Inside Haiti's Iron Market

A woman at a stall with the Iron Market in the distance Traders sell their goods in the open air while in the distance the clock tower of the rebuilt indoor market can be seen.

It is three years since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and one million being left homeless.

The disaster pushed the aid agencies to the limit. Much help was promised from around the globe, yet the scale of devastation and other complications led to delays.

Even now, three years on, with the return of cholera to the island for the first time in a century and with as many as 400,000 people still living in tent cities, there is evidence that the reconstruction of many lives is still a distant dream.

Yet there have been some successes. Photographer John Baucher has published a book entitled Nou La, We Are Here which documents the lives of those who work at the Iron Market (Marche de Fer) in Port-au-Prince.

Start Quote

I always want to use all of the frame so it is rare for me to crop my photographs ”

End Quote John Baucher

Built in France, the main structure was originally destined to be a railway station in Cairo, but the deal fell through and so the President of Haiti Florvil Hyppolite had it shipped over in 1891, and there it stood until it was destroyed by the earthquake of 2010.

The market consisted of two halls joined by a clock tower and an ambitious rebuilding project saw it reopen a year on from the quake, with ex-US President Bill Clinton on hand to do the honours.

The new market was rebuilt using as much of the original material as possible, with the addition of a new perimeter wall which saw local tradesmen employed to create ornamental details. It also houses a large array of solar panels to provide the power. "The Iron Market is a first-class building for a third world country," says Baucher. "And whilst the building is important it is the people who use the building who make it."

Baucher's pictures capture some of the 900 traders in the halls, at work, engaging with their customers and sometimes just proudly sitting in front of their stalls. It's a lovely body of work and one that shows that photography can focus on the positive as well as the gloomier side of life.

Here's a selection from the book.

Southern Hall For many, the reopening couldn't come soon enough, as trader Jeannette Borgelin notes: "The Iron Market is a national treasure and I've been selling here since 1971 as my parents were vendors here too. During the rebuild, I was at home, impatiently waiting for the reopening."
Johanne Remy Inside the southern hall of the market you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, tinned and dry goods as well as beauty products.
Delivery Baucher set up a small temporary stall when he began the project so he could hand out small prints of his work to the traders.
Woman wearing Haiti hat Those whose stalls reside in the halls have the advantage of 24-hour security, offering a secure place to work.
Lormestin Desrosiers Baucher says hairdressing and selling of beauty products are some of the busiest businesses in the market. Lormestin Desrosiers, seen here, said: "The market is beautiful. I wish they would rebuild other stores in the area to attract more clients downtown."
Richard Jean Pierre In the north hall you will find the voodoo stalls.
Seeking shade on the street Outside the Iron Market others trade on the streets.
Solar panels on the roof The solar panels on the roof can be seen to the right of this frame.
End of the day At the end of the day vendors cover their goods and come back the next day to trade once more.

I have previously written about John Baucher's street portraits: Belfast and Beyond: Through the Viewfinder

Phil Coomes Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

At the pump

Reuters photographers' pictures of petrol stations around the world.

Read full article

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Your guys are not comparing like with like:
    Haiti is one of the world's poorest; blighted by dictatorships, corruption and natural disasters.
    Japan is the world's third-largest economy with well developed governance, infrastructure etc. Japan had earthquake emergency planning, Haiti had none. Japan could absorb the hit and had major reserves to draw upon. Haiti got KO’d.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    31.Lord Teapot - "......Look at Japan; they've rebuilt their country in less than a year, and the devastation there dwarfs that which occured in Haiti...."

    You neatly sum up the ignorane those of accusing the Haitians of laziness......

    .....Haiti has suffered FAR worse than Japan has......

    ....only a part of Japan was trashed......

    ....the WHOLE of Haiti was wrecked......

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.


    'The problems have roots that extend into the period of western colonialism.'

    Haiti won it's independence in 1804. That's over 200 years ago. They then ethnically cleansed the whites, slaughtering man, woman and child. Haitians, as a result, are visibly more black than any other Caribbean nation.

    Time to stop blaming colonisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I love the comments here. The moment someone makes a critical remark about the haitians not themselves rebuilding their country (they're leaving it 100% to 'aid' agencies) that someone is accused of racism. The truth stings. Look at Japan; they've rebuilt their country in less than a year, and the devastation there dwarfs that which occured in Haiti. Down vote me, go ahead, reality is reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Considering that a rebuild of Haiti is going to need the cooperation of the people themselves This article does a fine job of showcasing one positive example of Haitians improving their own lives. Perhaps not by the building itself, but by the entrepreneurship going on inside.


Comments 5 of 34


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC


  • Temperature remoteThe Travel Show Watch

    The remote to control the temperature of your shoes plus other travel gadgets reviewed

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.