From a background of studying social work, Claire Martin came to photography realising that it was also an effective and powerful tool for change. Explore her photo series of Haiti on Exposure Pro.
Name: Claire Martin
(Credit: Claire Martin)
Biography: Claire began her career by pursuing a degree in social work; however, she changed her focus to photography when she realised that change can also be effected through this medium.
Since beginning her career pursuing personal projects in 2007, Claire has quickly gained praise for her unique style, receiving support from Getty Images as an Emerging Talent in Reportage in 2009, as well as representing Australia's Emerging Female Photojournalist for Foto Freo 2010. She has recently joined the renowned Australian documentary photo collective Oculi, and her work is distributed through Agence VU in Europe and Redux in the US.
Claire lives in Perth, Western Australia, where she works as a freelance photographer and a socially concerned documentary artist.
Magnum Foundation Inge Morath Award for Female Photographers under 30 years of age (2010).
Artistic statement: Petionville Club Camp photo series
I arrived in Haiti in the middle of the election frenzy, and within a few days of being there, the entire city closed down. International airlines refused to fly, businesses didn't open and everywhere there were violent road blockades, fires in the street and angry mobs protesting. The popular candidate "Sweet Micky" Martelly had not made it into the final run for presidency, and the hugely unpopular Jude Celestin had made the cut. It was clearly rigged.
The people, exhausted from a year of dealing with the grief of their losses from the devastating 12 January earthquake, and seeing little chance for change under the current government, had little other option than to revolt. They can't write a letter of complaint; 40 per cent of Haitians can't write at all. They clearly can't create change through a democratic election — the country is one of the most corrupt in the world, and they simply can't continue to go on as they are. What are the options for a people who have no education, no employment opportunities and consequently little or no control over their destinies? The Western concept of self-determination has little value in a culture that has consistently and for generations been oppressed.
With around one and a half million people internally displaced by the earthquake that devastated the capital Port-au-Prince, it is a shocking sight. Every spare piece of land has turned into a tent city, and whole suburbs and major infrastructure lay demolished, essentially turning an entire city into a slum. Frustration is mounting, as the camps that were deemed a temporary measure are now, a year later, looking quite permanent. But still the majority prays and waits patiently for something, anything, to give.
Between 7-9 December 2010, riots erupted over the disputed Haiti elections. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital, erecting barricades and setting fires, furious that government-backed candidate Jude Celestin, the protégé of unpopular President Rene Preval, would go on to a runoff vote for presidency, while popular candidate Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly finished third in official results and was probably eliminated. The people's revolt was successful with the government conceding, allowing Sweet Micky into the final round.
The streets of Downtown Port-au-Prince are usually bustling with activity, but were eerily quiet during the political riots that exploded after the results of the 7 December rigged election were called.
A trauma psychologist I met in Port-au-Prince told me of a technique called "The Butterfly Technique", where you cross your arms over your chest, resting your hands below your shoulders and tap your fingers. It apparently activates both sides of your brain and calms the nervous system. If you try it out it actually is very calming. This Down syndrome boy seemed to have a natural understanding of this phenomenon as he unconsciously posed like this for me.
This man was lucky enough to salvage his sewing machine from his ruined business place so that he could continue to provide his tailoring services to the people living at the Petionville Club camp. Before the earthquake, the Haiti institute for statistics cited 78 per cent of Haitians as poor, living on less than US$2 a day, and 54 per cent live in extreme poverty on less than US$1 a day.
This baby is not a newborn, but almost a month old. Despite the fact that there is a medical clinic less than 10 minutes walk away, the mother feels there is nothing she can do about the ill health of her child.
Mass graves at Titanyen, a northern settlement of Port-au-Prince. When local morgues were overwhelmed after the earthquake, fields outside this settlement were designated for the unceremonious mass burial of an estimated 200,000 Haitians.
The people photographed and interviewed for this series lived in the Petionville Club Camp, the largest camp in Port-au-Prince with over 60,000 people occupying an old golf course resort.