Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti Re-Visited . . .and Remembered . . .

It has been a grueling week, the news coming out of Haiti is one dreadful story after another, and the full scale of what has happened is not yet clear. Not only the capital city Port au Prince was devastated, but towns throughout the quake area have been destroyed, and almost no news is filtering out about them. If you wish to see previous posts about Haiti done over the past year or so in these pages, just click on "Haiti" in the labels list down the right side in the sidebar.
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On the trip I took to Haiti in 1997 I shot this photo of a man planting seeds in the countryside between Port au Prince and Jacmel. In a scrapbook of photos put together after the trip, this one was captioned : The Heart of Haiti . . .
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In the hills above Petionville, near Kenscoff, a herd of goats was being hurried along by a lady with a stick . . .
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The caption in the scrapbook on this one was : Shaping Her Future . . .
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Heaven only knows what the future holds for her, perhaps a teenager today, if she survived . . .
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Schoolgirls in uniforms, not concerned about the plastification of marriage cards when this photo was taken . . .
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A sign from a seaside restaurant in Jacmel, Jacmel which is in ruins today . . .
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Even prior to the earthquake, the infrastructure in Haiti was in poor shape. A railroad that had operated briefly years ago had gone out of business, a bridge across a river bed had fallen down. . .
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Artwork abounds in Haiti, there are a number of sources of excellent art, and large numbers of paintings at roadside galleries like this one . . .
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Karnaval decorations, February 1997, in Jacmel, another wild bull loose. . .
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44 comments:

AnSa said...

Beautiful photos and descriptions to them.. amazing post!
These unique, unusual shots are a great reminder of what was..
- photos are a great souvenir..

Nevine said...

Owen, thank you for sharing the spirit of this beautiful place with us. It's sad that the news we get does not do this country any justice. And I believe it was just last night I read a post from a fellow blogger that made me want to vomit... literally. The premise was, basically, "Why should we help these motherf****** when their government is so corrupt and bla bla bla?" I thought to myself, "How quick we are to judge others. And what does this tragedy have to do with government?" I was truly disgusted, to say the very least. And that's all I'm saying about that, because, in fact, when I watch the news, it just makes me feel ill to my gut about this sort of world we live in today, where we can judge another person even when they are suffering. Yuck! is all I have to say about that.

BTW, Owen, your photos are beautiful, and especially haunting because you're sharing them at this particularly challenging time for Haiti.

Nevine

cara said...

Great photos and reflections. An angle that we don't see in the mass media. Thanks for revisiting it for us.

Marie K. said...

Thanks for these black and white memories and your comments. Quand l'erreur est humaine, il est facile de chercher quelqu'un à blamer, quand c'est la nature qui agit, rien d'autre à faire que se désoler, et se recueillir.
C'est vraiment terrible pour cette partie de la population de notre planète et je me joins à ton esprit de désolation.

TechnoBabe said...

Nevine says it very well. Why should we care about the people in Haiti? Because we share the planet with them and we are all in it together. Love the look on the school girl in her school uniform. Very good pictures for you to have in your personal collection.

amatamari© said...

Thanks again ...

@eloh said...

Beautiful photos. I came across a blog in Haiti and have been reading it to keep up.

I especially liked the common sense message.

http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/2010/01/dont-come.html

Owen said...

Ansa, thank you, indeed, photos can help our memory immensely, they are souvenirs worth their weight in gold. I think it was in the french movie made from Philippe Djian's book "37,2° le Matin", that after someone had passed away, another character commented something to the effect that all that was left at the end of that person's life was a pile of photographs. For many of us that may be the case perhaps. Anyway, for sure, photographs are memory.

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Dear Nevine,
That is unbelievable; but then I often marvel at how many totally sick individuals our collective society has bred. There are monsters all over the map, and modern communications have made us more aware of their presence than ever before. Fortunately the monsters are counter-balanced by the good people out there, the compassionate ones, the people who think, who care, who have a heart and not a block of ice in their chest. This has been a hard week for the planet... Thank you thank you thank you for being there...

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Hi Cara, Haiti gets a lot of bad press for various reasons, the press and perhaps some part of human nature in general is quick to focus on negative points, but I just wanted to remember some of the beautiful, magnificently human moments in a trip there, while all hell is breaking loose at present.

PS I noticed on the news today that it was 29° and sunny in Brisbane Saturday... color me green...

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Bonjour Marie, merci énormement pour ton empathie, ta compassion. On est si peu de chose finalement quand la nature se déchaine.

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TechnoB, for sure, we are all in it together... it is time for more walls to come down... though it won't be easy. This will be a long hard road to travel for the coming months for so many people affected in one way or another by this.

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Amatamari, you are very welcome, thanks so much for stopping in here...

Owen said...

@eloh, thanks very much for the link, I just read everything she wrote since Tuesday afternoon. Incredible that she is able to keep the information coming, a generator to run the PC, and alot of heart there, clearly.

And I hope you are well as the winter continues...

ρομπερτ said...

If I knew the world would end tomorrow, tonight I would plant an apple tree.

Martin Luther, about fivehundred years ago - guess it still stands to be a truth.

Steve said...

A sobering reminder of how even those with so little can yet lose more... I am hugging my boys and counting my blessings.

Selina Kingston said...

The news from Haiti is shocking and at times hard to believe because of the sheer scale of the destruction. How privileged you are to have these photos of what is now a time gone by

TheUndertaker said...

Awesome photos, as usual, thanks for sharing

namaki said...

These photos are beautiful ! and the black and white adds drama to them !

magnoliaamber said...

I cried for Haiti and this photos soothe me a bit. There was a lot of life before and there will be again. Your photo is always full of emotion. it is not just photo and you leave us to guess. You tell us a little bit of you... like you care with this one.

Soon Haiti will recover.

Owen said...

Tag Robert, beautiful quote, still touching after 500 years. May you be well...

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Hi Steve, yeah, hug them tight and count every blessing... we've been marvelling at how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, running water, plenty of food and drink... that can obviously change overnight... to be appreciated while it lasts.

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Hi Selina, absolutely, I'm feeling very privileged to have the collection of photos from Haiti, which I'd been going through over the past year, last summer they got transformed into digital files, the better to share with you all here. Hope all is well with you !

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Undertaker, many thanks... hope you continue to overtake safely even if on the udertaking side... everytime I see "Undertaker" in the comment box I smile at your private meaning... well you know I'm interested in cemeteries in general too...

the watercats said...

fantastic photos for what must have been a fantastic experience. Such a melancholy tone to them now, the power of photo's, capturing hindsight or something...
The earthquake in Haiti is truly horrific... bless them all!

Owen said...

Hi Namaki, thank you so much... in years past I used to shoot exclusively in black and white, wasn't until later that I really started to accept color. But I'll always have a soft spot for black and white, my first love...

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Dear MagnoliaAmber, for sure, there is alot to cry about, and although I wish the fastest recovery possible, I fear the recovery will be a long, painful process. With a multitude of hard questions to resolve...

Owen said...

Hi Vicky, you slipped in while I was answering the others; indeed a melancholy tone at present, I have no doubt that alot of the places we stayed in or visited were destroyed. And I'm wondering about people we met there. You and the Ron would have really liked one of them I think, his name is Maquel Jean Baptiste, he was, and I presume still is, a guitar player for an excellent Haitian group called Boukman Eksperyans... he was living in the house we stayed at, renting a room there from the friend we went to visit there. You can find videos of them on YouTube...

Hope your water is back on by now !

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I know that Haiti has held a special place in your heart. It must be difficult for you at this time. I am saddened by the news and have been praying for those who have survived and those who continue to need help.

Owen said...

LGS, indeed, there is much to be saddened by, and those who survived are going to be needing alot of help, I hope the world will be up to the task. I think for anyone who has been there, it holds a special place in their heart, it is an intense place that leaves powerful impressions...

Babzy said...

Thanks for sharing your nice photos from Haiti , it's a nice tribute to all suffering people !

Catherine said...

These photos are really beautiful and almost acting like a beautiful tribute and memorial to Haiti in light of the grim and disturbing images on our screens today - why has it taken so long to start bringing in some relief and the emergency teams?? it is harrowing what is happening there... Thank you for these images..

AmyR said...

Gorgeous photos Owen. Thank you for sharing these; photos like these become invaluable in times like these. Such tragedy and sadness...

Owen said...

Babzy, thank you so much... there are many people suffering now, I hope that help will reach them soon...

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You are very welcome Catherine, yeah, I wanted a change from all the scenes of rubble and mass graves and desperate people, I hope Haiti will one day find peace again... it will be a long road back.

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Amy, total tragedy, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you...

Virginia said...

Owen,
Your photographs are a poignant reminder of the people in Haiti that so desperately need our help, not that they didn't need it before! At church today, our ministers asked for contributions. We sponsor a hospital in Haiti that has been severely damaged. Hopefully your post will encourage others to help in some way.
V

Stickup Artist said...

Wow. These Haiti fotos are brilliant. You were obviously smitten with the place and the people.

I often think how lucky I am to blog. I have good and stable housing, can pay the electric and cable bill, own a computer, a camera, have time and space for artistic endeavors, gas to fill up the car, have a car, have hands, legs, and eyes functioning...

Many blessings. These photos and responses to the current tragedy remind us not to take them for granted.

Ann said...

for days,I have been unable to tear my eyes away from the television coverage of Haiti..I feel like I can not NOT watch,that their suffering must be seen, that somehow they will know that I care. Your photos are beautiful. I can only pray that with the help of the world,that soon they will start to heal and that they can begin to rebuild their lives. So much sorrow,loss,pain,emptiness...I can't even begin to imagine....

Linda said...

Your photos are always so topical and lovely. I look forward to each new post.

We seem to have identical titles on our latest posts. My photos are so much older now - forty years ago!

Taken with an Olympus SLR using whatever Kodak was producing at the time. Pink tinted with age.

So little has changed. It just breaks my heart.

Owen said...

Virginia, I sincerely hope there will be the biggest outpouring of generosity in international aid that the world has ever seen to assist the survivors, to help them begin there lives over again, in structures less prone to damage from earthquakes, with medical care accessible, with clean water, the basic things we, we the wealthy residents of the world, take for granted... I sincerely hope in whatever way they can, people will give generously... there is going to be an enormous need over the coming months...

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StickupArtist, completely smitten, Haiti was an intense experience, and for sure, we can all count our blessing, and hope that tomorrow it isn't us out in the streets just worried about basic survival needs...

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Ann, I hear you, I also can't not watch what is happening, with a lump in my throat the size of the moon...

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Linda, just looked at your post with photos from Haiti in the 70's, that's incredible. Glad the photos survived and that you could share them with us... I hope alot of people will be looking back at memories of Haiti, and giving to aid organizations, raising consciousness... in a situation of this enormous scope, this is where we will see the power, the success and the failings, of the international global community. I was impressed to see on CNN a report about a large field hospital set up by the Israeli military in Haiti already operating with sophisticated equipment... hopefully other countries will be setting up similar facilities soon.

Many thanks...

The Sagittarian said...

Maybe when help arrives it will also be at quite a high price, which country wants to get a foothold there and may well take advantage of the situation to gain it...BUT also, the country should now also get the better infrastrucure that has been lacking for many years - better water systems, transport and roading, hospitals and schools?
Wonderful thought provoking photos, Bro.

J said...

The spirit in these photos makes me hope that perhaps a stronger Haiti will emerge from the rubble - or perhaps that's just my inner optimist running amok.

Jo said...

Hopefully when Haiti is rebuilt, the infrastructure will be stronger. The world knew about Haiti's dreadful infrastructure, and abject poverty as well, but did nothing to help those folks. It is a wakeup call for the whole world that we need to help people less fortunate than ourselves -- before it is too late.

Owen said...

Sister Saj, I hope to hell they will get a better deal this time around. I hope that donations from all over the world will make it possible...

Sorry to hear the weather changed on you... actually, on second thougt, no I'm not, not after your reports of lounging around in 30°C sunshine for days on end ! That's just not right. It's enough to make people want to head for a sunny island paradise... No, I hope your sunshine will return fast, I'm sure it will, summertime isn't over for you yet...

Owen said...

J, I hope your inner optimist is dead on right...

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Jo, I'm with you 100%, it's a wakeup call alright. Amazing with all we know about the earth's surface and the major risks in certain places (like San Francisco or New Orleans) that we persist in creating huge, vastly expensive cities in areas prone to earthquakes or serious flooding. I hope if Port au Prince is re-built that structures les prone to collapsing when shaken will be conceived and used there... to do otherwise would be unconscionable.

Peter said...

My first stupid reflection was to say how lucky you are to have been there... and then, for each image, you ask yourself the question, where is this child, this person today...

... and in the meantime, Baby Doc, who lives exiled in France, and left Haiti with some stolen 100 millions of $, has generously offered some 8 million to the US Red Cross, a sum which seems to correspond to what Switzerland has blocked on an UBS account and which he anyhow can't touch! (It seems that his wife left with most of the fortune when they divorced and that Baby Doc now lives (in Paris?) in a more modest way.)

Owen said...

Hi Peter, I am grieving along with the rest of the world for everyone there, and hoping the few people I met are alright, but with no way to know...

One doesn't hear much about Baby Doc anymore these days, he must be getting on in years... ?

PS Just saw the photo of you on Virginia's blog, that's great that you all could hook up while she was here... !

Tom Bejgrowicz said...

You've given all of us an intimate view into a country very few of us know or understand. What we do understand now, however, is that they're in dire need of our help. Thanks for sharing, as always.

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

I love these pictures, Owen. And I hope to put your goat one up on NGIP this week, since Haiti is on many people's minds right now. I really like that first picture - the one of the man planting seeds.

crederae said...

Beautiful presentation Owen, especially a time like this when the world mourns for Haiti, it is not a consolation but at least Haiti has the world's attention and perhaps now when the healing is over the world will not allow it to slip back to its dark impoverished state.

Isn't that bull wonderful! he is so sweet. They must have good times
at the carnaval and the masks of evil spirits in the last post must surely be the darkest forces of nature.

thankyou Owen!c'est magnifique.

Sanand said...

Your unique snapshots are a wake up call to us all. Till your pics, I didn't even know the infrastructure and living conditions in Haiti were in such bad shape. The first pic was the best, the one showing the man planting seeds.

Japy said...

Beautiful post and lovely pictures. Greetings.

Lydia said...

This pictorial is profound. Thank you for showing us the dignity and beauty of the Haitian people and their country. You captured moments in time that deserved to be preserved.

Deborah said...

Owen, so many of us who see the terrible images on the evening news do not have your personal connection and experience with Haiti, but when we see the everyday lives of Haitians through your photos, it serves to bring this awful catastrophe less distant. I agree with Lydia, who said it better than I have.
You seem a very sensitive person, Owen, and I hope your very real distress will abate.