Haitian Artist Roberto Stephenson’s Oeuvre

By Nadja Thomas Friday, April 13th, 2012 Categories: De Art Junket, Features, Updates

Roberto Stevenson’s photography is expansive. There is no genre, no box or apparent style that he can be put into. Sometimes one is in awe, sometimes one is left to wonder and sometimes it’s just plain aesthetics. In fact you’ll have a hard time finding consistency with the various topics and styles explored in his photography.  One thing is certain; his collection is riddled with contemplative and stylized gems.

His photography mirrors his personality, not so much care free, as it is a do what makes me happy sort of attitude.  Even as we speak he has the ability to make the interview completely his own.  As our conversation progresses he points out that he counts himself lucky, luckier than most artists as he’s been allowed to create what he wants to with little to no restrictions.

For example he has created a series where he has put together human faces, most of them realistic by photographing facial features of various human beings, compiling them into a singular face of an individual that does not exist. It is creativity at its finest as these images are of people real enough to be walking the streets. Admittedly some of the composites hint to the fact that there is more than meets the eye, but for the most part the photographs seem like one of an existing human being.  He makes it clear that he has since moved on from his composite pictures. However, one can’t help but marvel at the creativity and effort visible.

Stephenson’s aim is to present what he calls the “poetry behind the reality.” He doesn’t want any of his portraits to appear to be unlike what they are in real life, he just wants to show a different perspective and bring forth beauty. It’s strange because rarely is there a picture he takes without employing the use of Photoshop. This seems like a direct contradiction to his statement about making photographs appear to be what they aren’t, but what he does is enhance whatever it is that makes the picture poetic. Take his nude photographs for instance; the poses denote subtlety, a delicateness of sorts. The lighting in the picture therefore has to reflect the pose; he uses Photoshop to add to the feeling of tenderness and subtlety surrounding his subject.

Stephenson is able to mix things up as it relates to his subjects. Unlike his dreamy nude portraits, his recent work chronicling Haiti is more about landscapes and real life. His photographs show all sides of Haiti. At times the contrast is so striking that one wonders if the pictures chronicle the same island. On one hand you see breathtaking views that are reminiscent of pictures out of the best national geographic ads. He then changes focus and chronicles the life in the city of Port au Prince. Though the photographs of Port au Prince are a far cry from the picturesque views of the countryside the contrast tells a tale of how different life can be depending on one’s location. Stephenson then adds more intrigue to his photographs of the city by imposing faded wraith like pictures of people into the other wise blasé shots adding instantaneous intrigue to the concrete jungle.

Then there are his shots of earthquake-ravaged Haiti. These are scenes that have been documented many times but by placing them within his Haiti series he seems to enforce even stronger the story of a country with many faces. How easily time and location can change ones view. In much of the rubble, lone figures can be seen amongst the vast concrete, unknowingly telling their story of survival. A tale not so much rooted in strength but one that indicates luck. The survivors lucky to have been in the right place at the right time while the bodies covered in cloth tell of the story of being in the opposite predicament. Most of the people are unaware of the camera allowing Stephenson to capture their vulnerability and unspoken stories.

Though all photographers tell stories by snapping pictures, it doesn’t take much for one to realize that Stephenson is a champion in his field, putting together narratives that may not have been apparent to the ordinary by stander.


To see more of Stephenson’s work visit: http://www.robertostephenson.com/

Nadja Thomas
Nadja Thomas

Nadja Odi Thomas is a multimedia Journalist studying at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She produces radio, web and televisions pieces but is focused on producing video for the web and television. Originally from the island of Dominica she currently resides in New York City. Nadja has a fervent interest in the visual arts, a passion for storytelling and a penchant for photography that developed while taking a film photography class at her Alma mater Temple University. She believes the world is full of stories waiting to be packaged and told. Nadja is also interested in creating works of fiction.