A Recollection Of The Haiti Renewal

As reported by Andy Stepanian for The Huffington Post.

On January 12th, 2010 the world’s eyes were fixed upon Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake came a roar of outside support; Haiti cried and the world listened… albeit briefly.

Many activists and aid workers worried that the relief efforts would subside when the related news cycle ran the end of its course. Sadly, their worries were not unfounded, and in many ways their worries can be an indictment of our media driven culture as a whole and not just as it relates to this one earthquake and the relief response. Our most-used media is becoming more and more socially driven, in part this opens the playing field and encourages democracy, but it comes at the cost of homogenizing the news into a series of google and twitter driven call and respond “trending topics.” Humanitarian aide and it’s media support can’t be reduced to an allotted news trend cycle, physical aid and it’s supporting media needs to be a sustainable lasting effort that does not blink until all of the needed work is done. The immediacy and accessibility of new social media may have allowed Wyclef Jean to almost instantly raise $9 million through his Yele Haiti Foundation, but as the tide of media coverage ebbed so did some of the support to Haiti from governments and NGOs. What we see now, nine months later, is a smaller group engaged in the relief efforts; only the idealists, the determined, and the fiscally invested have buckled downed for the long haul in Haiti. A mere 2% of the devastation has been cleaned up since the quake, and none of the 1.1 billion dollars pledged by the U.S. government to be used towards rebuilding has actually made it to Haiti, unfortunately the problems on the ground did not go away with the news cycle.

On January 12th, film maker Dustin Miller was sitting at home behind his computer when the social networks lit up with hyperactive, truncated snippets of news about what was unfolding in Haiti. As half of a two-person film production company called Flesh Profits Nothing Dustin steps outside the confines of 140 characters and shortened hyperlinks to place emphasis on the personal side of stories, to lend an eye to color saturation, storyboard, frame and lens. Unlike that of the micro-blogisphere the media that Dustin works with is less immediate, far more deliberate, and cultivates lasting memories. With clients ranging from Dane ReynoldsMikey DeTempleKelly Slater, the Hobgood brothers and the association of World Professional Surfers to more socially conscious and weighted content in “The Heart Screened T-Shirt” a film about a family who adopted three sisters from Liberia, and regular video content work for To Write Love on Her Arms a grassroots network of peer-based support for survivors of self injury, abuse, and addiction, Dustin Miller and Eric Hires (the other half of Flesh Profits Nothing) are both artists as well as story tellers, painting visual stories about real life people in surreal circumstances. Motivated by faith and a passion for life and justice Dustin and Eric aim to capture some of their more complicated subjects in an aesthetic that people will be moved by and also easily understand. When the news of what was happening in Haiti came across Dustin’s computer screen he knew immediately that he had to do something and that his art would be a part of it. In less than three weeks Dustin, Eric, and their friend, mixed media artist Nathan B. Lewis would find themselves in Port-au-Prince and Petit Goave, Haiti with cameras in hand, their aim would be to show the faces, spirits, and very personal stories of the people buried beneath the headlines. Beneath the over-arching news segments were people of spirit whose personal lives were uprooted like quake-shook telephone poles, or whose loved ones were crushed or became memories like the imprints left behind in the place of so much of Port-au-Prince’s lost architecture.

“When the earthquake hit, like everyone else, I wanted to do something. Instantly, I think of telling stories. That’s all I could think about. So, a couple weeks later, we were there…Their words and the look in their eyes… I will never forget any of them. Everywhere we looked were stories, most tragic and some beautiful.” – Dustin Miller, Flesh Profits Nothing

For the full story head to The Huffington Post.