Michael King’s first photo exhibition, “Inner Sanctity: A Social Portrait of Current Haitian Culture,” shows a nation rife with poverty and devastated by a 2010 earthquake, but also a sense of hope. King traveled to Haiti a year ago for a mission trip to learn about programs sponsored by the Haitian Timoun Foundation.
The foundation focuses on programs for children because they suffer most. Families that can’t afford care, sell children into slavery. Those with mental disabilities are marginalized because the Haitian voodoo culture believes they are cursed or possessed by demons.
Appropriately, much of “Inner Sanctity” focuses on children, especially those in the assistance programs.
The most powerfully intimate portrait is “Tise-Luca,” [pictured], a mother and her two daughters watching as a doctor examines a third daughter’s hip infection. The viewer is immediately drawn in with the bond between mother and child.
King also wanted to present a comprehensive look at Haiti.
“When I had the opportunity to go to Haiti I thought it was a great way to bring back a visual record of what happened there,” he said.
“Inner Sanctity” as an exhibit is a “visual record,” whether the photographs themselves, or in presentation. Many of the images are hung using wires and clips to convey how “Haiti is all put together with bailing wire and spit,” as King puts it.
“Working with [curator] Wynter Whiteside, we didn’t want this to be a typical photography exhibit where they’re hung in frames, matted and mounted. That would be so out-of-character for Haiti,” King said.
King also replicated the “rustic, low-tech environment” by printing photos on small wood blocks, and the arrangement evokes the earthquake’s effects.
“Those little blocks spiraling up [a] column is [about] the earthquake, and being broken into little, tiny pieces; the falling down sort of stuff,” King said.
For as many ways that King captured the problems facing Haitian society, he has as many portraits of children and everyday people enjoying life — singing, playing and dancing. Maybe no matter how bad things get, for Haitians or anyone, there’s an inner strength striving for and believing in happiness.
Photos courtesy of Michael King