Zanmi Foto Update

Jean Phillipe Saintellus talking about his family photo album, with his wife Manushka and 4 month old child Wenshel. Bois Jolie, Haiti. January, 2015. [photo:Pradip Malde]

Jean Phillipe Saintellus talking about his family photo album, with his wife Manushka and 4 month old child Wenshel. Bois Jolie, Haiti. January, 2015. [photo:Pradip Malde]

This past month, I along with several students and faculty from Sewanee had the opportunity to return to Bois Jolie and visit the homes of the four families in that village who have partnered with the Zanmi Foto project. It was a wonderful experience to be greeted as old friends and sit in the shade of palms, chewing sugar cane and drinking fresh coconut milk with families who have graciously welcomed us into their lives. Some of my favorite moments from the day happened at the house of Jean Phillipe Saintillus and his wife Manushka. Here, we had the opportunity to talk about photography as tool both to look back at one’s life, and forward into the future.  Jean Phillipe and his wife have a sweet little boy named Wenshel. They started with the project just before he was born. As we looked through the family album that they and the CFFL interns have put together over the last few months, I saw a smiling father holding his new born looking back at me. The family expressed excitement over the idea that the album they are building is something they can pass on to their son.

Manushka Saintellus and her 4 month old child Wenshel in their home. Bois Jolie, Haiti. January, 2015. [photo:Pradip Malde]

Manushka Saintellus and her 4 month old child Wenshel in their home. Bois Jolie, Haiti. January, 2015. [photo:Pradip Malde]

As a part of their involvement with the ZF project, we have asked that the families discuss their photos with their friends and neighbors, and actually mark and write on some of the photos as a way of documenting the conversations. One of the photos used for this was of Jean Phillipe playing his guitar. On the back Jean Phillipe had written a very reflective account of what he thought of the photo. He talked about the importance of music in his life, and why he liked seeing himself portrayed with a guitar. It was so encouraging to see these families engaging thoughtfully with their photographs.

The visit was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our old friends in the mountains, as well as touch base with the CFFL students who are doing such wonderful work.

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