Cristina Baussan is a photojournalist from many corners of the world – France, the US, El Salvador, and Haiti – but she’s chosen her father’s hometown to install herself and start her journalist career. I’m fascinated by her “third culture kid” upbringing. There was a lot I wanted to ask her, but in the end settled on a rather selfish question. It’s one that I think about a lot, after two and a half years working as a journalist in my own father’s home country of Tunisia, and now working in a country where I have no family ties. What impact does it have on us, to work in a country that is sort of ours, personally, and in our work?
How does it feel – or how does it manifest itself in your work – to report from a country that you have family ties to?
“I had never thought of that. I guess it’s like – the reason why I went to Haiti was very personal. I felt this strong desire to reconnect with my roots, and photography led me to that. It gave me that access in a way, to go and base myself there as a working photographer. That’s the reason why I went, to reconnect with my roots, to gain a better understanding of how my father grew up, and how it shaped the way that he educated us.
I think the stories that I do are not necessarily, like, personal in the way that it’s about my family or my dad’s journey, but I think I do find a lot of connection with the people that I photograph, more in Haiti than in other places. Which is crazy because I didn’t grow up there – now I have more knowledge and feel closer to the country, but when I got there, I knew as much about Haiti as I did El Salvador.
But I do feel a stronger connection when I’m working and photographing the people there, because it feels like there’s a responsibility in my reporting to represent the true essence of Haiti. I kind of feel like I’m in the right place doing the work that I’m doing. It gives me a bigger purpose.”