Photographers' Blog

Family, soccer and God

by Rickey Rogers

It was around the time that Brazil was beginning construction projects to host the 2014 World Cup four years ago, that a massive earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital. The quake killed over 200,000 people and left few Haitians unaffected in some way. That disaster, coupled with the attraction of a World Cup country and the fact that Brazilians were already familiar to Haitians as UN peacekeepers patrolling their streets, initiated a new route south for migrants trying to escape the difficult situation. That route starts in Haiti passing overland to the Dominican Republic, by plane to Ecuador or Peru, and overland to the Peru-Brazil border where even today there are hundreds of Haitians awaiting visas.

Photographer Bruno Kelly was on an assignment to photograph the dozen or so Haitians working at the Arena Amazonia stadium in Brazil’s Amazonian capital, Manaus, when he met immigrant Milice Norassaint. Milice’s story touched Bruno, and they became friends as Bruno photographed him at work and in his daily life. Bruno asked Milice for his wife’s phone back in Haiti, and Bruno gave it to colleague Marie Arago in Port-au-Prince.

What resulted is a story about a family divided by need, but united through their faith.

MILICE’S STORY

Manaus, Brazil

By Bruno Kelly

Haitian migrant Milice Norassaint may be 41, but he has the strength of a 20-year-old. His story reflects the saga of many who left Haiti after 2010, when the capital was struck by a devastating earthquake, and began new lives in Brazil’s Amazonian capital, Manaus.

I first met Milice while he was doing his job as a construction worker in the Arena Amazonia soccer stadium, which is being built to host matches for the 2014 World Cup. I knew nothing about his life, but it was soon after that first encounter that I realized there was a lot going on behind his shy look and modest smile, though he rarely spoke. I soon learned how much of a fighter he really is.

Stateless in their own country

La Romana, Dominican Republic

By Ricardo Rojas

“I have no country. What will become of me?” said Dominican-born Blemi Igsema, 27, standing with relatives outside the family’s wooden shack in Batey La Higuera, near La Romana, the heart of the Dominican Republic’s sugar cane industry.

Blemi’s grandparents were Haitian immigrants who came to cut sugar cane decades ago.

“We are Dominicans – we have never been to Haiti. We were born and raised here. We don’t even speak Creole,” she said, referring to Haiti’s native tongue.

Voodoo alive and well

Souvenance, Haiti

By Marie Arago

There is much beauty in Haiti. There are mountains, the countryside, the sea and beaches, but what I find most beautiful is the culture of this country. There are many elements that contribute to Haiti’s rich culture and Voodoo (also spelled Vodou and Voudou) is definitely one of them.

This past week I spent three days documenting the annual Voodoo festival at Souvenance, a small village outside of Gonaives. Souvenance was formed by escaped and freed slaves from Dahomey (present day Benin) about two hundred years ago. During this week at Souvenance all of the Rada Iwa, or Voodoo spirits of Dahomey origin, are honored through different ceremonies, song and dance.

The first day begins with a ceremony that leads into a dance for the lwa, or spirit, named Legba. The dancing is led by three drums and the song lyrics are a mix of the Kreyol and Dahomey languages. These songs and dances have been passed on for generations and, judging by all of the children who were singing along, the traditions are not in danger of being lost.

Fashion forward Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

By Swoan Parker

For anyone who loves fashion, an announcement of Fashion Week brings to mind runways in New York, Paris, and Milan, but never Haiti.  So when my editor requested that I cover Haiti’s first Fashion Week, I was pretty intrigued.

I immediately began researching Haitian designers who live and produce their creations on the island.  I first contacted Michel Chataigne, who I learned was very accomplished in his own right, having shown internationally and with his ready-to-wear lines already selling in major U.S. stores.

Michel is a charismatic person and we clicked immediately. I first visited his atelier, which is home to his beauty school. Michel’s career first began in hair, and he is one of Haiti’s best known hair designers. Michel then put me in contact with fellow designers David André and Giovanna Menard.

Fishing to survive in Cité Soleil

By Swoan Parker

“I’m living in a bad place and didn’t want to get involved in any bad things”, is what 27-year-old Wilkens Sinar told me. His neighborhood, Cité Soleil, is one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and just 500 miles from the United States. This densely populated area located near the capital of Port-au-Prince houses families who mostly migrated from the countryside in search of work. Unable to afford the rents in most of the capital, they have no other choice but to settle here where powerful gangs operate rampantly.

As I walked through the endless maze of shanty homes built of pieces of concrete or junk metal latched together, the smell of raw sewage permeated the air. I found myself at the seacoast where small boats were docked and fishermen were either setting off or returning with their catch of mostly small crabs and fish.

I watched the activity for a while before striking up a conversation with Wilkens, and his friends and fellow fishermen Dieufait Louis-Pierre, 27, and Mackenson Dollus, 28. It was 6 am and the three were just returning from collecting their crab baskets that they had set out the night before.

Dream of gold

By Swoan Parker

Gold in Haiti should no longer be just a dream. Even before prospective mining begins in the country’s northern hills, the realization of it all could be little more than one month away. Without investing millions and weighing only 52 kg (114 pounds), 21-year-old Linouse Desravines, the country’s only judoka to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, is all it might take for Haiti to acquire gold.

Being a fan of the martial arts with secret fantasies of being a Ninja when I was a young child, I wanted to meet the country’s only athlete who is also female and would represent them in judo.  I made a few calls and was put in touch with coaches Ulrick Louis-Charles and Andres Ramos Franco, both former Olympians at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Louis-Charles returned to the Games more recently as coach in Beijing.

Linouse, who is ranked #28 in the world in her weight class, is from Haiti’s north coast where she lives and regularly trains. In preparation for the games, Linouse was scheduled to stay in the capital for a few days and train with the two coaches, before traveling to France to continue training for seven more weeks before arriving in London.

A lucky heart

By Swoan Parker

Beating on average 72 times a minute some two and a half billion times during a lifetime, the human heart fascinates me. At just 14 years old, Fabien Destine’s heart still has a long way to go. She was born with a hole in hers, but was one of the few lucky patients in Haiti to be accepted by the international medical mission to fix it.

Of the 40 hopeful Haitian children with serious heart problems waiting in line outside the Clinique Degand where the mission was based, only Fabien and ten others would be admitted for surgery. The others were deemed to have problems too complex to be fixed in Haiti. Some would be referred to other programs through Gift of Life International, and others would await the next mission. Many likely will never be helped.

I had learned of the week-long medical mission comprised of volunteer surgeons, doctors, technicians and nurses from France’s La Chaine de L’Espoir and the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. They would be coming to Haiti armed with equipment and supplies to perform lifesaving cardiac surgery on 11 children suffering from cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The Clinique Degand is the only facility in Haiti equipped for this type of surgery.

Strength born of calamity

By Swoan Parker

Everything was in its place. Knick-knacks of varying shapes perfectly lined the dresser as the dearly loved treasures from a literally broken home.  Aline Deispeines’ concrete home was destroyed in the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010.  Her new home, spotlessly kept, was a tent. Her life, like that of so many who survived the calamity, was changed forever.  She, like so many other Haitians, had lost her home, her loved ones, her business, and all feeling of security for her future.


I came to know Aline, 44 and a single mother to daughter Tina, 13, and adopted daughter Herby, 24, after hearing about OFEDA, the Organization of Dedicated Women in Action.  OFEDA is a grassroots organization of women in support of women. It is run by Aline, who against incredible odds formed the group just weeks after the quake. OFEDA, I would later learn, is a symbol of strength, hope and endurance.

When I was asked for story ideas related to International Women’s Day, I immediately thought of her.

From the Quake to the Cup

By Mariana Bazo

Nearly 300 Haitians are stuck in Inapari, a tiny Peruvian village on the border with Brazil. They are victims of the 2010 earthquake in their country and traveled weeks chasing their dream of simply getting a job. They believe that in Brazil the upcoming World Cup is creating great opportunities.

Some 3,000 kilometers after leaving home, they reached the Brazilian border only to find it shut to them, closed to stop the wave of their compatriots that began to arrive after the disaster.

They wait in the middle of the jungle and understand little. They’ve bet everything on this chance, selling or just abandoning all their belongings back home to make it this far. They now have nothing in Haiti and can’t reach their destination, nor can they return. They even asked me why they’re not allowed to cross the border, assuring that they are good workers and are willing to work hard to live better.

Two faces of the same drama

A year ago, I was part of the Reuters team that covered Haiti’s massive earthquake, which claimed some 250,000 lives, and left a million people living in makeshift camps. This year, I was part of the team that covered another natural disaster– the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northern coast and brought on a nuclear crisis.

The two events were very different. They occurred on opposite sides of the globe, in completely different countries, in different cultural contexts. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with a turbulent political history. On the other hand, Japan is one of the richest and most modern countries in the world– the third largest economy and, actually, one of the first to send help to Haiti.

But in covering these two catastrophes, I was struck by a few similarities.

Walking through the rubble of Kessenuma, in Japan, looking for a way to convey the scale of the destruction, I found myself almost in a situation like one year ago in Haiti.

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