To an outsider, Haiti is often synonymous with natural disaster and despair. FotoKonbit is determined, however, to show that Haiti’s society is much more rich and complex than its façade of poverty and turmoil. As a grassroots nonprofit organization, FotoKonbit is a photography workshop designed to give Haitians the freedom to tell their stories through images.
Popular media defines Haiti as a nation in crisis, which isn’t far off from the truth. According to the World Food Programme, even before the earthquake 1.9 million people were ‘food insecure,’ meaning they needed assistance to ward off hunger. Some 55 percent of the nation’s nine million people live below the poverty line of U.S. $1 a day.
Though the statistics are undeniable, the founders of FotoKonbit claim that while Haiti certainly faces challenges, it has a beautiful yet untold culture and history. They have thus made it their mission to ensure that this story is told.
In 2010, a group of American and Haitian educators, photographers and artists founded the organization. The project began in Northern Haiti with a group of adult participants, both men and women, from around the region. With a camera in hand, these citizens used skills acquired from the workshop to capture a story of their culture, still unexposed to the outside world. Noelle Therard, one of the founders, took students to various historical sites to snap photos of the grounds on which Haitian heroes fought for independence.
Since its establishment, FotoKonbit has worked with over one hundred students from nine different communities. They are currently working with five diverse communities: a group of adults in the southern agricultural town of Camp Perrin, adults in the fishing village of Labadie, children in the cities of Jacmel and Cap Haitien and a weekly class at the Zoranje school just outside of Port-au-Prince.
Photos taken by students have been featured on National Geographic’s Instagram account, an achievement that the founders did not foresee. However, this type of renowned coverage is exactly what the organization’s founders had envisioned. The stories of local villages, of Haitian fishermen and farmers, are now accessible to a global audience. With the power of social media, FotoKonbit has a bright future.
Images now have a certain potency that they never once had: they can reach millions of people around the globe within seconds. FotoKonbit is painting an alternative history of Haiti for the world to see – one that is indubitably stricken with poverty, but rich with a resilient population.
– Samantha Scheetz