Kinam Hotel, Pétion-Ville, Port Au Prince, Haiti. May, 2015. [photo: Pradip Malde]
What is the purpose of a mirror?
Each person may define its purpose in a slightly different way. But many of us wake up each morning and one of the first things we do is look in the mirror. We use it each day to confirm our appearance before stepping into the world.
But what if you didn’t have a mirror?
What if you may never have seen your own reflection?
As we drove into Port au Prince for a cultural experience of city life we could see tent camps encroaching upon the mountain and rubble that is still prevalent from the earthquake five years back. Everywhere there were people, cars, motos, and tap taps. Traffic came to a stand still multiple times as cars and trucks tried to maneuver around. We stopped right in front of the plaza that until 2014 housed the largest tent camp in Haiti. In front of the plaza, is now one of the nicest hotels in Haiti. A tall, glittering building with all the unnecessary necessities that has the ability to make you forget that you are still in Haiti.
All around me I could not help but notice the number of reflective surfaces and mirrors surrounding me. Everywhere I turned I could see myself in mirrors of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Looking at my own reflection, I began to wonder “What if this were my first time seeing my reflection, what would I feel?”
This year we handed out the first carbon payments and along with the payment we attached a photo of each farmer. As each farmer took the envelope with the carbon payment and their picture, the first thing they did was looked at their photo and smiled. They all went around to all the other farmers sharing their photographs in excitement. Many laughs and smiles were shared as the exchange of photographs continued. This is our third year working in Bois Jolie and last summer was the first time that some of the farmers began seeing pictures of themselves. For many however, this was the first time they saw their own picture.
I began to wonder what feelings, emotions, and thoughts were going through their minds at that time. While I can only wonder about their reactions to their photos, only they know and feel the power of the photograph. Zanmi Foto however, may unveil some of their thoughts and feelings by fostering conversations of the photographs. We have already heard heart touching stories: a baby’s first picture, a family’s first album, a child’s ability to see their father after they are gone. And these stories will continue and deepen over time, touching more hearts especially those of our farmers and their own families.