This work was made possible by the support of Alliance for Children and Chances for Chlldren - which together are working to improve the present lives and future propects of Haitian orphans, and Project Medishare, which has been working since the 1990s to improve health care in Haiti.
As long as there has been color photography, the island nation of Haiti has been associated with brilliant, saturated colors, almost bilinding in the Caribbean sun. Reds, greens, yellows, blues so intense they almost hurt the eyes.
What many of those color images really do is hurt, distort, the viewer's perception of Haiti, a place of unimaginable grinding povert, centuries of political oppression and marginalization of the poor, rural, majority population. But technicolor images of Haiti and its people distract from that reality. They constitute the deception of color.
The ubiquitousness of color photography of Haiti is part of a larger, never ending debate about the places of black and white and color documentary photography. Ted Grant, often refered to as the "father of Canadian photo journalism," argues that when we photograph a person in color, we see their clothes, but when we photograph them in black and white, we see their souls. Discussions of souls aside, Grant makes a valid, important point: color often becomes the subject of color photograpjy, either intentionally, or by default; it distracts us from the subject of the image, especially when the subject is a person.
This distraction is a problem under most circumstances, but in the case of Haiti it becomes a deception. Haiti is indeed a land of brilliant, seemingly oversaturated colors, as is India. It might be posited that in both nations, the poor adopt brilliant colors to provide some lift, some joy in lives otherwise bereft of both. But the problem is that when we photograph scenes in Haiti, we distract the viewer from the realities of Haiti, from the 40 percent unemployment rate, the fact that 80 percent of Haiti's citizens live below the poverty line, and 54 percent live in what is termed abject poverty. We see the colors, and far too often we fail to see the reality they are perhaps intended to mask.
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Here are links to my four other SDN exhibits of images telling parts of the story of Haiti today:
If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now - A look at the crushing poverty in Lehoy, on Haiti's Central Plateau;
A Death In Haiti - Staff in the emergency room of Hospital Bernard Mevs, in Port-au-Prince struggle to save a woman in her last half-hour of life;
These Could Be Your Children - Portraits of some of Haiti's 30,000 children living in orphanages, these in a well-run facility in Kenscoff, in the mountains outside Port-au-Prince;
L'Artibonite - Poverty in Paradise - A look at a supplementary feeding program in Haiti's rice growing region.
B. D. Colen
Email - [email protected]
Web - bdcolenphoto.com
Tumblr - bdcolen.tumblr.com
Twitter - @TheBDColen
Cell - 627-413-1224
About The Photographer
B. D. Colen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter, editor, and columnist who spent 26 years at The Washington Post and Newsday, covering medicine, health care, and health policy for 17 of those years. A photographer for more than 50 years, Colen began his professional photography career in 1963, covering the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for a weekly newspaper in Connecticut.
For the past 13 years Colen has taught documentary photography and journalism writing courses at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has taught photography at the Maine Media Workshops and the Harvard University Extension School.
His work has appeared in publications from Newsday, to the New England Journal of Medicine, from the Boston Globe, to the Christian Science Monitor, and he has photographed for numerous corporate and institutional clients.
Colen has worked in Somalia, Liberia, and Haiti, and is available for international and national documentary work for NGOs, editorial clients, and private individuals.
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