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How to Shoot a Dictator: A Haiti Notebook

An inside look at Mother Jones' Baby Doc photo exclusives.

| Mon Feb. 7, 2011 6:00 AM EST

Duvalier supporters gather near the Karibe Hotel.Duvalier supporters gather near the Karibe Hotel.

A group of supporters has gathered at the bottom of the hill from the hotel; I go down to photograph them. If I can't get Baby Doc, I'll at least get "reaction." I shoot his supporters, people holding signs and chanting. Right when things are calming down, Baby Doc's motorcade snakes its way down the hill towards downtown.

Duvalier's motorcade.Duvalier's motorcadeDuvalier's police escort clears the crowd.Duvalier's police escort clears the crowd.
I keep up on foot as long as I can, jostling with police and other photographers for decent shots of the motorcade. At one point the motorcade stops; the driver's door of Baby Doc's car opens. That doesn't make sense. One of the rear windows gets cracked. The driver's door closes again, but not before Duvalier sticks his hand out to wave to his supporters.

About a mile or so from the hotel, Duvalier's car and the whole motorcade pull away, out of sight. I'm exhausted and unsure what else to do, so I start walking. I have no real idea where I'm going, and no money on me for any of the taxis that pull up to offer me a ride, but I keep walking. That's when a random guy pulls up on a yellow motorbike.

He asks if I want to find the motorcade. I tell him yes and get on the back of his bike. We speed away. His name is François. My savior.

Baby Doc being led into the courthouse in Port Au Prince.Baby Doc being led into the courthouse in Port-au-Prince.Baby Doc supporters after he is taken into the courthouse.Baby Doc supporters after he is taken into the courthouseHaitian police with US SWAT members.Haitian police with US SWAT members—and lots and lots of guns
François weaves in and out of traffic and drops me off at the Port-au-Prince courthouse. I arrive just as Baby Doc is being led into court. There's more jostling, pushing. I get a shot of the dictator as he's getting out of his car. The police close the doors on the courthouse and, man, there are a lot of guns here. Some US SWAT guys give me some much-needed water. I call Mac to find out where she is. We lost contact as soon as I took off from the Karibe. I go out to shoot some of the crowds gathered in front of the courthouse.

Jean-Claude supporters outside the courthouse.Duvalier supporters wait outside the courthouseDuvalier supporters dance in front of the courthouse.Duvalier supporters do a dance.
Since I didn't really come to Haiti to file breaking news, I don't have the equipment to file from the field, so I head back to the hotel to send pictures to Mother Jones HQ.

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