Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti

Through Feb 13, 2011

altThis is an exhibition of extraordinary photographs of Miami’s Haitian community by celebrated photographer Bruce Weber. It includes approximately 75 photographs taken by Weber from 2003 to 2010 and it is curated by MOCA’s Executive Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater.

In 2003, The Miami Herald published a magazine supplement of Bruce Weber’s photographs of Miami’s Haitian community.The photographs were Weber’s response to an unjust U.S. immigration system in which Haitian men, women and children were detained indefinitely unlike refugees from other countries who were typically released to family or friends while awaiting asylum hearings. The documentary film, The Agronomist, by Jonathan Demme, had been Weber’s call to arms. In it, Demme chronicled the life of Haiti’s most famous journalist, Jean Dominique, the founder of Radio Haiti Internationale, and his murder by unknown assailants in 2000. Incensed by the violence, political strife, and poverty depicted in the film, Weber asked Demme what he could do, and Demme suggested turning his attention to what was happening to Haitians in Miami, where Weber had a home. Compelled to tell the story of the struggle of Haitian immigrants, Weber immersed himself in the Haitian community, which he has continued to chronicle through the present.

Bruce Weber is renowned for his fashion photography and the same formal elements that make his fashion and celebrity photographs so forceful, also contribute to the impact of his Haitian photographs.

As Bonnie Clearwater notes, “In his fashion shoots he captures what he sees in the models – beauty, youth, strength. This holds true as well for his Haitian photographs. These images convey what he sees and admires in the Haitian children and adults he photographs, – their strength, pride, resilience, elegance and beauty,” Clearwater added.

Weber chose primarily to work in black-and-white for the project, but switched to color film when photographing Haitian Flag Day celebrations. Over the years he has built up a large archive of photographs of Haitian celebrations, church congregations, Little Haiti stores and boulevards, as well as portraits of individuals, groups, and families. Miami’s rising Haitian leaders, politicians, artists and entertainers have also posed for Weber. He generally photographed these professionals in their element.

The immigration crisis earlier in the decade made it imperative for Haitians to become more visible and influential. In his unique way, Weber has captured images of a dynamic, diverse and evolving community, bringing the Haitian neighborhoods of Miami to a wider international audience.

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