“They kept calling me ‘Hey Blanc’ or ‘Hey Mon Blanc’, because I was often the only white person walking on the street over there.” Su Tomesen, who has made the 24-hour portrait of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haïti, smiles when she thinks back on the time she spent there.
“I had heard a lot of ‘Wild West’ stories about Port-au-Prince. People told me it would be very dangerous over there. That’s why I thought it was going to be very hard to walk around with a camera, but it was actually better than I had expected… Although I did have to jump into a taxi once to avoid a crowd of protesters who were throwing things at UN-vehicles. For the people that live there, life is hard. Everyone’s terribly poor. Eighty percent of the population is unemployed. There are holes in the road everywhere and cars break down all the time. If people even own a car, it gets a flat tyre in no time.”
Did she know in advance what she wanted to record over there? “I am always triggered by visiting new places. As an outsider you’re able to see the characteristics of a city much quicker, which makes it easier to inspire others.” Many artists who are making City One Minutes give workshops to art academy students of the countries they visit. For Su Tomesen in Haïti this turned out differently. “A couple of years ago, I met a photographer from Haïti on the Biennale in Havana. He brought me in contact with Damier Raymond, a young filmmaker. A few days before I flew to Haïti, he was the only participant I had over there. But on my last night in Amsterdam I met someone who knew an English filmmaker in Port-au-Prince. She introduced me to all sorts of people there who wanted to make video’s.”
The video Tomesen is especially pleased with is ‘On Patrol’. A couple of UN soldiers are handing out candy to small children in a slum, before they go on patrol there. “What I find most valuable about this project is that you work with so many people. At the end of my stay, I gave a presentation to everyone I had met in Port-au-Prince. I bought beer for everyone and hang up a white sheet in my hotel room on which I was able to project the video’s. I didn’t want them to see me as this blond woman, that’s only there to take her images back to The Netherlands.”