Madame Denise Remi, before Sunrise, Saut Mathurin, Haiti. 2007.

Madame Denise Remi, before Sunrise, Saut Mathurin, Haiti. March 19, 2007.

Saut Mathurin is a village (more like a hamlet really) in the hilly country just East of a slim tract of all that remains of Haiti’s once-plush tropical forest cover (Pic Macaya National Park). It is a one-track village, and my bedroom window funneled a series predawn guffaws at the end of already short nights; donkey hooves, cockerels, conversations and foot clatters over a stone-strewn track. On my first bleary amble down this track, at least an hour before sunrise, I met Madame Denise. At this point, she was struggling to keep her daughter in school. Madame Denise worked downhill as a farm laborer, had a few bottles of cooking oil for sale, and aspired for more. “Most of all,” she quietly, earnestly said, as I lobbed my Hasselblad onto a tripod, fumbled for exposure readings, working as fast as I could to avoid being surrounded by curious neighbors, “my daughter’s education is the most important thing.”

We chatted past sunrise, watching her daughter, Derlenva, leave for school (that’s her in the background). Madame Denise’s determination, her steadfast attitude, her kindness and grace were infectious. If there was ever an embodiment of hope here, I thought, she’s it. I knew I would see her again. Still, with her gentle smile.

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar lens, Fuji P400 film