Shooting the Aftermath
What brought you to Haiti?
Besides the fact that I got an assignment from a magazine, I wanted to go because I was trying to build a portfolio, since my real interest is to become a war photographer. I also felt that it was important for people to know more about the long-term aftermath of Haiti because a lot of press was only there for about three days to shoot dead people and destroyed buildings before leaving the country—which is not helpful at all if they were trying to send a message.
What was your experience like?
I got to Santo Domingo and touched base with a UN base. Later we got transportation to the border and touched base with the US army, with whom we were embedded. We had vehicle support and aerial support to fully understand the situation. Seeing the situation from a helicopter totally changes your perspective and gives you a complete view of the extent of the destruction.
What was your immediate impression of Haiti?
It was kind of screwed up because the first thing we saw was this purgatory zone which is on the border between Santa Domingo and Haiti, which has become a kind of a no-mans land. It showed you what was really happening—a lot of Haitians trying to flee the country and a lot of seriously desperate children who would surround you just because you were a white person wearing gear.
Desperate how? Hungry?
Hungry, yes—they weren't getting enough food because many of their families died and their only option was crossing the border or begging from the foreigners crossing the border.
How are the Haitians responding to the crisis?
Not well at all. We have to understand that the country was poor before the earthquake and they're now even poorer, so there's a very survivalist mentality plaguing the people right now. It also doesn't help that they're extremely superstitious. Because of this, they're afraid to return to their homes, thinking the homes are cursed. The US military is trying to help by testing the structural integrity of the homes to convince them that they're safe. That said, they're a very resilient people and they're working very hard to move forward.
What has the nonprofit response been like? Have they been successful?
They're bringing a lot of basic materials such as food and shelter, but at the same time, the NGOs should understand that after a while they should somehow leave the country and train the population to become independent, because as it is, people have become extremely dependent. A lot of NGOs are taking advantage of this dependence, such as the Chinese nonprofits that have somehow managed to take control of the textile area for obvious business reasons.
Take control of the area how?
They've rebuilt the textile factories and are taking control of that property in an attempt to somehow establish a foreign route of control. It's kind of like what happened after WWII—the Americans came to a destroyed Europe and then rebuilt Europe in many ways to their favor—and now it's full of American bases.
What do you think is the future of Haiti?
I heard from a missionary who has been living in Haiti for the past 25 years that the population is now a month and a half old. They have been reborn. I hope that they rebuild stronger than before, and I think they're a great people, but there are a lot of foreign influences at work right now and I think the best course would be to make them more independent. If this is done, they could start a whole new chapter of history for Haiti.