71-94. Haiti 1984-2000

As a nice Jewish boy from Miami Beach, I seemed to be the least likely candidate to go to Haiti, especially when Duvalier still ruled and no one any longer went there. Cruise ships stopped docking there long ago; the tourists did not want to confront the poverty at the port or the misery that lay beyond. I found Haiti to be a wonderland and the most interesting place on Earth.

In 1984, with the aid of a Fulbright fellowship, but with some trepidation, I left for Port-au-Prince. All of my apprehensions vanished when I saw the mountains of Haiti from the air. The mountains yielded to coastal towns: Gonaives, St. Marc, and the villages that lead to Port-au-Prince. The plane circled the waterfront in its approach to the airport. Carrefour appeared through the window and then hints of the city panned by: the glowing white Presidential Palace and the Champs de Mars, the pastel Catholic cathedral, the Iron Market, the teeming humanity along Rue Dessalines and finally the slum La Saline, now Citi Soleil. I knew nothing of these places then but as soon as my feet touched the tarmac, I felt invincible.

I rode off in a tap-tap into the night the evening after arriving, past the flooded Artibonite Valley, through Gonaives, and up the mountains beyond Cap Haitian, to a forested land lost to time. The next morning, I walked along the river, down a path cut through bush, to a mist-covered packed dirt road where men and women emerged like new life forms. I could never have anticipated the unique experiences, the unusual sensations that were in my future. Haiti gave me the reason to further work out my intuitions. With my camera as my confidant, I conjured images that surpassed my imagination and confounded my expectations. It was a turning point in my art and life, along with marriage and fatherhood. It was a personal epiphany, a cutting of the umbilical cord, for sure.