Finding a lead image to complement our show delving into Haitian Vodou was a moment of diligent serendipity. I struggled to present images that capture the spirit and tone of a tradition — one that has been caricatured in so many ways for such a long time — and still remain surprising, respectful, and true to its practitioners and its rituals.
Stephanie Keith’s photographs deliver and endure because they do just that — respect the tradition. They also take us into a neighborhood (in the United States), into a life that most of us probably would never encounter. We see how a tradition survives, evolves, and flourishes through immigrant life.
And, here was a photographer who was personally invested in her subjects — at least my intuition said so — and not just documenting them. When I contacted Stephanie Keith for permission to use a few photographs, I asked her why she got started on this project — a Vodou priest at a Buddhist peace rally invited her to learn more about his religion at a “party.”
That was enough for me. The result: “Vodou Brooklyn,” a narrated slideshow of her images and story fused with the vibrant, percussive rhythms from Angels in the Mirror: Vodou Music of Haiti.
Several years later, Keith’s words and images endure. And I’m glad to have played a part in spreading her work and sharing a bit of these Haitian-Americans’ lives with those of us who may have been clueless, but remain curious.