It is said that “history is written by the victors,” but what if there is too much history and no victors? Last year started with a bang as a huge earthquake hit Haiti and dominated the headlines until the massive Gulf oil disaster in April, and then storms, fires, tsunamis, tornadoes, wars, revolutions and more earthquakes happened in quick succession. Yet the earthquake in Haiti, which shares a common history with New Orleans, was staggering in scope, and this selection of images by New Orleans-based photographer Julie Dermansky captures both the overwhelming chaos and the extraordinary resilience of the Haitian people.
In January 2010, Dermansky went to Haiti to try to find an old friend, an arts activist she later learned had perished in the quake. Dermansky remained to document the plight of the Haitian people, and her images convey the apocalyptic nature of the destruction — rubble is all that remains of the monumental national cathedral (pictured), the presidential palace and other massive buildings where mangled human limbs protruded from the rubble. The photos also capture the dignity, endurance and irrepressible spirit of the Haitians themselves. In much almost-generic media disaster coverage, Haiti appears hopeless, but Dermansky’s cool, compassionate eye reveals a remarkably stoic if vivacious people whose true potential really never has been tapped. If these people have endured so much misery for so long and are still capable of hope, who are we to doubt them?
On Wednesday, July 13, the Ogden Museum of Modern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9600; www.ogdenmuseum.org) hosts a panel discussion moderated by WWOZ’s George Ingmire and featuring New Orleans cultural community activists who went to Haiti after the quake. The panel includes Dermansky, journalist Michael Deibert, WWOZ’s Maryse Dejean, Haitian Association for Human Development President Dr. Yvelyne Germain-McCarthy, Ogden curator/photographer Richard McCabe, Tekrema Center founder Greer Mendy, Loyola University’s Dr. Jean Montes and photography gallery owner Joshua Mann Pailet.
The exhibit at the Ogden will be up through July 24.