Petionville Club Camp: Claire Martin

In 2010, Claire Martin collected the Inge Morath Award for a female photographer under 30 from the Magnum Photo Cooperative and was invited into documentary collective Oculi. In December she headed to Haiti to witness one of its IDP camps first hand.

For the anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake that claimed over 300 000 lives, photographer Claire Martin took her camera and joined some of the 680 000 Haitians still internally displaced in Port Au Prince.

Once a prestigious and elegant club for the elite, the Petionville Club now caters for basic need. It is home to around 60 000 — the largest tent city in Port Au Prince.

A Cholera clinic and a United Nations Post have set up at its border. Three-to-six square metre homes made of recycled tin, donated tarps and tents sit shoulder to shoulder where the golf course used to be, held up by tree branches or planks. Trenches are dug out and sand bagged to prevent flooding in the wet season.

“These homes have been standing for a year already, have weathered and many are in shockingly bad condition,” explains Martin.

“Sometimes I’d sleep there with a family I’d met so that I could photograph at night and early in the morning and to get a better idea about what life is really like day in, day out.”

Martin describes the camp as cheerful in the face of many hardships. She estimates around 90 per cent of its occupants were unemployed or earning under two dollars a day. Many of those working or searching for work leave children to manage their days unregulated.

One nine-year-old boy became her guide and friend, accompanying her during her work and acting as a translator.

“I can’t work without building some kind of relationship with the people I photograph,” she said.

“The language barrier definitely made it significantly harder.”

Beyond language, Martin also braved a month long bout of Dengue fever over Christmas and learnt not to be held back by equipment issues.

“My tripod broke so that one leg didn’t extend, so I could only use it close to the ground, also I was shooting film and many of the lighting situations were really challenging. Sometimes to get the available light I was pushing 100 speed film to 3200. I dropped my 50mm lens in the mud but I just wiped it off and kept going.

“You just can’t be a princess about gear. It’s about having something to say and knowing how to utilise light.”

Petionville Club Camp opens at Global Gallery, Paddington on May 18, 6-8pm as part of the Head On Photo Festival.

Lyndal Irons

Claire Martin                                                  Petionville Club Camp                             Global Gallery


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Head On Photo Awards 2024

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Image detail: Gary Ramage