AM - I know you from being involved with Vivian Maier Inspired, a street photography Facebook group which gets it's influence from Vivian Maier. I've seen you share some quality images in the time and, if I recall, a few of them are from Haiti and are incredibly moving. We'll come back to Haiti in a while, but on the subject photography.
Can you tell us a little about how you got into photography, and more especially the genre of street photography?
VC - Thank you very much Alf, Its truly a pleasure and an honour to have you interview me.
I have always been in the arts, and although I studied art extensively and was a professional artist and worked in the family business as an antiques dealer and restorer of paintings and painted furniture, somehow, throughout my life, photography always pulled at me. I always had a camera, but nothing great, growing up in the 70s and 80s , the rage was Polaroids and disposable cameras, I knew there was better but couldn't get a hold of it, I kept on with my art. About three years ago, I met someone who was/is heavily into photography and a fire lit inside of me, and thought now is the time to start this again, for real… one thing led to another, she lent me a camera we went out shooting.
I didn't really know what direction I wanted to go into but was so hungry to capture beauty, or the unusual, shot everything I could. Flowers, old, abandoned houses, rain, and then it hit me, living here in Haiti, so many complexities and contradictions, the people having surmounted so much and do continue to do so on a daily basis. I started shooting daily life scenes, but hesitated, as they are very proud people, don't like being photographed much, but yet, couldn't get enough.
I became fascinated with the huge sense of faith they have. Everything is based around A Creator, daily life is governed by the words "God Is Good" and thought, that's what I need to capture. That's the fire that was ignited in me. Christmas came a few months later, my friend gifted me with a fantastic camera, I was over the moon, and then a few months later a photo workshop in San Francisco with the great Eric Kim sealed the deal for me.
I would become a street photographer. I wanted to be able to capture humans in their everyday life, and their emotions, struggles, the complexities, the injustices and the dignity. Haiti is very fertile ground for all of that
AM - "Everything we do just sets us up, prepares us for the things we are meant to do", I like that, it is a little like 'we are the sum of all our parts." We are an amalgamation of all our experiences and this makes us who we are.
It is clear by looking at the art of Roland Dorcely that photography is a far cry from his style and approach. His work gives us an impression and a feel of the world. Whereas photography, depending on the way the camera is used, makes for a realistic view. Less impression, more reality, but in both approaches a strong narrative is needed. This, along with composition, is something that may be in common with another person you mentioned, Eric Kim.
I, like many photographers around the world, have spent many a time watching his videos and reading his material. What comes across strongly is his belief in story and composition when it comes to a good image. What was it about Eric and his workshop that helped you see that photography was for you and could fill that element that was missing from your art?
VC - Very, very astute observation and well said, you hit the nail on the head.... Spending time with Eric Kim, is definitely one of the highlights of my journey in photography thus far. Not because of his fame, and his profound knowledge of all the mechanics and dynamics of photography, but because he helped open me up to a world I had been searching for. He taught me, in his approach to his subjects, just how human we ALL are.
I began to see that in all of us there is in fact a fundamental love of being noticed, of being appreciated. How engaging in eye contact or conversation can open so many doors. We all are basically the same no matter how elegant or slovenly we are, how heavy or skinny, etc, basically how different we are, everyone has a story, we all bear emotions, our job as street photographers is to capture that, connect and transmit in a respectful, conscientious way.
He taught me that we all see things differently even when we stand in the same place, shooting the same subject. To claim our vision and style and to run with it.
Right then and there, I knew I wanted to do and go as deeply as I possibly can . It goes beyond just taking shots, it’s become a quest to document the human story.
AM - Wow, he did make an impact. Something you mentioned there happens every time I take a group of people out for a photo walk, and that it is how people see the world differently. I'm constantly amazed at what is seen and, for that matter, what isn't, by the people on the walks.
Your other comment, 'our job as street photographers is to capture that, connect and transmit in a respectful, conscientious way.' I so want to use it as the motto and mission statement for On The Streets.
You can maybe tell that got me thinking, but back to your story. You've rediscovered the camera, been on a workshop and been inspired by Eric. Feeling energised you return home to Haiti, pick up your camera to go and shoot... But you're on your own. What challenges did that bring and what bit of advice would you give to anyone wanting to try street photography for the first time?
VC - I was definitely feeling energised, I had this brand new passion that definitely was bringing me so much joy, I took to the streets and shot everything….. whaaat?? I shot everything, but what was I really shooting, had no real interest, maybe aesthetically they looked good but what were they really saying? Not much. I took my time to start thinking. I realised, it wasn't enough to shoot someone with orange hair.
What and where is the story ? How does it tie in to the surroundings. If it doesn't, what angle do I shoot it from? Lots of experimenting, and then looked around and realised, there is so much more for me right here in front of my eyes. So many stories unfolding. The shoeshine waiting for a client. The schoolgirls weary of going to church at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning. People just dead tired from heavy, manual labour, taking a break. All of it was right there. Took me a short second to figure out Golden Hour is definitely my favourite time of day, morning and afternoon, the mood is always so intense and evident. One of anticipation in the morning, and quiet contemplation in the afternoon. and definitely always in monochrome.
My advice to any budding photographer is to find what feeds your soul, what really interests you. To experiment with it unrelentlesssly. Don't satisfy yourself by taking shots from across the street, move in, engage. Smile, chat with your subject. Know when to move in, know when to back off. Very important, especially in a third world country to know is that everybody has a right to dignity. Basic human respect. Taking shots of outcasts is a tricky thing, don't do it for likes or applause, you won't even get it. If you can't do it tastefully, don't do it all. There are lines to not be crossed. There is definitely a level of abject poverty here that I won't even go near.
And mostly , don't let yourself be discouraged. There will always be people that don't like what you do, keep at it anyways. Every time you go out there and step out of your comfort zone, you get better