On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. On January 14, Arlington photographer Lawrence Jenkins was on a plane on his way to document the destruction.
“I document black history – whether it’s African-American, or Haitian or African – I document black history. So it just fell in line with what I do,” Jenkins said over the phone on Wednesday.
The result of his trip to Haiti can be seen on Saturday in his photography exhibition “Still Standing”. The show is a fundraiser for Medical Wings, an organization that provides aid to developing nations.
Or in the case of Haiti, recovering ones.
Jenkins connected with Medical Wings through American Airlines, a corporate client of his. American is a sponsor of Medical Wings, who was looking for someone to document the efforts in Haiti.
Jenkins is a former Dallas Morning News photographer who had covered his share of tragedies for the paper in addition to photographing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a freelancer. But he says Haiti was something entirely different.
“When you’re covering a Katrina or something like that, they have search and rescue people, and those people are doing their thing and I don’t really need to get involved because that’s not what I do. I’m here to document it. But in Haiti, that’s not always the case.”
While he says he never physically got involved in the rescue efforts, he still felt a constant tug to do something. At one point, he found himself following a woman back to her house, where one kitchen wall remained intact. The woman knew that she had some food in one of the kitchen cabinets and was determined to retrieve it to share with those around her.
Jenkins photographed her trek back to her house and handed her a $20 bill once he was done.
“What was really troubling was that money didn’t mean anything,” he says. “People had money, but they couldn’t buy anything.”
Still, money will be important in the larger effort to rebuild the country. And raising some of that money is the goal of “Still Standing.”
Typically, Jenkins says he spends several months putting together a showing of his work, meticulously pouring over each image and making sure everything is just so. But a sense of urgency pushed him to put together “Still Standing” in just a few weeks.
“I wanted to take advantage of this time frame. Because eventually, Anderson Cooper is going to leave and The New York Times is going to leave, and we’re not going to be hearing about it much anymore and the giving is going to die down,” he says. “The thought process was to create the exhibit now, while everyone still wants to help, and try to capitalize on that and try to generate some more revenue through the showing of these images.”
“Still Standing” will be on display Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Flight Museum in Fort Worth. Proceeds of the event will benefit Medical Wings. On Monday, Jenkins will be back aboard another flight bound for Haiti to continue his documentary efforts.
How can someone go back to such a broken down place so soon?
As he said many times during our conversation, “It’s what I do.”