September 15, 2010

Emory photographer documents life in Haiti after the earthquake

"Grandmother," March, 2010. A woman brings her 2-year-old granddaughter, who weighs 8 pounds, to a health clinic.

"Balance," May 2010. A young girl walks across piles of rubble in Carrefour, the epicenter of the earthquake that left more than 25 million cubic yards of rubble, 5 percent of which have been cleared.

Emory Photo/Video photographer Bryan Meltz will exhibit her work created during visits to Haiti in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.

“After: Images from Haiti” is a year-long exhibit, now open in the ECIT Gallery, outside Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching, on Level 2 of the Woodruff Library. It is free and open to the public during regular library hours.

The rotating exhibition focuses on the growing nationwide public health crisis and the challenges of rural life in the Central Plateau, and takes a revealing look inside an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The photographs will change every three months to provide fresh insight into the ongoing humanitarian problems that plague the country.

Meltz will discuss her work and her experiences in Haiti in an Artist Talk on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Jones Room of the Woodruff Library. The event is free and open to the public. This is the first in a series of discussions with Meltz that will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

The Atlanta-based documentary photographer first traveled to Haiti in March 2010 on assignment for the Rollins School of Public Health’s magazine. The magazine used several of her shots, but Meltz wanted to expose more of the photos to a larger audience, especially as the media attention dwindled.

“I was trying to find a way to get this out to the broader Emory community and to continue the dialogue, so that people understand the window of opportunity to help is still open,” Meltz says. “The problems are not fixed – it’s not over. I think we have a tendency with the media to cover something to the extreme and then that’s it, move on to the next thing. That’s usually when I get interested in projects, when everyone else loses interest in them.”

The Emory community is still involved in Haiti – an energy conservation project in March funded a trip this summer for Emory students in public health, medicine, nursing, theology and law to work on projects in Haiti and assist in relief efforts.

“There are a lot of people at Emory that are involved somehow with what’s going on in Haiti, so I’m also hoping that this can bring some of those people together,” Meltz says. “I’d like to see how people at Emory are using their expertise and how they’re helping there.”

The exhibition has a multimedia component, with audio accompanying video and photos, so viewers can hear the Haitian people talk about what’s happening to them. 

Port au Prince - May, 2010 from clarke and bryan on Vimeo.

“I’m hoping it will give people a more personal connection and bring them a little bit closer to being there than the three-minute clip that’s on the nightly news,” Meltz says.

Julie Delliquanti, associate curator of library exhibitions and director of the Schatten Gallery, says the Woodruff Library had an unusual opportunity to help keep attention focused on such an important issue.

“It puts the library at the center of current research and current activity,” Delliquanti says. “A lot of times, we’re looking back at things, at collections. Most of our exhibitions are ‘let’s look at something from a long time ago and re-examine it now,’ so this is pretty unique for us.”

In May, Meltz began collaborating with Atlanta-based GIANT Global (The Global Initiative for the Advancement of Nutritional Therapy) on a five-year project documenting the rebuilding of Grand Goave, a small town near Port-au-Prince. Rollins alumnus Alawode Oladele ’93MPH is president and CEO of GIANT; Andrew Young is chairman.

With Meltz planning additional trips to Haiti, “we’ll be getting very immediate images and stories,” Delliquanti adds. “Hopefully, that will inspire some of our students to be more proactive in doing service or asking difficult questions. If we can share it with students and faculty, if we as the University can make sure that the conversation is continuing, then we’re serving our community and our students.”

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