Pamela MacNaughtan

Photographing Haiti is an adventure in of itself. This is a country that experienced a devastating earthquake which brought aid workers from around the world to help the country recover, and unfortunatel, a slew of photographers showed up as well. Haïti was in crisis mode. A proud and mindful people were brought low by Mother Nature and in an effort to ‘show the world’ the devastation, photographers stuck their cameras in the faces of the people and clicked away without a lot of thought. Many of those photos being used by international media outlets.

Haitians are a proud and passionate people, particularly the women. They take pride in how they look. Always mindful of those around them. Now imagine those women losing everything; their house, belongings, family. And now imagine in the midst of their grief and sadness a foreign photographer takes their photo, and publishes it so now the whole world can see what she has lost, the despair of her situation. It’s not hard to understand why many Haitiens believe that having their photo taken is in essence stealing their soul. They have the right (as do we all) to be portrayed fairly and truthfully, and when we are not, it is as though someone has replaced our soul with something horribly fake and in some cases, repulsive.

Knowing this it is easy to understand the feelings of the locals in Haiti, and emphasizes the need to communicate with them before taking a photo. This should be the practice for anyone on vacation who wishes to photograph locals. Hiding behind a bush to get a shot (as I observed one woman do) is not a solution. It’s cowardly. It is these kinds of actions that upset Haitiens, and let’s be honest, if it happened to us at home, it would enrage us as well.

Asking to take a portrait and accepting the answer, whether it is positive or negative, is the only way to allow locals to retain their freedom of choice. It’s respectful. And sometimes it is the difference between a scowl or a smile. And when a local genuinely smiles, it is absolute magic.

One of my projects during my time in Haïti is to share a well-rounded view of the country and its people. It’s important to know what to expect in Port-au-Prince, as well as the scenes one may see in the mountains or along the coast. It’s important to know that in Haïti one is either very rich, or very poor. There is no middle class. It’s important to know that despite ones social or economic status, they are still human beings with feelings and value.

These are some of the faces of Haïti.


I found this Haitien woman selling spices at Marché de Fer in downtown Port-au-Prince. When I asked in English if I could take her photo, she graciously agreed and sat up tall and proud. This by far one of my favourite portraits.


This bartender at Moulin Sur Mer spoke French, Creole, and a little English (as do many Haitians). Most people in Haïti only make $5 USD/day, which adds quite a bit of perspective.


An artisan, this man spends his days in an artists village using pieces of metal, a hammer, and a nail to create pieces of ar,t large and small. Buying pieces at a hotel can be expensive and the artist gets very little. Visiting local art villages is a great way to put the money in the hands of those who need it (and deserve it) most.


I was drawn to this TV Host’s fire-red hair and gorgeous smile.


A tour guide at Musée Ogier-Fambron, Lindsay Aime has a contagious smile, and extremely knowledgeable about Haiti’s slave history.


I spotted this young woman in downtown Port-au-Prince selling dried beans by the cup. Many women try to earn money by selling fruit or grains by the roadside.


While swimming and snorkelling in the ocean (about 45 mins by boat from our hotel) this local fisherman paddled over to see us, and show us his catch of fresh lobster.


A voodoo supplies seller, I was drawn to this woman’s smile, golden teeth and all. Shy at first, she conceded to having her photo taken after I told her she was beautiful in French. Every woman wants to be flattered.

I found this banana farmer resting under a tree during a walking tour of a Haïtien village in Côte de Arcadians and I was thrilled when he said yes to being photographed.


Nicole and her husband, Gerald, are the founders and owners of Moulin Sur Mer, a beach resort in Côte de Arcadians. I loved sitting with her and talking about Haïti.


Haïtiens love music and during my time in Haïti I had the opportunity to watch three or four bands perform, including this one. It’s practically impossible to sit still during a performance, the music is that good.


I am fascinated by the woman who carry baskets, buckets, sacks, and propane tanks on their heads. I asked these women for a photo, and only the one on the left said yes, but when I picked up my camera the woman on the right decided not to walk away. Maybe as a silent protest?


While visiting a cane sugar museum in Port-au-Prince we were surrounded by a crowd of school children and this little girl was pushed aside. I reached out and brought her upfront, then asked to take her photo. Her smile was pure magic.


Many families will mark trees to let others know that it’s theirs and nobody but them can harvest from it. This young man was taking a break from harvesting his tree, and while I was baking hot, he seemed to be quite cool.


This little girl was hanging out with her friends under a massive tree and was excited to have her portrait taken – always posing differently for each shot. Too hilarious.


This little boy was playing with his brothers and sister in a small village. We were on a walking tour and visiting a voodoo site beside his house.


A curious pair of sisters who were too shy to smile, but wanted their photo taken. After this shot they would randomly walk into other photos I was taking and look at my camera. Adorable.


Jackson was walking among the banana trees when I spotted him and said hello in French. I asked to take his photo and beamed a brilliantly white smile. Perfection.


When children are smiling and having fun the world is a wonderful place. This little girl proves that one doesn’t need money to be happy.

I loved photographing Haïti and taking portraits. There is such a diversity of people here. Photographing Haïti this past week has been delightful, despite being turned down several times when I asked to take a portrait. It is important to be respectful, and to resist sneaking photos of someone you know does not want their photo taken. I don’t know about you, but I know I get annoyed when someone tries to sneak a photo of me when I clearly do not want one taken.


  • February 4, 2016

    Beautiful photos. I loved this piece and the fact that you respected peoples choices. It’s an important point to take and I applaud you. I’ve always loved your website and I’m happy to see more and more content coming from you.

    Best Wishes


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