A Fort Lauderdale exhibit offers a new and absorbing examination of the history and photography of Haiti.
“From Within and Without: The History of Haitian Photography,” on view at the NSU Art Museum through Oct. 4, features nearly 350 works — from the late 19th century to the compositions of contemporary artists and photographers. They provide a captivating look at life in Haiti and how political and natural disasters have been observed by photographers and photojournalists.
“I really wanted to humanize the vision that most people have of Haiti,” said curator Edouard Duval-Carrie, a Haitian-American artist who spent more than five years researching and amassing the collection. “It’s a place, such a small speck of an island in this big world, but with such a complex and poignant history.”
Duval-Carrie, who lives in Miami, was born in Port-au-Prince but was raised in Puerto Rico after his family left during the François Duvalier regime.
“I did my research, and it took me quite a while,” he said. “And even gathering all these images and concocting this story, I realize I’ve only scratched the surface. Yes, it’s complex, yes, there is violence — but there is also a very human aspect to it, and that was my aim.”
The exhibit uses commercial, documentary and official state photography, alongside family album snapshots and photos from studio archives that recorded the country’s landscape, architecture, political history and natural calamities.
It includes photos detailing the opulence and decorum of Haiti’s political elite and affluent merchant class during the late 19th century, as well as tactical photography taken by the U.S. military during the 1915-1934 occupation, as well as political and social unrest.
There are portraits of the mountainous countryside, as well as historic landmark architecture, such as the National Cathedral and National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Subjects range from presidents and military leaders to farmers, families and voodoo priests. South Florida photojournalist Carl Juste’s 2006 “Ready to Vote,” as well as his 2012 “Ruined Prayer,” taken after the earthquake, are among the most powerful images.
“This essentially becomes a history of Haiti through pictures,” said Bonnie Clearwater, director and chief curator. “And it’s the idea of photographers from within and from without Haiti, each with their own perspective.”
Duval-Carrie also created the permanent installation, “The Indigo Room, or is Memory Water Soluble,” a mixed-media display showcasing the historical and contemporary Haitian experience.
“I’m a Haitian-American and I’m trying to understand it all myself, to see how our history unfurled and where we are today,” he said.
The museum is at 1 E. Las Olas Blvd. For more information, visit NSUartmuseum.org or call 954-525-5500.
Deborah Work can be reached at email@example.com.