* The available images were carefully selected in order to raise funds for The Foundation for Art in Motion as well as my emerging platform Shooting Stars: Photography Workshop for Teens at Risk. Most of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to these charities.
In this globalized world of consumption we live in, rarely do we stop to think about where our goods actually come from, who cultivated them or what life is like for the people at the beginning of the production chain. When you open a pack of sugar and empty it into your tea or coffee, do you ever consider the process of how that sugar ended up on your table? Do you ever think about what the people are like at each step of the production: the cultivators of the fields, the owners of the land, the processing plant workers, the packaging designers, the marketing team, the distributors, the transporters, the wholesalers, the retailers, and ultimately you, the consumer? I do all the time... to the point where I make up complete stories in my mind that could turn into a screenplay.
In December 2014, I traveled to a village called the “Batéy 106,” where a community of sixty Haitian families live and toil on a sugar cane plantation in the hills of the Dominican Republic, fifty miles north of La Romana. Ultimately, I was brought there by the Foundation for Art in Motion on a humanitarian mission to teach art and photography to a hundred children on the plantation. Here I was, at the beginning of the food chain: the very chain that I would sometimes dream about as I stir my coffee. It was now possible to meet these people, observe them in their environment, learn from them, play with them, teach them, and most of all, document them.
“Batéy 106: Portraits from a Dominican Sugar Cane Plantation” aren’t just portraits of people living in poverty. They are portraits of a beautiful community that ultimately represents the foundation of globalization and world consumption. Living off an income of $5-10/day, they are the most minimal consumers in the world, and yet they are the base of the production process. Without them, our coffee would be bitter and our cakes, tasteless.
With no electricity nor immediate access to clean running water, the five hundred people living on the Batéy 106 are exploited, but not forgotten, and their character is open, loving and joyous. These images are here to show us the faces of labor, their women and children, and connect us with their lives, reminding us how sometimes, something so sweet as sugar comes with a little grain of salt.