New Yorker Richard Louissaint founded a much-needed movement for Haitian-American creatives known as The Haitian Creatives series. A creative himself (surprise, surprise), Louissaint’s creative love and forever crush is photography. Let’s trace his journey, starting from his chilhood years onwards, and learn more about the Haitian Creative Series he’s so passionate about.
Kreyolicious: When you think about your childhood and teen years, can you think of incidents that proved that you were heading towards an artistic direction in life?
In all honesty, not really. i used to draw in middle school and even applied to an art program inhighschool but didn’t get in. So, that ended my aspirations in that realm. Not until college did I discover I was somewhat good at writing for the school paper.
Kreyolicious: Why did you start the Haitian Creatives movement?
It was all organic and came out me documenting Zing Experience a group started by Paul Beaubrun and his wife Cynthia Casasola. The movement was already there i just connected the dots and saw the degrees of separation in the New York creative scene and Paul just happened to know a lot of them.
Kreyolicious: What drew you to photography?
I just began documenting events and my friends during college for fun and then discovered the darkroom my last year of college. Then, it became a more serious hobby where I would come to Vibe Magazine, who I had a short, full-time stint with then freelanced) original Director of Photography George Pitts and get his opinion of prints I would make. Then, an apprenticeship with Haitian photographer Marc Baptiste exposed me to the world of black photographer doing commercial work for the first time.
Kreyolicious: Ever suffered a long period of creative block?
Prior to making it the Haitian Creatives Series officially a project in 2013, personal and professional problems had left me in a very long rut. I had a stopped shooting consistently— even personally—around 2010 and couldn’t get past it until I quit a job I hated. [I started] shooting video work to find another outlet for my creativity. I really didn’t get out of [the rut] until 2013. I have learned to best way to get through blocks and slow periods of work is to shoot, shoot and come up with projects to work on with others.
Kreyolicious: You’re based in New York. What bearing does that have on your creativity?
New York is still that cliche despite it being inhospitable financially for creatives, the poor, working and middle classes. There’s so much creative energy and inspiration everywhere if you look hard enough, just not in the places it used to be like museums, which are really not that affordable. The biggest change for me has been the discovery of collaborators which I nice to have. Us only-children types tend to work alone so much ’cause we are used to it.
Kreyolicious: What are some of the most inspiring, creativity-boosting books you’ve ever read?
As I was a writer first, they tend to be fiction books, in particular scifi and fantasy. N. K. Jemisin, who was became the first Black woman to win the Hugo Award for best novel, inspires me a lot. And of course here predecessor the late Octavia Butler. But aside from that, there is Create Dangerously:The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat.
A photo shot Richard Louissaint!
Kreyolicious: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a creative?
Honestly, if you discover you have a creative itch early, scratch it. You can work on other things and try things out. But everyone’s paths are different. You may decide to have a full time job and work on your creative ambitions. Or you can decide to suffer the artist’s life which can be very rewarding and also very draining emotionally and financially until you find a balance. Just make sure sure you choose.
Kreyolicious: What do you hope to accomplish in five years?
To finally finish this first short film I have been working on for two years with Jason Minnis, an accomplished musician. Turn the Haitian Creatives Series into a full-length film. Get better as a filmmaker and DP. And to be cool with the life I have chosen.
[Richard Louissaint’s headshot/main photo: Ariel Williams]