Documenting Haiti's Ruined Grandeur

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A view of the collapsed cupola of the National Palace is seen in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 13. The palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people, was supposed to be demolished, but the plans have been put on hold. (Courtesy of Reuters)
A view of the collapsed cupola of the National Palace is seen in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 13. The palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people, was supposed to be demolished, but the plans have been put on hold. (Courtesy of Reuters)

Photojournalist Swoan Parker recently toured Haiti's National Palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. NPR's Laura Sullivan interviewed Parker about her photos of the once-grand building.

Laura Sullivan: It looks like the building is literally falling down on top of you — how dangerous was it to walk around this former palace?

Swoan Parker: Actually, pretty dangerous. I was a little afraid to take more in-depth pictures because of the instability of the structure. Because there are chunks of concrete just dangling from the ceiling, you are wondering if they're just going to come crashing down on you. So you walk as gingerly as possible, and just cross your fingers that nothing's going to happen.

Sullivan: What were some of the most haunting photographs for you?

Parker: Just looking at the cupola, which is now a symbol of the state of the country. But inside that cupola, there's a grand ballroom, so in my mind I was constantly wondering what it was like with some of the events that were there – some of the galas that they hosted — who might have been present.

A view from inside the presidential office — known as the Oval Office.
A view from inside the presidential office — known as the Oval Office.

Sullivan: What is your sense of how people feel about the palace at this moment?

For many people, it stands for Haiti's pride. This is a symbol for many people, so they consider it a great sense of loss.

Sullivan: When you walked through the palace are there any vestiges of the seat of government that it once was?

No, everything has been completely removed. You find the miscellaneous couch, but you don't find anything of significant importance.

Sullivan: Are you planning to shoot the demolition of the National Palace?

A ruined staircase is seen in the collapsed National Palace. Parker described it as "a staircase of grandeur."
A ruined staircase is seen in the collapsed National Palace. Parker described it as "a staircase of grandeur."

Yes, it's anticipated that demolition will begin within the next two weeks, but this is Haiti, so sometimes things are not always set in stone.

Parker wrote about her experience photographing the National Palace on Reuters' photo blog.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.