Happy birthday Zanmi Foto!


Bois Jolie, Haiti 2015 photo: Mansell Ambrose


Today was my second trip up to Bois Jolie. Our goal for the day was first, to survive an extremely hot and humid hike, and after arriving, to meet with the two zanmi photo families that we had not had the chance to meet with last week. When meeting the families we planned to look through their family albums, exchange the old memory cards with new ones in their cameras, and photograph around the homes and the members of the family. Ultimately, we hoped to build our relationships and knowledge of these families and the communities around them.


Bois Jolie, Haiti 2015 photo: Mansell Ambrose

As we approached the first home, the man of the house, Jean Phillipe Saintellus, welcomed us followed by his children who slowly popped out from different rooms. As all of the other families had done, he quickly carried out enough chairs for each of us to sit comfortably in the shade. In his set were four beautiful wooden chairs that he had built himself. Along with chairs he explained to us that he has built beds and tables for his family which photos proved were all just as well crafted as the next. As we looked through his album we saw that his creativity did not end at woodworking but extended to beautifully composed photographs.
Flipping through the images, it was clear that Jean Pillipe carries his camera every day, documenting all aspects of his life just as he had been asked. There were photos of the biggest moments: new born children and his brothers wedding, as well as some that had been taken around his home showing the small details that are just as crucial for telling the story of his life today. While discussimg the photographs with Jean Phillipe about what day to day life looks like for his family and friends, Brooke noticed the date stamped on the bottom of one of the first images – May 29, 2014, a year ago today. Exactly a year has passed since these families received their cameras, and just as we hoped, they have documented their lives at every level. Happy Birthday, Zanmi Kafe and Zanmi Foto!

Bois Jolie, Haiti 2015 photo: Mansell Ambrose

We moved on to the next house delighted by the progress the project is making. As if in celebration, our next host, Leonel Jeremie, climbed to the top of a palm tree and threw down fresh coconuts. One of the CFFL interns caught them on their way down and chopped them in half for us to enjoy. After hydrating from drinking our coconuts, we set out to hike back down the mountain.

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