From Champs de Mars, we made our way over to the almost adjacent Fort National camp. Walking through, we came upon a group of three women running a makeshift fruit and vegetable market under a blue tarp. Brillant once again inquired about my taking photographs, explaining who I am and what I’m doing, and once again got the same negative response. Sensing that matters were not likely to improve in this regard, he took my arm and pulled me aside and said, I think you should just take the pictures without them knowing it.
This is something I don’t like to do, both because I feel it’s a violation of privacy, especially when the person has said they don’t want to be photographed, and because usually the pictures aren’t very good. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I reluctantly agreed. We turned back to the women and, as Brillant continued discussing the matter with them, I shot a few frames with the camera hanging from my neck as I pretended to listen.
Leaving the market, we continued walking through the camp, and, using the same technique, I shot a few more pictures of people we encountered until we came to a dry swimming pool where several young men were playing an improvised game of soccer. Deciding to revert to honesty, at least for the moment, I asked Brillant to ask the eldest of the guys, who was probably no older than twenty-five, for permission. After a bit of discussion in Creole, the soccer player turned to me and asked in English, What is it that you are doing?
I told him the same thing I’m sure Brillant did, and he seemed satisfied and said it would be okay for me to photograph. But then, before I could begin, he said that he, his name is Stanley Dorelus, was in a documentary film about the ultimately unsuccessful attempt by a Dutch rescue team to save his cousin Paula after she was pinned in a collapsed building by the earthquake. He added that the team had managed to save Paula’s daughter Juliana, who was about two at the time, in spite of her being buried for four days without food or water. He asked me if I wanted to see pictures and of course I said yes, so he entered his one room, tent draped plywood house through its hinged wooden door to get them. The photographs showed Paula’s head protruding from the rubble, barely discernible from the undifferentiated gray background, and the Dutch rescue team working to free her. They eventually succeeded, but at a very high cost, having to amputate both her legs in the process. There was a picture of her and Stanley in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, where she died a short time after arrival. Apparently she was conscious until near the end, because she told Stanley, despite his protests to the contrary, that she wasn’t going to make it and that he needed to look after her children, who include Jeffre, Jessica and Auguste in addition to Juliana. Only Juliana, however, was trapped in the earthquake.
Stanley had a couple of pictures of her, covered in dust, being held by one of the Dutch team shortly after she was freed. Aside from suffering from dehydration, she escaped essentially physically unharmed. Stanley said she and Paula’s other children are now living with family in Canada. With this encounter, our luck turned slightly.
Shortly after leaving Stanley, we had two other people agree to be photographed. The first was a mother sitting with her two daughters in front of their home. The second was a young woman manicurist who had set up shop just outside her door and was perhaps hoping for some free publicity. We spent an uneventful while longer in the camp before moving on to Acra.
To see more pictures, go to www.vichinterlang.com.