• US BY US COLLECTIVE

#OnTiLimyè - Through the words of its curators 

- Before we start, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to [y]our readers?

Hey! I’m Kelly, but I go by Noiredelatour. I’m twenty-three, I live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and I’m a photographer, a writer, and a visual content creator. I served my four-year college sentence in Marketing and Communications, and I’ve been everywhere from start-ups in Queens, to a full-fledged manager in an office, with a few odd-jobs in between. I’ve always had a passion for writing and an eye for photography, and doing my own thing was the one way I could do both, so… That’s where we’re at now!

- We know you under the alias noiredelatour, and that alias is attached to texts as much as pictures. Would you tell us more about that alias and how it came to exist?

I really wish there were more depth to the name Noiredelatour, but alas… I had a username I didn’t really like on social media – aren’t those 21st century problems absolutely horrible? – and I wanted something new. I thought about the things that I loved. At the time, I was going around Haiti and photographing nature a lot – so a few words came to mind: “jungle,” “desert,” “noire…” I did some brain scrabble, and ended up with Noiredelatour.

- Your photography work has proven itself to be part of the most enjoyed in the Haitian photography scene, whether it be by amateurs or professionals. Your shots very often feature plants and dark skinned people basking in their existence. If you were to word out a statement behind your photography, what would you say about it? 

This is my favorite bit. In my humble opinion, most of modern Haitian photography lacks depth. I decided to pick up my (phone!) camera for two reasons: the first was to look at Haiti differently. I was sick of the overly glamorous touristic shots, and of the extremely sickening news report shots. The lack of in-between frustrated me, and I started to wonder if I had some kind of superpower – because I saw it. Every day, and every night. Out in the street, in the middle of a hike, sitting with a group of friends… The in-between was there. Haitians could exist outside of misery for sympathy, and performance for luxury. I gave myself entirely to that purpose.

The second reason was that I was sick of people defining a photographer a someone who carries a DSLR camera. I was still in college, as reflected by my bank account, and sure as hell couldn’t afford one – so I made do with what I had. I couldn’t – for a second – imagine something beyond my control stopping me from doing what I loved. Camera enthusiasts would discredit me? Marvelous.

I liked it so much that I kept going, and landed where I am today.

- Alain D. Lescouflair (@Theexplorerjourney) and yourself have recently started the hashtag“ #OnTiLimyè “ on Instagram and through that hashtag, we can view beautiful pictures of various scenes having been taken in little light, which is what the hashtag translate to in English. Could you tell us more about how this all came to life?

On Ti Limyè was a brainchild of mine from a year or so ago. I had originally called it “Chasing Light,” but because I wanted it to have a broader reach – and wanted more people to understand and participate, I chose to translate it to Kreyòl.

The concept was this: how can I photograph light, outside of extreme contrast, or of a night sky? In the beginning, I was stuck. It forced me to think of light differently – as a photographer, but as a regular degular human, too. I began waking up early just to appreciate slivers of sunrise, when three weeks prior, I would’ve just rolled over, and tucked under my pillow. I started looking at my surroundings more intently, and exercising my photography muscle a lot more. It was a great way to limbo out of my comfort zone, and the flexibility I’ve gained from it is like no other.

When I shared the idea with Alain, I found someone who was just as excited as I was – and who was also looking to train their eye as a photographer, so I couldn’t have been more excited. We took a lot of structure out of the project when we were putting the guidelines together – in any other setting, that can be dangerous, but in photography, I feel like it allowed us to be a lot more creative and free for On Ti Limyè.

- “On Ti Limyè", as we’ve said previously, translates in English to “[a] Little Light”, referring to having very little exposure to light. Are we right to feel there is a deeper symbolism behind that pick? If yes, would you mind elaborating on it?

The idea for On Ti Limyè came to me while driving down the hills of Kenscoff with friends one afternoon, and watching sun rays filter through trees, specks of dust free-falling between them. “How cool would it be if we spent three months shooting light?” I asked one of my friends.

He agreed, but I started to wonder… Wouldn’t it be nice if I chased that same light in my life? You’re rolling your eyes, I know, I know! But I’m a sucker for meaning, and cheesy things get to me – so I sat on it, and thought about it.

Most of the photographers I knew of in Haiti operated in one of two different circles. They either shot glamorous, studio-exclusive portraits that seemed completely detached from reality, or they worked in dark, grim photojournalism that left no real hope for a brighter tomorrow. Again, I thought about the in-between. I don’t have to sink, and I don’t have to pretend. If I’m just here, and if I’m just aware… I can create, too. On Ti Limyè forced me to flex my photography muscle, as well as my optimism muscle.

I’m ever so grateful to see that it sparked the same reaction in so many people, too! Folks reached out saying things like, “I’ve never taken so many pictures!” or “I spoke to my dad about this, and he took this photo of me!” And it does something to know that there’s room for meaning on this little island, too.

- The pictures are amazing, the dim lighting makes for beautiful gloomy shots. What are your expectations as far as the perennity of this project? 

Well, from a strictly objective standpoint, as we are getting closer to the end of the year, I’m expecting more and more occasions to rise for people to submit those dark, contrasting, gloomy shots (hello, fireworks). I don’t want to drag it out for too long, though – so I think it may last for a couple more weeks before I give birth to another brainchild. Stagnation isn’t all that good for creativity, you know?

For now, though, I can’t really say when exactly On Ti Limyè will come to an end – that would be up to Alain and I to decide. So, for the time being, I’m just enjoying the ride.

Lastly, if there’s one thing this project should inspire us to do according to you, what should it be?

Above all, I hope that On Ti Limyè pushes photographers (whether they use a phone or a camera) and non-photographers alike to get outside of their comfort zone and ask themselves, “How can I look at my world differently?” This project was born out of a desire to shift perspectives – and I have seen it do so for myself, and for many others. I hope that it pushes people to flip their world, their ways, their art upside down, and to see what gives.

And for you, the reader, I hope it pushes you to follow your passion(s) a little bit more every day, because that’s the lifeblood of our existence, here. Whether that’s watercolors, singing, photography, writing, pottery, music – I hope it brings you closer to it, because a step becomes a jump becomes a leap.


Click here to see the virtual exposition


Interviewed by Leila Lherisson