NEW YORK — On a late Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, spectators filed into an industrial warehouse-like space not too far from the waters of Red Hook’s piers, to view the newly-released book of photography Pòtoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince.
Inside Red Hook Labs, the scent of diri djon djon, legume and other Haitian foods filled the air as small groups gathered around a large display showcasing copies of “Pòtoprens.” The newly-released 416-page coffee table book features the works of 25 artists based in neighborhoods around Port-au-Prince.
The book is the culmination of years of research and documentation by editors, authors and curators, according to the book’s co-editor, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. The essays accompanying the photographs of the artists’ work are printed in Creole and English, which editors said added an extra year of work to the creation process.
The book features artists from a 2018 art exhibition of the same name at nearby art gallery Pioneer Works, which worked alongside Brooklyn-based nonprofit Haiti Cultural Exchange. The exhibition featured sculptures, photographs, paintings and films from 25 Port-au-Prince-based artists.
The performers in attendance also said it was important to hold an event like the book’s release party to showcase another side of Haiti not shown in the mainstream media.
For Jennifer Celestin, who performed poetry in English and Creole, the book’s launch motivated her to create new work specifically for the audience.
“Pòtoprens” is available for purchase via Powell’s Books and Pioneer Works.