The unexpected opportunity to travel to Haiti fell into my lap last year. I’ve always had a passion for travel, so I packed my bags. I was invited by a local non-profit to photograph the children benefitting from the work of the organization. Before I left for Haiti, I looked up images of the country and wasn’t happy with what I saw. It was discouraging. The images painted a grim picture. But when I arrived, it was clear to me that Haiti is a beautiful country, full of kind and joyous people. I think going to a country like Haiti without a travel partner, and putting my trust in people I’d never met was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done, and also the most eye-opening. During my time in Haiti, I learned what it means to live for a greater cause. There’s definitely a lot of suffering in the world, but trusting your vision and using your gift to shed light is a beautiful thing. In doing so, it’s possible to find your true potential.


Still, I witnessed a level of poverty in Haiti that I had not seen since my childhood in Nigeria. When I was growing up, I bore witness to this type of poverty. That past experience allowed me to see past it and connect with the kids I met. Most of my time in Haiti was spent with the children that the organization worked with. I loved getting to know them, seeing how they interacted with each other, and with me. Some of them loved the camera! Through my time there and the photographs I took, I witnessed their happiness and joy. Despite having been through so much, they carried so much happiness. Using hand motions and the camera lens, I was able to communicate with them although I do not speak French and they do not speak English.

I want to make sure that I represent the people and places I photograph with dignity. I don’t want to produce images of poverty that, in their genuine attempt to help people, simultaneously denigrate them. I want to visit less fortunate countries, and photograph the people I meet there in the most beautiful and empowering way.

My goal was to show the children’s humanity, not their circumstances, in their portraits. The people I photograph are not props, and they should not be pitied. They deserve to be captured with as much dignity as anyone else. These children are little human beings. I wanted to respect their space and their boundaries.

My work with the children in Haiti made me want to start an organization that teaches children how to use cameras and take photographs in developing countries. I believe that photography is a way to capture the beauty and life in countries that are looked down upon.

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Emmanuel Afolabi
Emmanuel Afolabi is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. Emmanuel sees photography and filmmaking as a way of bringing out the beauty in life; it has also exposed him to work with different companies, opened exhibitions and travelled outside the U.S for work. You can view his work on his website.

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