Paolo Woods, in conversation with Fred Ritchin, discusses his recent project State in which he explores the forging of a national identity in Haiti. With writer Arnaud Robert, Woods tracked down Haitian society’s invisibles, its absurd flaws and hidden aspects. He investigated the economic elites, NGOs, the profusion of FM radios, American evangelists. Month after month, he came to realize that all the substitution powers that had come to save Haiti were actually replacing Haitian authorities. And yet, in a country whose leaders have failed ever since it was founded, the population’s desire for a State remains unaltered.
STATE shows Haiti like never before. While not ignoring the huge difficulties of a land where two thirds of the inhabitants don’t have enough to eat, the exhibition tells how a country presented as “cursed” is, above all, a place where resistance, humor, creation and culture live side by side; how the idea of a nation articulates itself around an absent State; how Haiti concentrates all the issues of a Southern nation submitted to the winds of globalization that the combined efforts of the international community are not capable of addressing.
Rather than the after effects of the drama, Paolo Woods wanted to understand what constitutes the everyday life of a country, and even its normalcy. Because this fraction of an island tells more than its own history and represents more than a singular destiny, STATE questions processes that extend far beyond Haiti.
Paolo Woods was born of Canadian and Dutch parentage. He grew up in Italy, lived in Paris and is now based in Haiti. He is devoted to long-term projects that blend photography with investigative journalism.
Paolo Woods has published four books with writer Serge Michel including “Chinafrica” on the spectacular rise of the Chinese in Africa that has been translated in eleven languages and has been acclaimed as an exemplary encounter between fine art and documentary photography.
His work is regularly featured in the main international publications. He has had solo exhibitions in, amongst others, France, US, Italy, China, Spain, Germany and Holland and his pictures are in private and public collections. He has received various prizes including two World Press Photo Awards and the Magnum Fund.
Fred Ritchin is Dean of the School at ICP (International Center of Photography) which serves more than 5,000 students each year in graduate, certificate, continuing education, and youth photography programs. Ritchin was also the founding director of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at the School of ICP and was appointed Dean in 2014.
Prior to joining ICP, Fred Ritchin was professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and co-director of the NYU/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights educational program. Previously the picture editor of The New York Times Magazine (1978–82), executive editor of Camera Arts magazine (1982–83), and founding director of the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Program at the International Center of Photography (1983–86), Ritchin has written and lectured internationally about the challenges and possibilities implicit in the digital revolution.