The subject of Enigma is Haiti, qualified with narratives shared by its residents.

Although raised in a house rooted in Haitian culture, I was already 19 when I first traveled to my homeland. The stories imparted to me as a child were contradictory. My grandmother shared stories of a compassionate people and scenic land, yet she was unable to counter the images, filled with conflict, malnutrition, deforestation, and death, presented by American mainstream media. These narrow accounts, selected and propagated by media, helped set expectations of what I was to find and helped inform my initial impressions of the island.

My trips to Haiti quickly challenged any myopic view of Haitian life. Seemingly contradictory realities existed in concert. In 2011, I began holding photo-voice workshops with children. I held these workshops to allow children to own their stories and so that I might join them in an honest dialogue.

It took me months of being embedded in communities spanning the breadth of Haitian society, and many hours of conversation with people of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses to understand and capture those aspects of the story so often missing from the mainstream representations of developing countries. Resolving to fix my lens on the beauty that is often lost behind dust, grime, and preconceived notions, I finally began to unravel the enigma.

Once known as the “Pearl of Antilles,” Haiti is now deemed the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” These competing realities were true of its past and even now, are true of its present. When Haiti was the prized possession of European colonial powers, though economically rich, it was spiritually destitute, a site of genocide, and a center for the dehumanization of black slaves. Now post earthquake, as many suffer from brutal poverty, it is still presides over triumphs of human spirit.