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Dancing on Fire: Photographs from Haiti.

The astounding photographs of Dancing on Fire: Photographs From Haiti, by Maggie Steber (Aperture, $35), all in color, go from winter 1986, when the detested Duvaliers fled, through the years of army dictatorship, to the democratic election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and finally to Afistide's ouster in winter 1991. Some pictures show Haiti's rulers posing as benevolent. Steber picks out the automatic weapons that give them away. Most of her pictures show people caught during or just after ass of police violence. In one, two military policemen' hunt down a child as he tries to squeeze under the shutters of a shop. The arc of the hard rubber truncheon in a policeman's hand recalls the curve of the sabre in Goya's 2nd of May.' After many such flightenins pictures, the serene portrait of a mother and her children is heartstopping. Steber also reveals a people who, despite decades of torture and fear, somehow preserve the uncanny aplomb of actors at the end of a grand guignol.

A common prejudice against color in photos of violence is that color so often prettifies as to sicken the eye and estrange it. With Steber it's just the reverse: Her colors pull you in forcibly, as in the photograph captioned "Eloquent corpse warns Haitians not to vote in presidential elections, November 1987." Steber's affinity with Haiti, her feel for its light, her superb skills as a printer, make this elegant, well-designed book epical, lyrical, tragic.

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Author:Sonnenberg, Ben
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 21, 1992
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