By Samantha Samel
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Haitian-born Brooklynite Marc Baptiste has an eye for beauty. A favorite amongst Hollywood and music stars, Baptiste has photographed some of today’s most popular icons, including Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West, among others. While his clients may take him far and wide, Baptiste lives here in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters – and will be speaking at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights on Friday, March 22.
Friday’s event is hosted by Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) – a nonprofit organization that aims to cultivate and promote the cultural expressions of the Haitian people. Régine Roumain, executive director of HCX, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Multiple generations of immigrants and their descendants in the Haitian Diaspora consistently seek out avenues to reconnect with their heritage. Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) helps meet this need for cultural engagement by providing year-round, accessible programming in New York City, particularly in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.”
Baptiste’s presentation is part of HCX’s An n’ Pale | Café Conversations series – a monthly run program that features a wide range of artists whose work reflects their connections to Haitian culture. “Our An n’ Pale program is a monthly public forum designed to engage multiple and diverse audiences in conversation with artists, cultural workers, and academics…[the program] provides a platform for artists to present their work, foster community engagement, and provide participants with the opportunity to discuss issues relevant to our community,” said Roumain.
Friday’s event will include an hour of networking from 6 to 7 p.m., after which Baptiste will present his photographs to the audience. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions.
Baptiste, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moved to Brooklyn when he was nine years old. Roumain explains that the tri-state area – which is home to over 500,000 Haitians – “boasts one of the largest populations of the Haitian Diaspora, which has continued to reproduce and create new forms of cultural expression that enrich the Haitian community and contribute to the cultural diversity of New York City.”
Indeed, Baptiste’s dynamic work – which is certainly influenced by his Haitian heritage – has earned him recognition in the New York arts scene. He developed an interest in the visual arts at a young age, and after studying photography in high school, Baptiste earned a BA in Graphic Design and Advertising at NY Technical College. Soon after graduating, he began his illustrious career, shooting in Paris and NY for such magazines as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Esquire, and Rolling Stone, among others.
In addition to photographing for prestigious publications, Baptiste has released three books of his own, all of which celebrate the female form: “Beautiful-Nudes” (2001), “Intimate” (2003), and “Innocent” (2006).
A favored guest photographer for Germany’s Next Top Model, Baptiste has earned global recognition. His collaborations with celebrities have inspired a variety of philanthropic projects: Baptiste photographed “DKNY / Rock the Vote” campaign with Eva Mendez and Kate Bosworth, a UNICEF campaign with singer Ayo, and a campaign for the “Keep a Child Alive” organization with Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Lorraine Bracco, Cynthia Nixon and Lenny Kravitz.
Moreover, Baptiste’s love for his homeland inspired him to partner with Donna Karan’s Urban Zen; through this collaboration, Baptiste helped to curate the silent auction “The Truth,” which was held on the one-year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that shattered Haiti.
Friday’s An n’ Pale | Café Conversation will offer fascinating insight into an esteemed artist’s eventful career. Audience members – whether members Haitian community or art enthusiasts – will have the chance to view stunning works that integrate fashion and celebrity on a global scale.
Friday’s event will last from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. FiveMyles Gallery is located at 558 St. Johns Place in Crown Heights.
For more information, visit www.haiticulturalx.org.