‘Viv Timoun’ is organizing its first six-month photo workshop, between August 2011 and January 2012. I will lead this workshop which is aimed to help 20 children aged 14-22 find their way out of hopelessness through photography, and to deal with their trauma via their own creativity.
Fostering development using creativity and technology
After the earthquake, many Haitians lost their hope. Numerous people continue to be traumatised by the catastrophic event of last January, and to be afraid of their future. Also, according to Alice Smeets – who has been traveling to Haiti extensively – the Haitian photography industry is far from being well-educated: ‘There are photographers in Haiti, but many of them just know the technical part, the mechanical aspects of their camera. The art behind composition, the game of light and many other artistic aspects are missing. This is why I would like to teach the art of photography to a group of older children, and contribute to a much-needed revolution in Haitian photography.’
Now that Haiti is receiving less attention from the media, we have an ideal opportunity to start documenting Haiti in a new light. We will be able to capture the changes this country goes through after such a devastation in a very personal way – not from a Western point of view, but through the eyes of Haitian children. This approach will open doors that have been closed to foreign photographer, and it will contribute to our goal of offering help to self-help. Moreover, it could help understand the Haitian nation and their needs much better. Most importantly, however, expressing themselves artisticly should also help the children overcome their trauma. The project will be carried out in collaboration with a Haitian supervisor: Natacha Marseille, a 29-year-old woman and director of the MEVA primary school in Port-au-Prince since 2004.
The whole project will be presented on a website, featuring pictures, audiofiles and videos. An exhibition is planned to be organised in several places in Haiti, Germany and Belgium. If all works out, the project should end by creating a small photography studio in Port-au-Prince, where the older workshop participants would be able to work as photographers, and to continue organizing photography workshops for other traumatized children.
Finding a new way of development aid
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. People eat mud cakes to survive, three quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Especially Haiti’s children suffer from this situation. According to the 2006 UNICEF report ‘Child Alert: Haiti’, children there are more likely to die during early childhood than in any other country in the Western hemisphere. Only about 50% attend school, thousands of children are being held as slaves, so-called ‘restaveks’, and many boys and girls grow up as orphans in the streets of the capital, where prostitution and underpaid jobs are part of everyday survival. Since the earthquake, about a million people have lost their homes. Schools and universities broke down. Parents, children, teachers, professors, doctors have died. Many people, especially children, are traumatized. This obviously raises a critical question:
Are there no other needs than a photography workshop in Haiti?
Let us answer in the following way. Haiti has received development aid for more than 30 years. In these 30 years, much has been done, but almost nothing has changed. Before the earthquake, an estimated 80% of the population lived below the poverty line. Since the catastrophe, about 1.3 million people are living in horrible conditions, in tents or selfmade shelters. The Haitians have grown used to non-profit organisations being around. For many, it feels natural to receive help without working or giving back anything themselves. In order to fight against this dependence on foreign help, the aim of our photography workshop will be to teach the children to be proactive. No matter where they come from, no matter how poor they are, they will learn to help themselves through art. Furthermore, those who really want to work as a photographer in the future will learn how to sell their work, either to galleries or to the media. Another important aspect of the project is trauma relief via self-expression. The children will be taught to communicate their feelings by using their camera, light, composition, colours … The concept behind the project is help to self-help. We want to invest, not into another short-term aid, but into talent, with a concrete long-term plan and result: proactive children and independent photographers for Haiti who, at the same time, might find a way to overcome their pain.
What do we still need? How can you help or support us?
We still need at least 8 Laptops (new or used ones) and 10 DSLR cameras (also new or used ones). Financial support is also always welcome through our bancaccount for donations:
IBAN: BE78 7554 7338 2786
Account holder: Viv Timoun
Banc: Axa Eynatten, Belgium
Thank you so much for your help and support!
The workshop will be held in our new built school MEVA.