Steven Baboun captures ‘Humans of Haiti’

In this picture, Baboun asked: “What religion do you practice?” “I heal people through the practice of Voodoo. I rely on the saints and ancestors to heal people who hurt. I’m like a doctor.”
Photo by Steven Baboun

What should a Haitian look like? A Jamaican? These types of questions are only reality due to stereotypical references plastered in mainstream media such as movies or television shows.

Diversity does not necessarily rid the world of stereotypes and generalizations attached to particular cultures and people. This realization fueled Haitian photographer Steven Baboun to launch a photo campaign shattering negative ideations believed by people he encountered while studying at the American University.

According to Baboun, “After finishing high school, I went to the United States for college and was exposed to the ignorance of people towards Haiti.”

Despite being a land of many cultures, Baboun realized that there are few positive images showing the Haiti he grew up with.

To combat mass misconceptions of Haiti’s culture and people, Baboun followed popular photojournalist Brandon Stanton’s social media photo project, “Humans of New York,” in creating Humans of Haiti the summer of 2014.

“I decided to start ‘Humans of Haiti’ to help educate people about our wisdom, diversity, and to share our people’s stories. I want Humans of Haiti to be the Haitian people’s microphone and platform to express themselves,” he explained.

His project hasn’t been easy. Often, Baboun is met with distrust from those who he tries to capture.

In this picture, Baboun interacts with a vendor. “Can you talk for a minute?”
“I’m selling. Are you buying?”
Photo by Steven Baboun

“We have been exploited so many times by the media that is is hard for us to not see a camera as being a weapon. I’ve been chased after and cursed at for wanting to share people’s stories,” he said.

Despite these challenges, Baboun is committed to uploading photos – ideally daily – with short stories capturing what life is like in Haiti. His motivation to continue is firmly grounded in being asked questions like “do you live in a tent” by peers in America.

“It was important to start because my friends were victims of ignorance,” he said.

So long as he is armed with his camera, Baboun pledges to continue the Humans of Haiti project and earn the trust of his people.

“I always tell them that this isn’t my project, but our project. As long as I am here, Humans of Haiti will always be up and running,” he said.

View images of Humans of Haiti on Baboun’s website, www.thestevenbaboun.com/.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.
Baboun interacts with a father who says: “My daughter is the only reason I wake up in the morning. It’s hard out there, but I have to smile and thank the Lord that I am alive. My mom was a person of faith and that got her through life. That’s something I will always do, follow Jesus because I have to show my daughter that I am strong.”
Steven Baboun

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