Monday, October 18, 2010

...and the final story....

"Ca ne se fait pas….”

“You should not do that.” I heard a firm voice coming from the driver’s seat in the car parked in front of the shoeshine boy whose picture I had just surreptitiously but not silently taken. It was the end of my last day on the street in Port au Prince and I had spent it walking about a mile in the relative calm of early Sunday morning taking photos and talking to people.

What had gotten into me as I walked the last few blocks to the house I had shared for the week? I knew it was the wrong thing to do.

I approached the handsome young driver apologizing in French and told him I would erase the photo (which didn't turn out, but that was beside the point by now) and I did just that so he could see.

I have been struck this week by the general reluctance if not hostility toward foreigners taking photos and so I decided that it was now or never.

I asked him, somewhat naively: “Why not? Why does it bother you so much that I want to take photos.”

“ You should have asked permission.” I agreed that I was wrong. But I persisted with my inquiry.

“Why is it that Haitians do not want their pictures taken?

“Well….” he said with a meaningful pause, “What will you do with those photos?"

I recalled my Haitian friend Rachelle telling me that many people feel “Anderson” and others have made money from the images they “took” from Haiti. I recognized his hurt and anger and I was determined to get to the bottom of it if I could.

“I plan to show them to people to teach and tell them about Haiti.” He was quiet, staring straight ahead, not disengaging, thinking.

So I decided to play my trump card of sorts: “I am a doctor and I came to work in the general hospital.”

I was fully expecting a “big f-ing deal” response as I might have heard elsewhere (eg NYC) but instead he looked at me ever so soulfully and said very quietly: “Bienvenue” or “Welcome”. I put out my hand to shake his through the open window and as we sealed that universal contact tears welled in my eyes as I said “merci” and turned to head home.

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