Roudy Azor / Simbi Marassa, c. 2000 / Cloth, sequins and beads / WCA Collection

Drapo are decorative flags depicting imagery through adorned sequins. While the use of sequins and/or beads is typical, some artists use other materials within their process too. They can also be referenced to as Haitian Flags, Haitian Drapo, or Vodou Flags.

When photographing Vodou Drapo, there are numerous issues that may arise.

Ensuring the photograph captures the multitude of layers within Vodou Drapo is important for understanding depth of the work. Thus, lighting Vodou Drapo adequately is important, though the lighting can be difficult. When these flags are framed under glass, it is especially difficult due to reflections obscuring or diminishing quality of the image.

Some drapo have multiple layers of sequins over each other, in addition to other reflective materials overlaid. One flag we struggled with in particular was an untitled flag attributed to Rockville (pictured left, detail shot below). This flag was difficult to photograph due to layers of same-coloured sequins taking up large spaces, as well as plastic sewn-over imagery. Though we managed to minimize reflections, as you can see, there is still some glare that indicates there is a plastic, reflective coating.

Another flag that we found particularly difficult to photograph was Lionel St. Eloi’s Damballah flag. Rich in texture and hues of silver and café, the flag cleverly depicts a vodou altar and the symbol for Damballah within a woman-like bust.

Difficulties in photographing this flag arose due to the high reflection of light and incapability of capturing the sheen of the fabric and detail of the sequins. Ultimately we combined two images in different lighting and overlaid them to ensure that all the details were captured. This process allowed for us to appropriately capture the texture. It is also used automatically by most mobile phones when taking images in bright daylight, commonly known as HDR, and is just a composite of multiple images to capture more information regardless of lighting. Given a high level of refraction, composite images proved most beneficial in documenting many Drapo.

Vodou Drapo provide an imaging of both the sacred and the everyday, as they are both used for spiritual purposes but also manufactured for an international audience. In the case of Evelyn Alcide’s Les Anges Secourism de Siesme (c. 2014) the sacred comes into direct dialogue with the everyday. In this case we see a pantheon of Vodou deities within post-earthquake Haiti. The complicated and layered messaging of these examples of textile art relay their material complexity. Photographing works such as these is often a process, as indicated in the images below. In this series photographer Jerry Grier and curator Chawne Paige explore color settings and adjust lighting to most optimally capture the brilliance of Alcide’s work. Both delicate and vibrant, one must be attuned to lighting and color settings to best capture the intricate beautify of these works of art.