Paolo Woods photographs the long term, beyond current affairs; he touches on the crux, the raw edge, of human stories. After investigating the oil industry, George Bush’s wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the Chinese in Africa, and Iran, he decided to settle in Haiti. It was in 2010, a few months after the earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince and the cities in the south of the island. At a time when the small republic, independent since 1804, was described only through the prism of tragedy, Woods was looking for something else: how a national identity can be forged in spite of the State.
With writer Arnaud Robert he 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.
Two books by Paolo Woods and Arnaud Robert accompany the exhibition, STATE published by Photosynthèses and Pèpè published by Riverboom and the Musée de l’Elysée.
Photographic prints for the exhibition were produced by Evergreen Pictures.
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.
Featuring: Paolo WoodsView Location Details Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 5 Uplands
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Artist Talk: Paolo Woods
Paolo Woods, in conversation with Fred Ritchin, discusses his recent project State in which he explores the forging of a national identity in Haiti.Learn More