Photographer and filmmaker Cynthia Loebe will admit that her purposes were not entirely humanitarian when she signed on to crew a ship full of emergency relief materials bound for Haiti. Reeling from a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, the impoverished nation was in desperate need of aid, and the world was responding. Haitians were certain to benefit from the $500,000 in medical supplies and food staples carried in the hold of the 120-foot vessel that Loebe would call home for two months; Loebe was certain to get some great photos and a suntan.
But soon after the voyage began Loebe realized she was filming what would become her first documentary, one she hoped might bring awareness to the plight of this distressed nation as well as portray the heroism of an American rescue mission. Setting out from Miami armed with a single DV camera and a bikini, Loebe couldn't have known that her troubles would begin long before she and the rag-tag group of strangers piloting the ship landed in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The sea hurricanes and typhoid she might have anticipated; piracy, fraud and corruption from Haitian authorities, as well as from so-called humanitarians, she didn't.
Not that Cynthia Loebe is a stranger to adventure. She's traveled the world photographing rock tours, actors and fashionistas. She taught photography to kids in South Korea as an instructor for the LATT Institute Of The Arts. She worked producing music videos, as well as appearing in them; she shot rock stars who invited her onstage to sing. As a traveling photographer, Loebe seems comfortable working in both the golden and wee hours, as adept in the back streets of Manhattan as on the desert plains of Joshua Tree.
Now safely back in the U.S. and in possession of some of the most simultaneously gorgeous and tragic footage in recent memory, Loebe is currently editing her first, as-yet untitled documentary. Her work has been shown in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, San Diego, and her native Chicago, and featured in Art World Confidential, Metro Color Collision, Reindeer Games at Westerberg and L.A. ART. She lives in Los Angeles and New York City.
Loebe has trained for years with Marty Reisman, holder of 23 National and International table tennis titles, and has appeared in various Reisman documentaries on table tennis. We are fortunate to have Cynthia Loebe discuss her contribution to “FREEDOM & REVOLUTION” and her vision of art in the Digital Age.
Which work will you be exhibiting? Why did you select this piece?
It is called 120 Feet. 120 feet was all the room we had to roam while our journey with relief aid took us two months at sea. I thought this one was pretty of the legs and feet of the female sailor sleeping on deck where we were docked in Carrefour, Haiti, while we were quarantined to our 120 ft sailboat. The pretty legs and feet of the female sailor were a stark contrast to the ravages of the Haitian shoreline.
What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist?
I grew up taking lots of pictures of my brother who was born with Autism. He loves getting his picture taken. Growing up with him made me very sensitive to people who cannot protect themselves. It has been my path to protect and encourage the Underdog.
My Mom and I were instrumental in getting bill 1245 sponsored and passed in the state of Illinois legislator. The purpose of the bill was to protect people with disabilities from abuse and neglect through the use of audio and visual surveillance. Although there is a lack of funding in the State of IL to take fiscal responsibility for such equipment individual social service agencies have installed surveillance cameras in their facilities as a result of the awareness that Bill 1245 has brought to their attention.
I use my abilities as a photographer and now newly christened filmmaker to show what it takes to take matters into your own hands to make a difference and help people through positive impact. My charity is J/P HRO Haitian Relief Organization. http://jphro.org/
Please talk about your ideas of Freedom & Revolution.
I used my freedom to get to Haiti and was held against my freedom once I got to Haiti, which made me want to start a revolution.
Sailing into Port Au Prince, first you see the burning smoke filled colors in the air that make it hard to breathe. You see small boats that are carved out of a tree trunk paddle around you begging for water. You begin to become very aware of the oppression and immense devastation.
Upon docking in Carrefour, Haiti, our crew of 12 were greeted by machine gun toting Haitian Garde Cote which is French for Coast Guard. The Garde Cote seized our boat, seized our goods and threatened our lives. We showed up with 30,000 lbs of rice, beans, peanut butter, tents and 500 boxes of medical supplies. We had gifts for the Haitians, and the Haitian Customs still tried to extort from us in anyway they could. Meaning, they told us we were cleared with customs to unload the relief aid from the hold of the ship onto the dock.
Once everything was on the top of the boat, before it reached the dock, they tell us they need another paper. We are not cleared. Paper? What paper? You mean paper money?
Amazingly enough, within a few hours, and days of waiting out the Haitian Customs “process” the authorities made us move our boat from port to port, and messed with us like a rubber duckie in a bathtub.
There was a 4.4 earthquake aftershock and to top it all off, with the goods now on the top deck, the sky turned black, lightening started zapping the ocean all around us, the wind picked up and while we were docked, a hurricane blew through, ripping our 120 foot sailboat from the docklines and throwing us out to sea.
We recovered all the goods and everyone accounted for which is a miracle in itself. By this point we felt like a bunch of caged animals but would not allow this to defeat us. We had our boat, we had each other and we had the ability to turn around and leave, but we did not. We set out to deliver the goods.
After a week of battling the Haitian Customs we were able to unload our goods and leave. As Americans we were off the grid. In Haiti we did not exist. I am not sure what my rights were in Haiti, but I know the Ten Commandments. I’m not a religious person necessarily. I am humanitarian. When I see a disaster I am drawn to try and help if I can.
I am so grateful for the systematic freedoms we encompass in the United States of America. God Bless Our Freedoms. Amen.
How does your piece illustrate these ideas?
Many, many legs of this journey. Many, many miles. Many different feet all came together to make this all possible.
Edition One Hundred is founded with the idea of providing artists the opportunity to transform new technology into a tool to both produce affordable art while simultaneously connecting to non-traditional art collectors. What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred?
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been selected to be in this show. I loved the I Love LA show. I feel like it is a love connection between my adventure and It’s a great organization and a great cause. Thank you Edition One Hundred!
What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age?
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Edition One Hundred is curated, limited edition art available in editions of 100, priced at $100.00. Prints are hand-signed and numbered by the artists in a size and/or print exclusive to Edition One Hundred. More here.