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July 12, 2010

Brendan Hoffman: Haiti, Six Months Later

A man wears a paper star as a hat, found in the rubble of a former school, on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince. Haitians are less numb with shock and can focus on wringing small bits   of joy from their daily lives.
A man wears a paper star as a hat, found in the rubble of a former school, on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince. Haitians are less numb with shock and can focus on wringing small bits of joy from their daily lives.
The destroyed cathedral serves as a backdrop to a small camp for people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The destroyed cathedral serves as a backdrop to a small camp for people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A United Nations truck passes through downtown on July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN convoys are still a frequent sight in Port-au-Prince.
A United Nations truck passes through downtown on July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN convoys are still a frequent sight in Port-au-Prince.
A man takes a wheelbarrow back inside a building to remove rubble on July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Nearly all the cleanup is being done by hand.
A man takes a wheelbarrow back inside a building to remove rubble on July 6, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Nearly all the cleanup is being done by hand.
A man bathes near the rubble of a former school. July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A man bathes near the rubble of a former school. July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A boy who lost his leg in the earthquake plays soccer with a prosthetic leg in front of the destroyed National Palace on July 9, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A boy who lost his leg in the earthquake plays soccer with a prosthetic leg in front of the destroyed National Palace on July 9, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
People stand on top of the rubble of the destroyed national cathedral for a church service on July 11, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
People stand on top of the rubble of the destroyed national cathedral for a church service on July 11, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A brief rainshower hardly fazes pedestrians and vendors along Grand Rue on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A brief rainshower hardly fazes pedestrians and vendors along Grand Rue on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A prayer session is held by candlelight in the basement of a house on July 5, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Many churches were destroyed by the earthquake, and congregations are forced to rely on makeshift spaces for the time being.
A prayer session is held by candlelight in the basement of a house on July 5, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Many churches were destroyed by the earthquake, and congregations are forced to rely on makeshift spaces for the time being.
Men in a barber shop watch Spain play the Netherlands in the World Cup final on July 11, 2010. Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Men in a barber shop watch Spain play the Netherlands in the World Cup final on July 11, 2010. Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Today is the sixth month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. (Please see Jon Lowenstein’s images and the BagNewsSalon discussion of the media coverage of the immediate aftermath.) Photographer Brendan Hoffman returned a few days ago, and sends us this update from Port-au-Prince:

I flew to Haiti fully expecting to find that not much has changed since I was last here in late February. For the most part, just walking the streets, that seems to be the case. In some ways, people’s lives have returned to something approximating the grinding poverty most experienced before the earthquake. In that respect, maybe Haitians are less numb with shock and can focus on wringing small bits of joy from their daily lives.

Grand Rue, one of Port-au-Prince’s main shopping streets, is again crowded with market stalls selling everything from blenders to beauty products, and most people seem to take pride in the daily chores of cooking and cleaning and taking care of their families. But there is a lot of frustration. There was honest hope that the tremendous surge in resources and attention focused on this small, dysfunctional country would change things for the better. Perhaps these hopes were too high, and change will come, just not overnight. But the window for convincing average Haitians that anybody is looking after their interests is rapidly closing.

Elections scheduled for late November don’t seem to be an important topic of conversation because there isn’t any sense that they matter. For all the thousands of NGOs working on the ground, the streets are still filled with rubble and hundreds of thousands of people still live in small shelters made of tarps, which degrade quickly in the brutal tropical sun.

The incredible tolerance for the press has also subsided quite a bit since my last trip. Everyone has had their story picked clean by the media, and displays a weary yet refreshing lack of interest in another fifteen minutes of fame. At least the aftershocks have subsided, and there hasn’t been a hurricane yet this season.

–Brendan Hoffman

PHOTOGRAPHS by BRENDAN HOFFMAN

caption: Women sit on a street corner along Grand Rue on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

About the Photographer

Brendan Hoffman

Brendan Hoffman (b. Albany, NY, 1980) is a photographer based in Washington, DC. He began his career in 2007 after working at a desk for several years in the non-profit sector. He divides his time between client and personal work. Assignments often involve covering news and politics for publications such as TIME magazine or the New York Times. His personal projects reflect his interest in the ways in which economic and political structures shape modern society. His ongoing project “Stand the Middle Ground” is an exploration of contemporary middle class America in the context of free trade and the decline of manufacturing in a small Iowa town. Brendan has received awards for his photography from Pictures of the Year International, the White House News Photographers Association, and other organizations. He has worked in a variety of countries for both editorial and NGO clients, and is a co-founder of Prime. See more of Brendan's work for BagNews here.

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