Port-au-Prince, Haiti... A Portrait
Solo Exhibition at the Barranger Gallery, St. Tammany Art Association
Lost Hills Atelier Dutruch Studio Lost Hills Studio
Wet Plate Collodion Ambrotypes Heliogravures Platinum Palladium Printing
On January 12, 2010 at 4:35pm, the perfect storm occurred. An earthquake of magnitude 7.0 on the Richter Scale struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This was literally the Perfect Storm because of Haiti’s massive poverty, poor construction of buildings and the proximity of the epicenter to the crowded city of Port-au-Prince. Due to the rapid response of the University of Miami Medical Center and Project Medishare, a portable tent hospital and compound was erected quickly just off the Port-au-Prince airport to attend to the massive casualties. Surgical facilities, along with Adult and Pediatric wards were up and functioning within 18 hours, although with limited resources. As a Respiratory Therapist I volunteered to go to Port-au-Prince, to teach the Surgeons and Anesthesiologists on site the use of the critical care ventilators and anesthesia machines that were being donated to the relief efforts. Until these anesthesia delivery devices arrived on site, major surgical procedures were being performed with nothing more than local nerve blocks. An acceptable, but far from ideal solution.
My initial three days were spent in surgery teaching and assisting the physicians and staff. On the fourth day, my duties were beginning to decrease to the point where I actually had some free time. In spite of being warned by the US Army Delta Force Team, which was embedded within our compound, not to leave or venture out of the hospital compound… the curiosity of what was actually occurring in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding villages overcame my potential fear.
Accompanied by a freelance film maker from New York, we struck out to see for ourselves if the reports we were receiving from the CNN news feed were indeed true. Anderson Cooper was reporting from in Port-au-Prince of riots, mass murder, and residents attacking UN relief vehicles at food distribution locations. Our first stop was one of the many tent cities. Entire families were forced to live in 8x8 rooms consisting of nothing more that sheets or blankets hung up on ropes or tree branches. Their floors were the dry dirt of a soccer field. In spite of these most difficult conditions, I found a group of people that were not asking for handouts, money, or even food. They were making the best of their unthinkable conditions and continuing on with their lives. It was in the tent city where I encountered the majority of the children that I photographed. The most amazing thing was that almost all of the children were smiling. It touched my heart that these children were continuing on with their lives and somehow finding the ability to be happy and unwanting. No riots, no mass murders, no attacking the UN soldiers… just a simple people living their simple lives and surviving.
My next stop was one of the many mountain villages that had suffered tremendous destruction and loss of life. As we drove into the center of town, we came across a UN food distribution truck. A line of Haitians more than 3 blocks long were patiently waiting until their turn for a box of food. I stayed for over an hour and spoke with many of the people in line and did their portraits. As the line dwindled, it quickly became apparent that there were not going to be enough boxes of food for everyone in line. I became a bit anxious with what might occur next. But once again, the Haitian people renewed my faith in humanity. Without even being asked, each person in line began to share their box of food with the person behind them. The last few people in line were now sharing one box with three or four people so that everyone at least got something. No riots, no mass murders… only an amazing People doing amazing things to survive and preserve their dignity and humanity.
My goal with this exhibition is to show a small glimpse of the magnificent humanity and dignity of the Haitian People.
They are truly amazing…