Photographer Valerie Anselme is a rising talent
Photographer Valerie Anselme was tired of hearing, “You don’t look Haitian.” She was tired of having to prove her Haitian heritage because of her appearance, despite having two immigrant parents. So she channeled that frustration into her series “Faces of Haiti,” a grouping of minimalistic portraits of Haitian-Americans in all their differences.
“I want to show that there is diversity in Haiti,” Anselme explains. She was surprised to find that many others in Boston’s Haitian community had been questioned about their background. “Almost everyone I photographed had a similar story, a similar experience,” she says.
Her subjects wear simple black and dark gray garments. Almost all the portraits are shot on a white backdrop, with a few on black. Each person engages directly with the camera, mostly unsmiling — not angry or confrontational, just living. Anselme clearly wields her camera with a natural talent. Not only are the images exquisite compositionally, it takes a great photographer to draw such natural poses from everyday subjects.
Anselme grew up in Dorchester and Roslindale. “I’ve been surrounded by the Haitian community my whole life,” she says. Now studying graphic design and photography at Bridgewater State University, Anselme felt it was high time to celebrate her cultural roots.
She has been publicizing the series and her work on Instagram, and in April, the photographer presented her project at the Boston Public Library’s Hyde Park branch as part of ArtWeek. She hopes to have further opportunities to display the work.
Anselme works out of a studio in Charlestown and shoots with a Nikon D610 camera. Her work can be seen on her website, and the most frequent updates on her projects can be seen on her Instagram (@anselmephotography). In addition to her series projects, she shoots portraits, fashion, music, photojournalism and commissions. She manages to infuse even the simplest of shots with emotional charge and otherworldly beauty.
“Faces of Haiti” isn’t the photographer’s only series exploring black heritage. She’s currently working on a project portraying her family members as Haitian royalty. The rich portraits, unlike the minimalism of the “Faces of Haiti” pieces, are laced with lush textiles and African symbolism.
“I’ve realized that a lot of my work has been about looking into my family’s origins, about being Haitian and having African roots,” she says. “I think it’s important to educate people about other cultures. It puts us at the forefront.”