Through images of mostly somber young women holding water bottles, onions and Ziploc bags of rice and black beans, photographer Nadia Todres shows the world Haiti’s silent sufferers.
Through her lens, Todres wants to highlight Haitians’ daily struggles that go unnoticed in the media, which has tended to focus on images of the violent anti-government protests that have rocked this Caribbean nation.
“I am living with sadness because of the protests. I would like to eat every day, but there’s no money to buy food,” wrote 18-year-old Jouseline Norde, one of Todres’ young subjects. “Sometimes I sleep without having eaten anything all day. It’s very hard for me. Every day I’m praying to God to change everything.”
Todres grew up in the US but has been living in Haiti since it was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. She started the photography series last week, using specific Haitian products in the pictures as a “creative way” to demonstrate the soaring market prices there in the last two weeks, she said.
The price for a cup of rice has doubled, for example, making it difficult for many families to afford to eat.
Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has been disrupted in recent weeks by demonstrations against President Jovenel Moïse. Todres says the young women she photographs have not been in school since the protests started February 7.
“The situation is very stressful. I am scared because I don’t know what will happen. We can’t find water and food. We spend more money to buy rice & beans,” wrote Abigaelle Mezidor, also 18. “I feel our future is threatened because I don’t know when we will go back to school.”
The young women in the photos are participants at the Center for the Arts, Port au Prince, which Todres founded in 2012 to empower adolescent Haitian girls through educational and art programs.
“In Haiti in particular, girls have such a big role in child care, in caring for other siblings in the household, for younger children being born, for carrying water, for preparing food, for doing laundry, that they very often are not in school,” Todres said.
“Businesses have been closed down,” Todres added. “So those of the girls who have mothers in particular who have small businesses have been unable to work and unable to earn money.”
Todres focuses on helping the girls stay in high school and find opportunities after they graduate.
“When adolescent girls come out of school here at 18, there is zero opportunity for them,” she said. “So we give educational scholarships so they can attend university.”
Her organization also urges the young women to write about their challenges and what is going on in their lives. For this project Todres took snippets of the girls’ writings and matched them with her photographs.
The young women are learning how to express their thoughts and opinions, one poignant essay at a time.
In her photo, Wevly Thibeaud, 21, holds a yellow and red matchbox and a lighted match.
“My country has caught on fire,” she wrote. “I have been watching everything from home. It is like being in a circle of fire. I am inside while the fire is raging all around me on the outside, on the streets of Port au Prince.”