Former Charleston City Paper Webmaster Joshua Curry Raising Funds for Zanmi Lakay in Haiti

june 19, 2013  02:41 pm
San Jose, California-based photographer and web designer Joshua Curry believes that a little guidance, support, and art can go a very long way — especially for young people in difficult situations. As an award-winning photojournalist, professional web editor, and versatile freelancer based in California, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina, Curry has traveled extensively around North America, documenting and exploring a variety of subjects, from landscapes and landmarks to major cultural events, crimes, and concerts.

This summer, he'll make a return visit to Jacmel, a small colonial city in southern Haiti that sustained major damage in the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Jacmel is known for its art community culture of creativity. By way of photography, Curry hopes to connect with the young people of the city and empower them with new skills, ideas, and encouragement.

"I've been a photographer for many years, and I know the power it can wield," Curry says. "I'm proud to be able to help Haitians tell their own story."

It'll be his third trip to Jacmel as part of Jouk Li Jou Kan Photo, the ongoing youth photo camp and workshop run by the Zanmi Lakay organization.

Zanmi Lakay is a California-based nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of life for current and former street children in Haiti by providing educational and economic opportunities and resources.

Curry first heard about Zanmi Lakay from Jen Pantaleon, a friend of his from journalism school at San Francisco State University who cofounded Zanmi Lakay. "I kept up with the progress over the years," Curry says. "After the 2010 earthquake, she posted incredible images that the kids had made. She's been doing photo workshops for many years down there, largely on her own. She came up with idea of continuing the effort on a larger scale and invited photographers to get involved in the first Jouk Li Jou workshop in 2011. After some thought, I decided to join her."

During his first trip to Jacmel in the summer of 2011, Curry was surprised by the enthusiasm of the kids participating in Jouk Li Jou Kan Photo. "They were natural photographers and learned very quickly how to use the cameras," he says. "Having good translators helped a lot, but I give them credit for figuring out a lot of things themselves."

Curry and other volunteer instructors taught the children the art and mechanical science of photography. Most of the children used donated digital point-and-shoot cameras. The 10-day program followed a general structure and timeline in which the instructors gave the children specific and general assignments and provided a base of direction and structure. The students snapped shots of historic buildings, rural farms, locals markets, and neighborhood characters.

"Some kids have done this many times before and are bit more advanced when it comes to camera usage," Curry says. "In the process of working with digital photography, many pick up basic computer skills, learning about folders, icons, and mouse movements. When they saw their photos appear on the laptop screens, it was like magic to many."

After two years of working with Zanmi Lakay's Jouk Li Jou Kan Photo, Curry believes the program most effectively helps the nation of Haiti by empowering a generation of children to see their own community in a positive way. "It empowers them to meet the elders of their city and to show them how Haitians are helping themselves and how they can, too," he says. "On a broader scale, the images form an ongoing document of Haitian culture created by the students. That will endure to show the world a different side of Haiti beyond news reports of poverty and tent camps."

One of Curry's main goals this year in Jacmel is get the project's online newspaper up and running. "It will show the kids the kind of reach they can have," he says. "I want to show them that they have the power to reach the world."

"Beyond the photography skills, this workshop connects them with their own community in a strong and positive way," Curry adds. "They get to meet the people who make up the fabric of their environment. They get to meet the butchers, bakers, workers, clergy, farmers, hairdressers who they knew about, but might not have any direct contact with. They learn what goes on in their city outside of their personal lives. That's very empowering because it shows them how Haitians create their own lives beyond what charities give. They learn the stories of their own immediate culture and how to retell them. Those kind of connections will also help them later in life. When they start to look for work, they will have met many of the people who would be in a position to help them out."

Curry's new Indiegogo effort is a flexible "crowdfunding" campaign with a goal of $3,000. All funds must be received by Sun. July 7 at 11:59 a.m. PST. Those who wish to donate will receive a variety of rewards and perks, including acknowledgements on the Zanmi Lakay Facebook page and at joshuacurry.com, postcards and photographs featuring images from the workshops, free web consulting and design work, and original pieces of art from Jacmel.

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