The Self-Portrait Project is a visual archive project. It uses a two-way mirror and a remote trigger to enable the user to take photos of him/herself when and how he/she chooses. I built the first one in 2009, and since then, it’s become well-known in parts of Brooklyn and beyond.
Although primarily used in New York as somewhat of a fun photo-booth replacement, I have always wanted to try out the project as a tool for self-expression in a setting where people have been marginalized or victimized, explicitly because the participant is empowered to choose how he or she would like to be seen by the world, rather than having their image dictated by someone else (a photographer).
The opportunity to see this vision in action came when I was approached by the Pink Stone Foundation to do a project in Haiti surrounding housing rights in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. In Haiti right now, there are over 300,000 people who live as refugees in their own country; they live in encampments in makeshift housing with no access to clean running water. Violence, disproportionately against women, is often rampant in these encampments, as security is virtually non-existent. Many encampments face daily threats of forced eviction. Myself and four others visited some of these encampments and gathered Self-Portraits from residents there.
We want to put a face to the Hatian housing crisis, and to use these images in advocacy campaigns to pressure the Haitian government and the international community at large, to take meaningful action. To do this, we are partnering with Haitian led, housing rights coalition FRAKKA (The Force for Reflection and Action on Housing), and are collaborating with the Under Tents campaign.