January 2014 | Artist talk: Jan. 30th, 7pm
Whether we like it or not, Antonio Bolfo’s images pull us into the world that he photographs. He documents Cité Soleil, one of the most impoverished slums of Port Au Prince, Haiti. Once deemed by the UN as the most dangerous place on earth, the city is like a forgotten corner of human civilization.
A common photographic reaction to extreme suffering is to use images as a magnifying glass, dramatizing affliction in hopes of conveying the depth of sadness before our eyes. However, this can sometimes have a distancing effect, where the viewer becomes a voyeur, looking on at the ‘other.’ An experienced photojournalist would be well aware of the pitfalls of this dynamic but might also find it hard to avoid. Finding a commensurate, alternative visual voice to express hardship proves to be very difficult. For this reason, Cité Soleil is a rare body of work.
Bolfo uses moments of beauty as a portal to bring us into the community. And when we open our eyes and find ourselves there, gazing through sunshine and soot, we are forced to experience for ourselves the reality of their existence. Bolfo creates a tension between the near fantastical beauty of the images and the apocalyptic reality of the land and the lives represented. He finds small, yet transformative openings to take us into Citè Soleil. Simple moments, like a young boy floating in a sea of plastic bottles, or the poetry of a girl’s hand opening in a gesture of abandon as she runs, are vulnerable instances with which we can all identify. And yet, it is undeniable that the boy’s reality does not end in that moment where bits of colored plastic suspend him for a minute as he dreams. Instead, it is a small dot in an endless landscape of trash and rotten refuse that extends out to the horizon. This uncomfortable dichotomy makes us want to look more closely and to look away at the same time.
-Mia Dalglish & Lisa Woodward
Antonio Bolfo – Cite Soleil, HaitiThe town of Cite Soleil has the biggest garbage dumping grounds in the city of Port au Prince ...View series »
Ways to help the community of Cite Soleil
Donate via the Cite Soleil Community School:
Donate via Helping Haiti: