What we take and what we leave behind. (Photography in Haiti Part 6/6)

We know that the members of this community go to Haiti to “do good”, but for those of you who have been to Haiti before, you already know that good will is barely the first step. Partnering with communities in Haiti and working for a better future for the country is a grueling process of trial, error and reevaluation.

These three steps show up everywhere from our packing lists to the way we interact with our community partners. When reevaluation is accompanied by self-evaluation you’re forced to ask yourself: What is it that drives me?

Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 12.31.42 PM

For many in this community, your decision to learn Haitian Creole came out of this three-step process. One too many trips where you couldn’t communicate left you with too much work undone and too many opportunities missed. You quickly realized, in order for the mission to grow, you needed to be able to talk with your Haitian friends.

We applaud you for that decision, because simply put, communication is the backbone for any sustainable relationship.

Not so surprisingly, it’s also important for short-term relationships too.

Being able to communicate with the people around you keeps you from flattening their existence down to a 4×6, it helps you to determine if your presence is invasive, or welcomed, and it gives you a chance to talk with them about any image you take.

It gives the people around you a voice to react and it prompts conversation, but perhaps most importantly, it forces you back into that process of self-evaluation.

Why is capturing these images so important to you, what impression does it give to those around you, and who are you really doing it for? How have friends in the community where you serve reacted to the pictures you’ve taken?


Photos are valuable for preserving memories and sharing experiences; if this is the inspiration behind your photo frenzy, then I’d like to share an idea with you.

You might have noticed the different formatting for the pictures above, and now I’d like to ask, have you ever considered bringing a Polaroid along on your next trip?

Perhaps the best thing that could happen would be for photography to become less about us and more about a shared experience: “This is what I see, show me what it is that you see”… With a polaroid you get an instant print, and an immediate way to share photos with new friends and community partners.

Next time you’re in Haiti, consider finding a way to leave some of the many pictures you take behind.

by Erin Nguyen on December 11, 2014

This is the final installment in our series: Photography in Haiti. A huge thank you is owed to our readers and to our series’ partner Fotokonbit, without whom this discussion would have been largely one sided.  

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