Who’s telling whose story? When Haiti speaks for herself. (Photography part 4/6)

In our last post, we touched briefly on adjusting our focus so that we might see Haiti the way Haitians see it. I’d like to introduce you to an organization called FotoKonbit to show you just what I’m talking about.

FotoKonbit is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by a group of Haitian (and one American) photographers, artists and educators. Working with students in Camp Perrin, Labadie, Cap Haitien and Zoranje, their goal is to give students the opportunity to tell their stories, and the stories of their communities, through photography.

With a career spanning over 30 years in Haiti, award-winning photographer Maggie Steber once said that photography should be, “the ability of a people to describe themselves”. Maggie Steber, along with renowned Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat and a host of other talented and driven individuals have served as advisors on the FotoKonbit team.

The result of the collective work of FotoKonbit’s mentors and students is a vibrant collection and a powerful statement for Haitian autonomy in storytelling. With the constantly changing scenery of these communities’ diverse landscapes and an intimate look at the day-to-day, FotoKonbit’s students have accomplished something extraordinary.

Their photos capture the reality of life within their unique communities with honesty, insight and dignity.

Why are they successful in an arena where we so often fail? Simply put, this is their story. Who better to tell it than them?

Marie Arago, the Executive Director of FotoKonbit, has generously given our blog permission to share the following images with you from their Cap Haitian collection. You can view the full online gallery on the FotoKonbit website.

Boys in front of Sans Souci, King Henri Christophe's Palace at the base of La Citadèlle. Photo taken by: Myrmara Prophète, age 14.  FotoKonbit, Cap Haitien. http://fotokonbit.org/#/image-galleries/cap-haitian/okap_suresenes_0018
Boys in front of Sans Souci, King Henri Christophe’s Palace at the base of La Citadèlle.
Photo taken by: Myrmara Prophète, age 14. FotoKonbit, Cap Haitien.
Used with Permission of FotoKonbit.
Photo by: Joachim Allande, age 14. FotoKonbit, Cap Haitien.
Photo by: Joachim Allande, age 14.
FotoKonbit, Cap Haitien.  Used with Permission of FotoKonbit.

The talent of their students has not gone unnoticed; Myrmara Prophète and Joachim Allande are among a handful of FotoKonbit students recently selected as part of a team photographing life in Haiti for an upcoming story in National Geographic. The story should run sometime in the Summer of 2015.

FotoKonbit’s work to empower Haitians with the tools and resources to tell their own stories through photography has led to exhibitions in Port-au-Prince, Miami, Surenes, France, New Jersey and Houston as well as a permanent exhibition wall at the Port-au-Prince airport.

By sharing their photos around the world, these students are part of an ongoing effort to change the narrative about Haiti.  Check out the rest of their work, and see if it doesn’t have an impact on the way you see the country you’ve come to love.

And next time someone asks you, “What is it like in Haiti?” I would strongly encourage you to direct them to FotoKonbit’s gallery of images. They won’t be disappointed.

Next Thursday, we’re looking forward to welcoming Executive Director of FotoKonbit, Marie Arago, for an interview with HaitiHub to learn more about her experience with FotoKonbit and to talk with her about her perspective on the role that photography plays in Haiti.

by Erin Nguyen on November 13, 2014

Don’t forget to check out our interview with Marie!  Part 4 continued…

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