Monday, January 16, 2017

Young Student + Madrasa, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2016

A few months ago we presented the idea of a school to this circle, and four weeks later two dozen people came together to help fund it. My thought was that depending on my friends to support two schools was enough, yet the story of this third school touched so many people.

With this in mind I present this young student, for she will be attending the new school established by Nirvana Bodhisattva and his wonderful team at Nirvanavan Foundation. She attends classes presently in the village's madrasa, learns to recite the Koran beautifully and in a safe environment.

Nirvana aims to establish a full curriculum in coordination with our hosts in the community, for they presented the idea to us initially. What is so beautiful about this collaboration is that all want to do the right thing, all want to reach out across the sectarian aisle for the sake of the community's children.

So I salute the two dozen people having come together for the sake of this young student, as well as all of her friends from the village.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Young Girl + Path, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, 2010

Time does fly by and tonight I share an image from seven years ago, from the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Thanks to my guides we were able to visit this tribe, off the beaten path. Although this region is incredibly remote, as we drive and search out tribes we encounter nothing but SUVs filled with tourists and their cameras. Some were professionals, while many were tourists interested in the cultures of these tribes, and a few snapshots along the way.

This made the work quite difficult because the tribes treated me like any other, which was of course understood. We needed to barter with every community regarding a price for the photography, before we began of course. This was the case with her community, and the negotiations were handled by my Ethiopian connections.

Once we were allowed we had more people that we could handle photographically. All wanted to earn a bit from the photography, but my eyes caught this young girl as she stood nearby. We asked for her portrait, and she sat down gracefully on the path in between the homes. While all the rest were photographed with the traditional structures behind them, it felt different with her for the portrait was more about her than the environment.

Her features were incredibly poignant, and her presence was sublime. She never wavered, and was as calm as anyone else in the community regardless of age. I am honored to have made her portrait, and hope to return one day soon.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V system.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Young Teacher + Hidden Mother, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Tonight I would like to honor our teachers, and the hard work they put in day in and day out in the classrooms for the sake of our children. This young woman has always inspired me deeply, as she was the youngest of the teachers in Humana India's development program in her region. 

Looking back now, she must have been barely sixteen when she began... and turned into one of the most dedicated in my experience. Her family is my family in Rajasthan, and they treat me like a son every time we visit. We have lunch when we are in their home, which doubles as the classroom for one of Nirvanavan Foundation's schools in the region. I normally lose count of the cups of tea served during our stay, but the number is usually no less than 3!

For those who are supporting the two schools in Rajasthan, she had been the leader in her village for the past ten years... having been married last year and handing off the baton to her younger sister. She always has a smile on her face, and when it is grand it lights the entire village.

When people disagree with the work, she stands up for her students without exception. Her parents are incredibly supportive, and her father is as peaceful of a man as I have ever seen. He receives respect without demanding it. Her mother stands behind her daughter and her work, as she does in this portrait with the fabric in her hands.

In her honor we continue with her school, and hope that one day all the girls in her village will follow her path. 

Note: This image was made with a Canon G10.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Two Refugees + Camp, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2013

This was the scene when I first visited this region in 2013, as these beautiful people were paying the price for the sectarian violence placed upon their shoulders. The families were doing their best to just provide shelter for their children, to provide a plate of food. Our hosts did something remarkable then, they gave their land for the sake of these refugees, actually signed the deeds to their land. It was this act of generosity which helped me decide that my work will continue here, and inspired me to present this new school to all of you!

They were displaced due to the riots in the Muzaffarnagar region of Uttar Pradesh. A short summary is included below from Wikipedia for everyone's review, and of course is only a basic reference. My experience was firsthand, and showed me the best of humanity in the midst of the worst. The scene of course was created by the latter, yet the resources put forth to aid the community showed the best of the former. 

When I returned to the region two years later, most of the camps were dismantled and the families had returned to their original villages. Although as a photographer I missed the children photographed two years earlier, I was truly happy that the were missing and back home.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2.

According to Wikipedia:

The clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, India in August–September 2013, resulted in at least 62 deaths including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus and injured 93 and left more than 50,000 displaced. By 17 September, the curfew was lifted from all riot affected areas and the army was also withdrawn.

The riot has been described as "the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history", with the army, as a result, being deployed in the state for the first time in last 20 years. Supreme Court of India while hearing petitions in relation to the riots held the Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party, prima facie guilty of negligence in preventing the violence and ordered it to immediately arrest all those accused irrespective of their political affiliation. Court also blamed the Central government for its failure to provide intelligence inputs to the Samajwadi Party-ruled state government in time to help sound alerts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Magdalena + Dry Lake Bed, El Mirage, California, 2016

A few years ago we tried to make it to this exact spot but ran out of time, heading to beautiful Lucerne Valley instead. So when the chance came up to visit El Mirage earlier this year, my hope was to include Magdalena as well. She responded with kindness as always, and we were on our way. The early part of the week was unfortunately quite windy, and this was the case as we showed up. It was both windy and cool, but we did our best to respect the time we were given. Magdalena was truly brave, as she warmed up in the car for a bit and then ran out for a roll of film. My instinct as a photographer of course wanted to have more chances to make the best images, yet she was as calm as the space without wind and assured me that we would have magnificent images. She was of course right, and this is but one example from our session. Magdalena took care of everything, from the styling to the theme to the art on her skin. She has since day one impressed me deeply and continues to do so. Whenever California comes up on my travel schedule, she is among very few to whom I reach out knowing that the response will be positive. I am honored to have had the chance to document her spirit four times so far, and hope to be there as she transforms more so over the years.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cami + Taylor, El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, California, 2016

A few months ago a casting call was placed for dancers in Los Angeles, and the initial response was wonderful. More than a few dancers responded, and it seemed that the week would be insufficient with respect to the number of responses.

My past experiences have taught me however that very few have the composure to maintain the vision. These two young ladies had more than enough composure, and proved this to me during our session. Cami was the person responding to the casting call, but Taylor stepped forward as her friend in order to help with the session. In the end they supported each other beautifully, and were as selfless as friends could be.

In my mind they are sisters to the girls in my work, from the ballerinas in Cuba to the migrants in Lebanon to the refugees in India. They asked for nothing in return other than to be included in this portfolio, and gave everything for the sake of the collaboration. They reserved an entire day for the session, since the drive to and back took almost five hours.

When one was being photographed, the other supported from a distance. They exchanged ideas continuously, and helped each other change when such help was needed. Never did either one of them ask when the session would end, or when we would go back. They were and are selfless in my mind, and I for one look forward to my next visit to Los Angeles!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Amulet + Hands, Rajasthan, India, 2014

Many of the children in Rajasthan adore themselves with beautiful objects, from a functional clothespin to the religious amulet on this child's hands. Every once in a while such details are photographed along with the portrait, allowing them to shine on their own.

They are symbols of hope for me, tributes to each child's individuality in the face of difficult circumstances. When my eyes notice the necklaces and the children see this, the majority of them smile and start laughing... amazed at my reaction.

In this instance a few children walked into the courtyard of our host in the village to see the visitor, after our photography that morning. We were having tea when I noticed this necklace, and asked to photograph it. This child's friends had a great time watching their friend place his hands under the amulet, and the few minutes he endured while this photograph was made.

The whole experience was wonderful, and the children were more than gracious. We made more photographs, and then they walked back to their homes around the corner.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens with a close-up attachment.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Anays y Arturo, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2015

My time on the island has been filled with much joy and some heartache, but these two have been the source of the former more times than my mind can remember. They inspire me through their dedication to each other, their love of each other and their kindness towards me. A few years after my collaboration began with Anays Diz Pe, her brother Arturo honored me with the request to be photographed. It was quite the experience to photography brother and sister, especially when the sister had been photographed for seven years by that time. She had developed into the most talented person in front of the lens, so talented that my camera had to catch up to her when we collaborated! To see Anays direct Arturo was something else... truly captivating. She was so gentle, and was clearly overjoyed to be photographed alongside her brother. The love was deeply evident from both sides. It was clear to me that this was a moment all treasured, including me with my camera. When someone asks me about Cuba, my preference is to speak about the people, about these two beautiful spirits for example. For me countries mean very little, boundaries mean nothing. It is the people, and only the people.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Young Ballerina, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2015

Happenstance is the best word to describe how this young boy ended up in front of my lens. A walk through Havana one afternoon placed me in front of his home, inquiring about the fruit on display in his home. His mother was sitting next to the fruit with some prices written on white paper. Asking about the fruit was my way to get acquainted with the family, and to then ask for her portrait.

This wonderful woman allowed me to photograph her next to the fruit. After the photograph was made we began talking about my work, and how it includes the ballerinas of Cuba. Her neighbor then pointed out that two of her children were ballerinas, at Cuba's esteemed Ballet Nacional de Cuba. I noticed that the mother was a bit hesitant, and that her neighbor had quite the personality. As we talked more the mother became more comfortable and called her children over from the neighbor's apartment. I was struck by the beauty of the children, and we arranged to photograph them the very next day.

It has been over three years since those first photographs, and we now include this family in our photography every summer. They are simply exquisite, and incredibly talented. Their manners are exceptional and reflect very much that of their mother. I look forward to this summer and hope that we can once again collaborate a few times once again.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Jaedon + Path, On Route to El Mirage, California, 2016

Regardless of location she shines. Whether on stage or on an off-road path, the level of professionalism Jaedon demonstrates is exceptional. If we see a spot on our way to our final destination, she is always willing to give it a try. This is what happened when we saw this scene to our left. 

We parked to the side of the road, tried to enter a bit and realized that it was best to stay near the road. Jaedon got ready while I put the camera together. Once this scene was composed onto the ground glass of the Hasselblad, I knew we were at the right place. She took her place and we began to expose a roll. Everything just seems so natural with Jaedon, from the drive to the conversation to the photography.

She went back and forth between two worlds, from dance to fashion. With Jaedon these two worlds exist at the same time, true grace and harmony. Releasing the shutter is difficult at times, for it is like watching a performance and trying to remembering to release the shutter once the moment presents itself. Thank goodness she is aware of this and pauses now and then with this in mind.

I look forward to our next collaboration, and to showing the girls in India as well as in Cuba a sister back in the States named Jaedon.

Note: This image was exposed with a Hasselblad V system.