Behind the Scenes: A Child's Eye View of Haiti

  • Posted on: 20 June 2010
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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Lens, the New York Times photography blog, recently covered a Zanmi Lakay photography project in Jacmel.  Through Zanmi Lakay, 28 Haitian children were given cameras and asked to document different aspects of daily life in a city trying to recover and rebuild.  A description of the project is below.  The photos are well worth a look and you can view them by clicking here.  Who knows? Perhaps one day, some of these children will become photojournalists themselves.


Behind the Scenes: Child’s-Eye View of Haiti



They sweep through the streets of Haiti’s fourth-largest city, Jacmel, photographing the evolving daily life of a nation as it rebuilds. Moving quickly, they capture the resurfacing of a bustling market or a family settling into its new home inside a brightly colored canvas tent. Sometimes they meet resistance from residents, who worry that their tragedy might be exploited. Other times, they breeze through areas unnoticed, candidly photographing subjects who are acclimating to their new environments.


For two weeks, 28 young Haitians used their perspective as citizens to create a distinctive document: pictures of Haiti, as it regenerates, through the eyes of insiders. With point-and-shoot digital cameras, students ranging in age from 9 to 18 participated in a project organized by the nonprofit Zanmi Lakay Photography Workshop, run by Jennifer Pantaléon, 48, and her husband, Guy Pantaléon, 41.


Students were assigned eight different themes including a newly risen tent city at Jacmel’s largest soccer field, business and the marketplace, schools (many of which have toppled or been destroyed), rubble removal and clean-up crews. The Pantaléons honored the students by referring to them as photojournalists, likening them to the news crews that had swarmed to Jacmel. Andy Levin, the editor of 100 Eyes Magazine, and five other photographers were on hand for a few days to help the students. He said the “directness and straightforwardness” of their work had informed his work. “Hopefully, some of the kids will go on to make careers out of photography,” Mr. Levin said. Beyond acquainting themselves with a camera, the students have gained a deeper understanding of their community and a new faith in themselves. “Because of what I learned in that class, I feel I am on a new level that I wasn’t before,” said Fedno Lubin, 17, whose photos of the tent city can be seen as Slides 1, 4 and 8.


Zanmi Lakay (Friend’s Home), which the Pantaléons established in 2005, is concerned with improving the lives of street children. Each year, the Pantaléons hold workshops in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel that cover technical applications and the history of photography. Their students come from families often composed only of sisters and brothers, or single parents or distant relatives. Some participants are orphans. None of the children in the photography project can afford school. The Arts Creation Foundation for Children sponsors their education, food and living expenses. “Just holding a camera in their hands was something they never imagined they could do,” Ms. Pantaléon said. “With no school since the earthquake, we have been trying to find activities that enrich and educate, keeping the kids busy.”


It certainly seemed to have worked for Michou Jouissant, 14. “The moment I love the most is when they gave us subjects to work on,” she said. “They gave us subjects to work on, even if we’re not journalists, too, and we did our work well and I like the work I’ve done.” It’s rare you see kids like us get a chance.”



Palm Beach Daily News
By Jan Sjostrom
A photography exhibition at Palm Beach Photographic Centre illumines the lives of at-risk kids close to home and in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. “Picture My World” features more than 70 photographs shot during the school year by participants in the center’s outreach program for disadvantaged youth. A show-within-the-show contains 15 photographs taken by the young people served by the Art Creation Foundation for Children in Jacmel, a historic art hub in southern Haiti.
The foundation is a full-service agency that teaches children to make art and provides them food and medical care. About two-thirds of the 80 young Haitians assisted by the program have either had their homes destroyed or damaged by the January 2010 earthquake, said foundation founder Judy Hoffman of Profile Marketing Research in Lake Worth.
For the past several years Jen and Guy Pantaleon have conducted annual photography workshops with the children. They were scheduled to do so again when the earthquake hit. The workshop was held as usual. “We decided that everything we could do to keep them busy was better than not having something to do,” Hoffman said.
About half the images in the show were taken after the earthquake. They range from sobering photographs of Jacmel’s largest tent city to a light-hearted shot of a grandfather standing on his head on a riverbed outside the town. The photographers who participated in Palm Beach Photographic Centre’s outreach program were based at the South Olive Community Center in West Palm Beach and Place of Hope, a foster care community in Palm Beach Gardens. The kids attended weekly classes after school and took field trips about twice a month. The photographs, which include portraits, beach and nature scenes, and conceptual works, are accompanied by journal entries ruminating on subjects ranging from romantic triangles to life goals.
“These images are incredible,” said Fatima Nejame, the center’s executive director. “It’s unbelievable that they were taken by kids.” The photographs will be exhibited through July 3 at the center, 415 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. For information, call 253-2600.

Armed with digital cameras, eight students from Jacmel aged 12 to 18 have been capturing images of life in the Abri Pwovizwa tent city, the work of local artisans, and other sights around the town as it recovers from the earthquake. Their work – presented here – was made possible due the efforts of Zanmi Lakay, which for more than 13 years has been teaching photographic skills to Haitian children, and the Art Creation Foundation for Children, which operates an arts program for children in Jacmel. The images and captions below are by Josué Jean, Fedno Lubin and Douglas Jean.

The Miami Herald
Miami photographer Boris Vazquez's first trip to Haiti was about more than just taking pictures. In an effort to lift up the spirits of kids affected by the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, Vazquez taught 500 orphaned children the basic fundamentals of photography. ``Many of these kids have never even touched a camera before, but they have a natural talent,'' he said. During a four-day stay in Haiti in June, Vazquez, along with First Presbyterian International Christian School art teachers and principal Ines Lozano, who led the volunteer mission, provided the 500 kids with 250 disposable cameras and seven boxes full of donated art
Pictures were taken by the children and will be part of a photography and art exhibit titled Through the Eyes of a Haitian Child on display at North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., from Friday through Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and admission is free. The exhibit captures the lives of the children ages 5 through 13 through their art and photographs. ``This a way of bringing awareness to these children,'' said Vazquez, who took about 2,000 pictures of the kids, which will be shown at the event as part of a slide show. Lozano thought of the volunteer trip during a family trip to the country in November. She wanted to help, but artistically.
In the past she has helped the country as students at her school are required to take a course titled ``community,'' where youngsters learn about global issues and raise money for nonprofit organizations like Friends of the Orphans. ``Now more than ever we have to help these children,'' she said. Group members, who stayed with medical volunteers, interacted with children from an orphanage run by the nonprofit Friends of the Orphans located in the mountainous area Kenskoff. Volunteers also participated with children from the program Angels of Light, which is also run by Friends of the Orphans. The program provides food and education to children that currently live in tent city located in Port-au-Prince.
The children were overwhelmed. ``They received us with lots of hugs and smiles,'' she said. ``These kids were amazing in spite of the misery they live in. They were laughing and never complained.'' Vazquez taught basic techniques of photography to the kids. The final product was great work, he said. ``Every time I see their pictures I see quality that can be shown in a museum,'' he said. ``There is happiness in the pictures, and I also see my story that I lived.'' The kids also participated in an art project in which they drew with tempera paint and created colorful houses and beautiful flowers. At the museum, 35 pictures taken by the children along with their art work will be on display. he images tell a tale, Lozano said. ``This is a way to show people here that what we do here makes a difference,'' she said.
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