Artists have the ability to maintain a particular community’s identity and for Haitian artists, one particular photo documentary series is providing them a platform to be celebrated.
Exploring the niche art community within the Haitian American community in New York is photographer and videographer Richard Louissaint.
Louissant accidentally embarked on the creation of his photo documentary series through connecting with artists within his community. According to Louissant, “There’s a really big community of Haitian artists of my generation and younger doing really interesting things.”
These “interesting things” span a wide variety of art including music, DJing, and more.
Though Louissaint had been curating various portraits and short videos since 2010, it was not until 2013 that he officially establish the project.
“2010 was the seed because I started documenting this Haitian artist named Paul Beaubrun, who originally had a group called Zing Experience,” he explained. “Through that I ended up meeting a lot of people and that developed my filmmaking skills as a result of that collaboration.”
Networking has been the driving force behind Louissant’s Haitian Creatives Series. Working with the Haiti Cultural Exchange and freelance work for artists in need of promotional material has connected him with many of the artists featured.
This work has left him with memories and cool stories he is able to relive through his screenings such as his visual with husband-and-wife duo Melimel and Smax Music.
“I just turned on the camera and they started talking about their first date and how he was going to marry her,” he said.
Another moment he is excited to share in his upcoming screening is in the not-yet-released short documentary following Okai Music.
“I met him in 2010 and what’s cool is that I have footage from back then that I included. He saw it and was like ‘wow, that’s the day I met one of my band mates and ended up starting a band with,’” he said.
Todate the Haitian Creative Series has only captured New York-based artists, but Louissaint hopes to travel to other cities where prominent Haitian communities are present such as Miami and Montreal.
“I do want to go back to Haiti and do an offshoot of it focusing on Haitian artists,” he said.
Louissaint will host his second screening Dec. 11 at the Ya-Ya Network in Midtown featuring two new short documentaries following musician Okai Musik and chef Nadege Fleurimond.
“I’m nervous and excited but it should be cool. Okai said he will perform. His instrument of choice is the African and Haitian drums,” he said.
Haitian Creative Series (29th Street between 7th and 8th avenues, 14th floor in Midtown, www.haiti