Third World Photography – An Experience of the Unexpected

If I were to describe my photography to a random person during some small talk, I’d tell them that I am a landscape and nature photographer who dabbles in humanitarian photography. I use the term humanitarian photography loosely as I am a lover of photos and take my camera with me whenever my wife and I travel to Haiti for missions. A couple weeks ago, I spent my first week seriously diving into the Haitian day-to-day life and documenting what I saw in their work and landscapes.

Haiti is a truly beautiful country. Don’t let news reports fool you about how Haiti is dangerous. Yes, there are some dangerous spots, but every country has some dangerous spots. Would I like want to be out at night? Not particularly, but for the most part you are safe if you know what you’re doing. For the most part, their culture is extremely respectful. We would even leave our backpacks with all of our supplies in the back of the trucks downtown while we ate. Not a thing went missing.

Mountains and fog near Jacmel Haiti

1/1000 f/14 ISO 800

While the Haitian landscape is beautiful, it’s also extremely difficult to shoot. Time and time again, I found myself searching for a quality composition, only to come up empty handed. Rain and clouds that came and went ruined almost every sunrise and sunset, and definitely ruined any chance for night photography.

Even though the country as a whole remains disheveled by the aftermath of the earthquake on the economy and infrastructure, not to mention the corruption that runs rampant, Haiti is slowly working to rebuild in some areas. During our time there, we met with fish farmers who are working to sustainably run, manage, and perform research in fisheries to further develop Haiti.

A fishery at Christianville in Gressier Haiti

 

1/3200 f/4.5 ISO 800

We met with many Haitin farmers who work to study the land, soil, and vegetation to find out what grows best and how to properly distribute fresh foods in the markets.

You might think that all of these people are Americans who come in the form of NGO’s, but what we found was that the Haitian people are eager to learn and take over. So, many places we went were in the transition to become fully run by the Haitians! You know a country¬†is improving when their people learn to develop resources to help each other.

A lizard takes refuge in a cactus in Gressier Haiti

 

1/125 f/5.6 ISO 200

One of the things I wanted to focus on was going to locations I had never seen before in Haiti. That meant bouncing around the country. A day here, two days there, and a lot of mountain roads in between (not to mention the endless mosquito bites and tarantula sightings… I’m still on malaria medication).

Shooting in Haiti was truly a humbling experience; both as a photographer and as a human. Third world photography is unlike anything I’ve ever tried to shoot¬†and it stretched my patience and knowledge. I was able to learn a lot about running an organization that’s not destructive to a sensitive culture, as well as shooting in brand new locations under difficult lighting situations without many foregrounds to choose from.

An amazing sunset in Gressier Haiti

 

1/80 f/20 ISO 800

I learn so many new things, words, and lessons when I visit Haiti; both about photography and about life. I can’t wait to discover what I’m going to learn when I return in June and December!