Posted on February 27th, 2013 by .

Going to the McCord Museum these days means travelling much further than Sherbrooke Street. It means feeling the heat and the atmosphere of Haiti, thanks to Montreal photographer Benoit Aquin and his beautiful latest project…

Uniting 39 large-scale colour photos taken on various trips to Haiti starting mere days after the shattering earthquake of 2010, Benoit Aquin’s exhibition, Haiti: Chaos and Daily Life, at the McCord Museum gives a poetic perspective you didn’t see in news photography. “That was very important to me,” says Aquin. “I didn’t want our collective memory to stick on images of the catastrophe. This project is an homage to Haiti, an extraordinary place – a hard but fascinating culture I’ve known since I was 4 years old.”

“I’ve never experienced such a frightening atmosphere as on that first trip, days after the earthquake. It felt like the world had ended, but as if it could end all over again any minute. Everything was destroyed, everywhere was chaos. There were thousands of people without food, water, shelter. Downtown was a desert at night, except for the looters in certain areas – it was as if you could feel the 100,000 dead share the night with you. I was there with the relief organization CECI, and we were staying in an abandoned restaurant. We slept on the floor.”

“This photo was taken that same trip, at the bus terminal – I was hanging out of a bus when I took it. It’s a shot I never could have planned. I imagine the man had a mask on because of the smell of death; some people would stick cigarettes up their noses while other smeared toothpaste under their noses. While I was there, I thought I was maintaining an emotional distance from the situation, but after I came back to Montreal after that first trip I felt like crying every day for two weeks.”

“This was taken a few months after the earthquake, and already life had regained its regular course to a certain extent. This was a small carnival, it was very voodoo – they did a ceremony in the middle of the street, and the man painted in black was in a complete trance. I just stood with everyone and watched. It transported me into another world. In all of my work there’s the relationship between man and the universe. I think existential questions always find their way into my creative process.”


Haiti: Chaos and Daily Life by Benoit Aquin, Until May 12, 2013
McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke West, (514) 398-7100

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