 8 times and love it more with each trip, it’s a real place and it’s a hard life. As a photographer it’s hard to take a bad photo in Haiti, every face tells a story. I found my photographs taking me to new places. I’ve since spent a lot of time with the various gangs and even the rebels fighting the “revolution” since Aristide’s departure in the shantytowns of Cite Soliel. Cite Soliel is the poorest of the poor and is controlled by violent gangs. Poverty and hunger is a sad fact of life here, many children walk the street with copper hair and distended stomachs from malnutrition, but still find happiness enough to smile and play.

As for disabilities in Haiti and comments on that situation, what can I say, it is what it is; it’s the same as most 3rd world countries. The sad part is always that some of these disabilities come from malnutrition and Haiti will seem to go on as an out of sight, out of mind part of the world.

I hope to use my photography to enlighten society to not only of Haiti’s hardships, but also the honor and pride with which the people carry themselves. Like all of us, Haitians are proud of their heritage, but lack the positive reinforcements due to the overabundance of negative press and superstitions. I wish to change this perception for the good of the Haitian people.
NOTE: All photos are copyrights of Anthony Karen and

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