jared soares – haitian faith

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Jared Soares

Haitian Faith

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I have been interested in Haiti ever since I took a conversational French class when I was a high school student. Since the beginning of my career as a photojournalist, I have always been a proponent of telling stories in your own backyard. Before moving to Roanoke, Virginia, I had been researching potential story ideas and had found that there was a growing Haitian population in the area. According to reports by Refugee and Immigration Services of Virginia there are over a thousand Haitians living in the City of Roanoke with that number increasing each year.

After meeting a few Haitians during a pickup soccer game and a few phone calls later I was invited to a revival at Ebenezer Church of God, a Haitian church in a Southwest Roanoke neighborhood. The church was founded five years ago by refugees from Haiti. The entire worship service is in Creole, one of the official languages of Haiti, the other being French.

As walked up the stairwell to the church, I could feel how faith was helping the Haitians maintain a sense of community in their new Appalachian surroundings. The small one-roomed church was filled with an overflowing congregation, singing and praising in Creole. A few members mentioned that they enjoyed attending services at Ebenezer Church of God because it felt like they were back home in Haiti.

With this essay I wanted to show the importance of faith in a refugee community and how it can provide a semblance for those living in a new place. This set of unpublished photos is part of a larger story on Haitians living  in The United States.



Jared Soares is a documentary photographer based in Roanoke, Virginia. He enjoys investing his time in longer term projects that center around social issues.


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Jared Soares



Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

26 Responses to “jared soares – haitian faith”

  • Awesome! Beautiful work! Photojournalism.

  • Nothing new here. Wish you had shot it in color. It’s Haiti!

  • I believe this essay is a work in progress… number 1 is interesting for composition… my favorites are 5 and 7, expressive, passionate, you can see the emotion, they evoke something strong and you’ve captured that.

    I’m happy you shot it in black and white, I think it’s appropriate.

  • I like it! Great stuff! religion is always an interesting subject matter. we never know enough!

    well done!

  • Actually Jim it is not Haiti. It is Roanoke Va.

    Well done Jared!

  • Jared, you have definitely captured the essence of a revival in a black christian church but I can’t say it speaks specifically of a Haitian church. I’ve been to a number of revivals in the black community here in Detroit and they all looked pretty much like this. I think if you add audio to this essay it would better capture the Haitian feeling you are looking for. A digital recording of the pastor and people praying and singing in Creole would be all it would take to set the mood.

    Keep going with this project, Jared, you have a good start. Image #7 touches me most deeply. It is marvelous.


  • photos left me wanting more…
    more shots…
    more depth within your subject…
    I like what you have,
    # 7, 8, 9 and 10
    for me,
    begin to tell your story….
    I dunno..
    I want to feel what you were feeling…
    or make me feel something….
    certainly hope you can go back to Haiti,
    and explore more…
    pull back more layers….
    and let me,
    the viewer,
    my perceptions…
    my beliefs….
    great start,
    hope you continue….

  • In this case the statement does a good job of setting up the work. Words and pictures are working well together in this presentation. The pictures take me to this place. I am drawn to #11. Nice work Jared. I like that it is in black and white it allows me to focus on the action of the image and their formal constructions without be emotionally seduced by the color.

    This piece of the larger puzzle works well.

  • ohhh..
    photographed in US,

  • Well done. Jared. I like this essay – I appreciate the ‘in my back yard’ context. Both images and narrative captured me and provided a growing sense of interest in your subject. I also hope you continue with this project – I find I am wanting to know more about these people, I’m curious about the rest of their lives. How do they integrate into the US? How do they live…

  • This is a curious view. One thing I think unless I’ve missed it somewhere is a certain uniqueness that would define you in the report. #4 I think is weak in the set not because it has a head plastered into the middle of the frame but what is visible beyond the oof head hasn’t much else discernibly going on (again apologies if i’ve missed it). Don’t get hung up on the text. If I want to read prose I will go to a library. Pictures should stand for the truth which they conceal. The curiosity factor should be evident. All that being said – the world and his mother can be critical but it is you that is living it so respect to you – well done. Keep onward and upward.

  • The words of your statement work well here. They provide the missing pieces. I like the pictures too but what’s missing is something to show its in the states, otherwise we can’t see from the pictures that these peole are refugees. Maybe Americans would be able to tell but I can’t. Some shots taken outside the church as people are arriving or leaving would probably do that. But I expect, as part of a larger body of work, that missing part of the story would be shown there.

    Personally, I think I would prefer colour too. Now that we have digital, I can’t see the point of black and white in documentaries most of the time. It seems unnecessary, a bit contrived even. (Sometimes a lot contrived, but not in this case.)

  • i liked this. i thought it told a clear story without any ‘fluff’.
    your images are tight and you were able to convey your intentions within 14 frames.
    i think the black and white works well here as it helps us focus more on the people and the emotions than on their colourful surroundings/clothes/music etc.

  • For me the strongest images here are 1,2 and 14. I good start to an interesting project. I want to feel the emotional spiritual connection these refugees have to their culture and religion and as someone mentioned already with some hint once in a while that this is in America.

  • This is wonderful. Beautiful. I love how simple some of the images are… technically probably pretty difficult to capture with difficult lighting – but the “technical-ness” of the photos are far secondary to the quality of the subject matter.

    You should be proud to have such a thing in your portfolio.

    -Noah D.

  • Nice work. This feels like a very traditional photo essay and I’m happy to see it. I’m glad to hear that this is part of a larger project, since I think it would be a very strong part of a more in-depth look at Hatian life in your community.

    As an essay, the only thing I feel is missing is a sense of place.

  • Lovely series. I agree with the above comments about the desire to see more place, more milieu. Your headnote mentions “a pickup soccer game,” “a Southwest Roanoke neighborhood,” “Appalachian surroundings,” etc. — would be great to see a fuller portrait of all this stuff. But, that said, the series as you present it is tight and well shot.

  • really great series. i loved the energy and some great compositions. you state that this is a part of a larger series and i think it comes across as being a part of something, rather than a whole in itself. that’s not a criticism by the way.

    i hope we get to see the completed set when it is finished. keep up the good work.

  • I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to view my work and for those that commented I appreciate your words. Also, I wanted to share a few things about the essay.

    I chose to work in black and white because I wanted more of an emphasis on the people. I feel color in this situation would have been more of a distraction. With this set of photos I wanted to key in on feeling and emotion.

    Also, this essay is part of a larger in progress project on Haitians living in the United States. I wanted to share this essay on Faith because it was the most coherent group of photos at the time and I wanted to see if it could stand on it’s own without the backdrop of the larger project.

    Hope this helps. If anyone has any other questions I’m happy to answer them.

    Thanks again,

  • This couldn’t be timed better for me, as I’m doing a project on my church at the moment. What interests me about this is the fact that there are two different rooms that the action takes place; one light room and one dark room. I’m guessing they’re using the different rooms for different purposes, but the essay really benefit for the variation it created. And I like picture #6 as it seems to be the “middle station”.

    I’m not sure if this needs any “larger project”. I think there are more stories in that small church community for you to cover.

  • Respect for sticking with a self-assignment that offered [what appears to be] bad lighting scenarios all around. I mean – shooting is church is never really easy, but those small rooms made into churches are even worse [photographically anyway]. Musky florescent or tungsten bulb – gross. I imagine that’s why you decided on BW – no choice, huh?

    Otherwise, this work appears strongest when the spacial relationships and composition work – #1,2,6,13. The blurred close up of the reverend (#3), not so much. But the Madonna with Child (#6) is likeable, approachable even.

    No matter what any of us say here – good work getting access. Getting in there seems like it would be the most difficult.

    Not sure why, but whenever I pass a small West Indian place of worship – I always imagine a goat being slaughtered. No live animals? Boy that could jazz things up!

  • Some really strong images here. #8, showing the minister howling up to God, while the man with him smiles contently, is especially endearing. I would like to see where this story goes. What’s the minister like outside of the church? What does the Haitian congregation bring that is unique? Maybe nothing, but that would be a story in itself. This may be an ideal moment for some audio to be added to the story—the singing in the church would add some nice flavor.

    Well done, and congrats.

  • I like the story – I’d like to see the full essay that this is a smaller part of. I think BW is a strong choice for this essay, it probably helps with the light changes within the church, but it also helps keep a nice consistency throughout the whole story. Color in a story about their religion might be distracting since religion is so often considered black and white with little or no grey area and definitely no room for color.

    As for the blurred images and compositions talked about in earlier posts, I think these images are all about style and limitations set in achieving this essay. If this were shot in film, and not with a camera such as a Hasselblad, an essay of this sort where there is possibly plenty of light in the upstairs and remarkably less light down below, the photographer couldn’t flip a dial and suddenly have a higher ISO film in the camera. I don’t think still, frozen in concrete images are always the best anyway. The blurred images of the preacher help illustrate the passion he has in his faith and also helps to direct the focus beyond the man to focus on the image he represents.

    Although the photo its self is great, I feel the weakest in the essay is the photo of the mother with the child. Without the caption, it says very little about religion and its place in their lives.

    Great job with this Jared, I would really like to see the complete story.

  • I think it’s not too hard to get the feel from these kind of ceremonies that offer all the extrovertion a photographer can ask for, especially one with a committed eye and mind, as you were Jared.

    But I must say that watching your pictures, I am reminded of we can read from David on a few essays submitted on BURN: “Your photos are good, but not that good… You are almost there, but not quite…”.

    Because you are bound to capture ubiquitous scenes we are used to see in such essays (Preacher arms up, crowd answering, dancing, teary eyes), It is even more important you bring out shots that take us beyond simple recognition of what is going on, and grab us. Some shots come along that line, but somehow I find they lack spontaneity on your part, maybe you put too much thought into them, or something. At the same time, other shots (like the baptism) are weakened by weak composition, where the energy just goes out the room (so to speak).

    There may also be moments of individual, quited interiority worth seeking for in the crowd and the back rows or somewhere (like the mother and child, but Jason makes a good point). Visually, it offers contrast while not stealing away from the subject.


  • I’m so glad I found this! I used to work with you at the Lawrence Journal-World!

    Haiti and it’s beautiful people are very near and dear to my heart. I worked with many of them in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and truly love their culture. I look forward to seeing more from this project. I hope it includes some of the other big Haitian communities in larger cities like Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and especially Miami.

    I did like a few of the photos in the series but I have to agree with Patricia by saying that this didn’t really stand out to me as “HAITIAN”. Photos 1,2, and 14 are the only ones that come off as being Haitian to me. I would also like to have some audio of the service in Kreyol and maybe a shot of their books they were singing out of or something more that really says “Haitian”. Keep it up, but immerse yourself more in the culture so you can isolate those things that really stand out as Haitian qualities.

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