I’ve always been a little braver with a camera in my hand. It gives me a purpose and a place. If I’m in a situation that makes me nervous or anxious, as soon as I am looking through a lens, I know where I am.
Coming to Haiti, I was very nervous. I did not know what to expect, I don’t know the language, and I knew a lot of work was going to sit on my shoulders. Thankfully, as the Zanmi Foto intern, my work revolves around the photograph. And while I knew I would feel more comfortable while photographing, I didn’t expect the other, beautiful, power that the camera gives me.
In the states, when I take a photo of someone, the immediate response is usually, “take it again, my hair looks weird,” or “will you send that to me?” Here, when I take a photo of someone, their face lights up, they laugh or nod or call over their friend to look at the photo.
I have created relationships with strangers in America through my camera — relationships that I would never had made otherwise — but the relationships I have formed here are different. I do not know Creole, and many of the people I have photographed don’t understand English. The photo gives us something to communicate through, it gives us a reason to connect. I photographed a man who was in the process of trying to sell me a piece of art for $15. I made his photo and after I showed it to him he lowered the price to “$12 or $10 or whatever.”
If I didn’t have my camera here, I would not have the confidence to go up to a stranger and strike up conversation in a language I do not know. The only sentence that I have mastered in Creole is “eska mwen ka fe foto ou?” or “can I take a photo of you?” and I am filled with joy whenever I ask someone this question and I can feel their joy in response.