Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Young Woman, Model, Somewhere West of Habana, Cuba, 2008

People often ask: is this a studio portrait?

Since this portrait is from my experience, it is often difficult to see it from the viewer's point of view. The young woman above has never walked into a professional studio and lacks access to such a luxury.

On our way to the Baracoa, we notice a few farmers working the land. We step out of our rental car and ask permission to make their portraits. They accept graciously and all three of us proceed with our photography. My two friends, both of whom are Cuban, walk around with their 35mm cameras and make portraits of the home, the land and the people.

My camera and tripod are put into place and the first of the portraits is made from a low angle, leaving the blue sky as the background. A few older men are photographed as well as one older woman. In the process, some children gather and their portraits are made. We are near the main road and are visible to others from the area, including the young girl above. She walks over with a friend of the same age and watches as portraits are being made, clearly showing a desire to join in the photography. We ask her to ask her parents and then we proceed to make her portrait.

She is in her element, comfortable in front of her family and neighbors. Her poses are natural and her expressions candid. She tells us that she is visiting her family for the summer and lives in the outskirts of Habana for the rest of the year where she attends school.

We ask her friend to be photographed and she is a bit shy to do so. We finish our work, bid our farewell to everyone and then get back on the road.

In hindsight, perhaps the portrait could have been made to include the background, perhaps the image could have had a more inclusive style. In the end, the choice to exclude the background and focus on the person in the portrait was made, therefore producing a portrait in the style of a studio.

In the end, what is a studio?

We made our own studio that wonderful afternoon, on the side of the road and in the company of brothers and sisters. Others will have agents, contracts, make up artists, hair stylists and a large circle of professional assistants. We had each other, a camera and the sky. For my part, this is a most preferred set of circumstances.