FT Magazine, Gallery: Leah Gordon

Josh Lustig, Financial Times, January 21, 2023
"As a nation, Haiti has used every cultural tool at its disposal to share its history", says photographer Leah Gordon, “from song to ritual, from drum-beat to dance step, from poetry to novels, from paintings to sculpture”. In Jacmel, a port town in the south, this history is told through carnival. Three centuries are rendered in body paint and papier-mâché; a world away from the elaborately sequinned, corporate-sponsored carnivals elsewhere in the Americas.


The boys in this picture are from a troupe of Lansè Kòd, or rope throwers, who tell the story of the Haitian revolution. “The cords we carry are the cords that were used to bind us,” says Salnave Raphael, former leader of a troupe called Nabot Power. “Although we know that slaves never wore horns, this is about the revolt of the slaves,

and we wear the horns to give us more power and to look even more frightening.”


Gordon has been photographing in Haiti since 1991. “I was always keenly aware of the difficulties and responsibilities in representing Haiti,” she says, adding that the country has been a “mythological epicentre” for racist, colonial anxieties since the revolution at the end of the 18th century. Alongside photography, Gordon has spent decades collecting oral histories in a bid “to restore the narrative to the photographs and reduce the level of spectacle.”