Juslie holds her brother in the doorway of her home in Cite Soleil slum, Haiti in June 2012
Juslie, 16, lives with her father, Ilis the fisherman, her mother Vanilia and her little brother Evanson in a tin shanty in a seaside slum in the capital of Haiti. When we first met two and a half years ago I was drawn to Juslie for her energy and ambition. I was drawn to Ilis for his humility and his willingness to invite me–a stranger with a bunch of camera gear–into his home. Ilis treated me kindly and for several years I have been returning to spend time with him and his family.
Returns are risky business. Especially in a place like this desperate slum. Life disintegrates rapidly here like the rust-rotted tin houses the people huddle inside. Life changes fast. Either from the weather or disease. Sometimes from violence. And sometimes even from good fortune. But it isn’t me having a negative attitude to state the truth that bad fortune is far more common in Cite Soleil than good fortune.
When we first saw one another it was a good greeting. Juslie–now a head taller than me–hugged me. The family somehow located Ilis out on the water in his little dugout canoe and he came back from fishing. His handshake was warm and heavy. I had a sigh in my heart just seeing that they were all ok. And yet the changes due to hard living are evident.
Sometimes, even when everything is ok–and the hugs are sweet and handshakes heavy… sometimes what we return to is not as beautiful as our memories would have it to be… Life writes on our faces and arms the stories of our living.