Capturing Haiti: A Young Photographer Raises Awareness With Documentary Photo Series

Aliza Waxman, a documentary photographer living in Washington, D.C., decided long ago to use her talent in order to raise awareness for the epidemic of HIV and AIDS that exists all around the world. Most recently, her photography from a trip to Haiti was on display as a documentary series entitled, “Sante Publique Ayiti.” The photographs were displayed at Tryst DC in Adams Morgan from January 10th – February 5th and are available for purchase. DClife caught up with Aliza and spoke to her about this special project.

Q: What was it that got you interested in photography? 

A: I began working on HIV and AIDS prevention in South Africa in 2007, and remained working in various parts of  Sub-Saharan Africa for three years. My passion for photography developed as I recognized the powerful story I could relay about the people I encountered and my experiences in Africa through photos.

Q: Where are some of the places you have traveled to and photographed? 

A: My work in HIV prevention has taken me to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Kenya. Along the way, I have used photography to tell the story of many local and international HIV prevention efforts throughout Africa. In 2007 I began “Faces of Hope,” a photo-documentary on the many faces of HIV prevention in Africa. In addition, during South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, I photographed “There is a World Cup in My Village,” a documentary on my work with the Society Empowerment Project in Oyugis, Kenya which promoted female empowerment through football.

Q: “Sante Publique Ayiti” documents time that you spent in Haiti. What were some of the things that you saw there that you hope are conveyed through these photographs?  

A: “Sante Publique Ayiti” is a visual ethnography on the delivery of public health in Haiti. Haiti has experienced the worst of human ills and environmental devastation, presenting great challenges to the development of an effective health system and resulting in immense health disparities. Though this vicious cycle has resulted in a weak and poorly coordinated health system, everyday doctors, nurses and community health workers provide Haitian people with primary and specialized healthcare services.

I used photography to tell the story of the human experience receiving health in Haiti, with the goal of enhancing the public’s awareness of the positive impact of comprehensive health on the lives of Haitians, and to provide a richer understanding of the biomedical data, which determines the provision of global health. The images capture faces of Haitian people who need continual care and providers who require support and training to continue working together towards sustainable care.

Q: What effect do you want your photographs to have on people and what do you want them to walk away with? 

A: I want people to see this documentary to remember that public health is about people. There is a lot of incredible development work happening in Haiti which is being run by Haitians. Haiti’s health system needs to develop in the Haitian way. Donor countries need to continue to invest in community-based projects if they want to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Q: What goals do you have for your photography in the future. 

A: I hope that my photography can be used to add a richer, qualitative component to global health research; to better acknowledge the needs of the individual, the family, and the community, which is too often overlooked in determining public health programs.

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