Bruce Gilden first journeyed to Haiti in 1984 to document the famous Mardi Gras festivities in Port au Prince. Fascinated by the country, he returned many times and his landmark monograph Haiti, a culmination of these photographs made during this period was first published in 1996. Gilden has continued to return to Haiti, and this new expanded edition of his book includes over thirty additional photographs made up until 2010, completing Gilden’s vision of the county.
Though only an hour’s flight from Miami and the US mainland, Haiti remains the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti was freed from French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th Century but this independent came at a cost of an ‘independence debt’ which was not paid off until 1947. In addition, chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters in recent decades have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.
The carnival which first drew Gilden to the country continues to be a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of struggle. It is the unique energy of the country which led Gilden off the beaten track to photograph its inhabitants, streets, stray dogs, markets, slaughterhouses, barber shops, funerals and celebrations. In line with Gilden’s well-known style, the photographs were made as close as possible to his subjects. The result is an underlying sense of tension and movement, as Gilden leads the viewer to encounter the country as he did on his journeys through its streets.
‘And yet, you tell him, this country is hanging on to its last breath. Teeming, throbbing under the sun, sex aroused, bursts of life in mourning garb, relentlessly trying to mute the trumpets of death. Eppur si muove. And yet, the country is still going. In the eyes of the women and men who inhabit it. In the smiles of its children. In the hope deeply rooted in their hearts, which refuse to give up. Even backed up against the wall. In their songs. In their dances. In their everyday words. In their ability to swap the havoc of distress for stardust.’ - Louis-Philippe Dalembert.