Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Barbarita, Habana, Cuba, July, 2011
During one such visit, we experience one family living in a new place. At first sight it seems to me that this is their place of work. The apartment is little more than a single, small room. When we enter the bed is to the right and the tiny kitchen is to the left, with a small aisle separating the bed from the cabinet hosting the stereo and television.
There is barely enough room for us to stand, let alone sit. We spend time with Barbarita and her mother, as well as the owner of the home who is also being attended to by our friends.
The man is an elderly man, quite friendly and open to our visit. He is missing one leg and lives alone without a family, therefore needing the assistance provided by our dearest friends. We share the photographs from the previous year and decide to make an appointment to return and make new portraits for Barbarita. We bid farewell for the time being and head out to the next family.
Once outside I ask my friend Eldo a question: 'Do they get paid well for this work?'
Hearing this, Eldo is surprised at my lack of understanding and proceeds to educate me on their situation. As it turns out, Barbarita and her mother are working for the possibility of inheriting the tiny apartment. The elderly man, lacking a family, is able to include them in his will and pass on the rights to his home in exchange for their assistance during his final years. They receive nothing in terms of payment during his lifetime. It is the promise of a future home for which they labor.
'A lesson a day' they say. On this day, it is perhaps a volume.
On my next visit to her home, I am greeted by her mother, sister and brother-in-law. Without a translator we have a conversation regarding our collaboration. A few years earlier Barbarita's mother decided that her daughter's photographs can be made but only for my personal portfolio. She was content with this and decided against the publication of the portraits and the sale of the prints.
During the second visit, Barbarita's mother seems a bit anxious and nervous at the same time. She is trying to tell me something but is having a hard time telling me so. My understanding of Spanish is acceptable but nuances cannot be understood. With the help of her son-in-law, we achieve clarity. Her mother explains to me their plight at this time, the hardships they are facing and the difficulty in even obtaining the smallest of items for her daughter. Things that can be taken for granted back home are nearly impossible to purchase for her.
With this in mind, and with the portraits we have made over five years, she asks me to present her daughter's work in order to educate the world about their life and also to perhaps help in any way possible through the sale of the portraits.
Should the readers of this entry be interested in helping in any way possible, perhaps through a purchase of her print, then I would be more than glad to have such a conversation.
In the end, the purpose of the work is as her mother desires, nothing else.