Little Haiti from Bhakti Baxter’s Phone Lens

Bhakti draws. Bhakti paints. Bhakti makes sculptures, collages, and assembles found objects. Bhakti throws parties that are public art installations where “Everyone is invited, but no one may attend”. Bhakti is a Sanskrit word for devotion, and it means “Universal Love”, “Divine Love”. Bhakti likes the magic of geometry, its symmetry. Bhakti disrupts conventional boundaries, twists our perception, questions how we look at the mundane. Bhakti is from Miami and has exhibited in France, Italy, and in several places around the US. His studio is in Little Haiti, the name given to Lemon City in the late 80s, when a big wave of Haitian immigrants settled down. Little Haiti was one of the poorest places of Miami and was stigmatized as a dangerous area (according to the 2010 Census, 12,800 residents had left). However, since the turn of the millennium, it became appealing for investors.

Bhakti also takes pictures of Little Haiti with his phone and uploads them to his Instagram and Facebook. They’re beautiful from a formal perspective—sometimes he plays with the colors of the environment, juxtaposing them with the colors of people’s clothes, or he does the same thing with the shapes of buildings, artifacts, and people’s bodies, reminding us of constructivist compositions. From an iconographic perspective, the photos are also extremely significant. The pictures can be seen as anthropological studies, and also as a historical record of a place that is in the midst of change.

BBCD: When did you start taking pictures in Little Haiti and why did you pick that place? 

BB: I’ve been working at an art studio in little Haiti for about 5 years.

CD: What do you look for to photograph? 

BB: Whatever catches my eye…people, clouds, dogs, trash… I shoot first and compose later.

CD: What was your perception of Little Haiti before you started taking pictures there? 

BB: a colorful place.

CD: Has this perception changed after you’ve been photographing the neighborhood for a while now? 

BB: Not really… if anything the colors have become more vibrant.

CD: How do the people react when you photograph them? 

BB: Most of the time they don’t know I’m taking pictures of them with my phone… when its too obvious I ask but that usually means they’d prefer I not photograph them, so I stick to shooting without asking.

CD: How do you think gentrification is affecting/will affect the area? 

BB: Gentrification will eventually make it more difficult for me to work there. As property values increase buildings get sold, resold, and artists are displaced in the transaction.

CD: Is there anything about Little Haiti you’ve learned that we might not know?

BB: It is best to walk in little Haiti if you want a good picture, get something to eat, or get to know the area better. Everyone in Little Haiti walks or rides a bike. It’s one of the only places in Miami where you see pedestrians everywhere, even though the streets are not pedestrian friendly.

For some of our favorite Bhakti snaps, see the gallery below and be sure to follow Bhakti @bhaktimar

Words by Camila Alvarez

 

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