Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Friend of Emmanuel, Habana, Cuba, July, 2011

During a visit to Hamely's home, this young girl's portrait is recognized by Emmanuel. He nods in a cool manner when he sees her picture and tells us that he knows her from school, she is his classmate. He also knows her home and offers to take us there before being asked.

We arrive at her home five years after this first portrait. A young woman opens the door with a cigarette between her fingers. She greets us with a bit of unease and then goes inside to tell her mother about our search for the young girl above. She returns and invites us in without a smile, seemingly against her instinct. 

Two more people stand inside a dimly lit room, an older woman on a bed still sleeping and a teenager standing at a distance in the corner in the room. The latter is the only person with a smile and the only person with a hint of curiosity. We learn that this curious girl is the girl above, and that her mother has since died. She now lives with her aunt and her cousin. 

She speaks nothing but communicates volumes with her reactions, her expressions. Like so many before her, she communicates to me a happiness in seeing us return after so many years. Unlike the cool mannerism of her cousin, she exudes kindness and love. Her aunt however cools things down with her attitude. She wonders about our intentions and the reason for representing young girls in my portfolio. I take the portfolio to show her and display the variety of people represented. There are older men, younger girls, affluent and less privileged subjects.

She seems a bit upset at being shown so and tells us without our asking that her niece declines another portrait this year, all to the dismay of the young girl. For the sake of asking, I look to the girl above in the corner in the room and ask her if she would like her portrait. She nods with exuberance and this tells me that perhaps in the future we will make her portrait, once she has escaped her present situation.

In the meantime, I remove her print from the book and hand it to her. She receives it in her most delicate hands and then smiles in response. Regardless of surroundings, we achieve our goal and inform this young girl that we will be waiting patiently for her portrait perhaps next year.
Halim Ina Photography

Emmanuel, Brother of Hamely, Habana, Cuba, July, 2011

The older brother of Hamely, Emmanuel will assist us in any way possible during our visits. He is a quiet, young boy with a most gentle demeanor. Like many boys however he does have his way and teases us a bit with his theatrics from time to time.

Even though his sister is the center of my photographic attention in the family, he is most patient with me. During my last visit for instance, he recognized one of the faces from my portfolio and offered to take us to her. He helped carry my equipment for eight blocks and led us directly to her home. As it so happened they are classmates in the same school.

Her story will be reserved for the next entry, for she deserves her own space.

Emmanuel is well-known and liked in his neighborhood. It seems that everyone knows him when we walk around in the neighborhood. He usually salutes his friends in a cool, reserved manner very much like his expression above; the image was made directly across from his home. He will be attending a new school this year and will only need to walk perhaps twenty meters or so, for the school is right next to his home. This makes him quite happy.
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drawing by Hamely, Habana, Cuba, July, 2011

This drawing is by Hamely, a young girl that lives in Central Havana. She lives in a small home, perhaps a bodega in its previous life. The rooms are separated from each other by bed sheets, and the kitchen consists of a burner and is open to the rest of the home. 

She lives in this small space with her mother, stepfather, brother, sister, aunt and two cousins. One small window the size of a milk crate brings light into the space. One side of the room is made of metal sheets, doors once used as entrances to the corner store now their home.

Our first day in her neighborhood this year yields photography without her. She is away to the countryside with her father, just like last year. We go on and photograph her siblings and cousin. The next time we meet she is yet to return, and we photograph the children at my friend's home. We decide to walk back to their home two blocks away and suddenly hear that she has returned.

As we walk up the block to the main street, we see her perhaps twenty meters away. Her face lights up and she runs all the way to us stopping only when she hits my arms. We hug for a few minutes with everyone looking, wondering about the foreigner with the Cuban princess. This surprises me so but is a most welcome development. While the people on this island are less conservative than their counterparts in my other work, such an expression of happiness is still rare.

I have been photographing Hamely for the past six years but this is the first year she has expressed herself so fully. We go on to photograph her four more times this year, any time we get a chance to do so. We spend hours in front of her home, inside as well. We make portraits of the entire family and provide them with the photographs a few days after each session.

She loves the camera, and loves to make pictures as well. She holds it like a professional, with the strap behind her neck for safety. She poses her sister, brother and cousins as she wishes. With her they feel relaxed and provide more relaxed expressions. Every time we leave a negotiation is needed to remove the camera from her hands, always with humor.

She draws the picture above and hands it to me, with her mother smiling in the background. She knows that I love the sun and includes it along with a portrait of herself above the table. She also knows that I love her so and knows that I will return to her as long as my legs carry me.

Leaving the island this year, and especially her home, takes more out of me than in any previous year.
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marc Benjamin and the Children, August 18, 2011

"When I 1st discovered Halim Ina Photography I was instantly intrigued.
I am a huge fan of  B&W portraits and as I read the inside info to the images I then was deeply touched. I was compelled to paint the children. They spoke to me & inspired me. I love what Halim Ina is doing and it's really wonderful to contribute to such an selfless act of kindness"                                      

Marc Benjamin!/7sir7!/MarcBenjaminPatterson

Note: My experience with Marc Benjamin has been nothing short of enlightening. Here is a man quite busy in his life, taking the time away from his day to day activities to paint children he has never met in person. He contacted me months ago and has never let me down. He told me then that he wanted to paint the children, asked for my permission and never stopped believing. Here he is above, his face close to the children, showing them respect and sharing with the rest of us a small bit of himself. He is pure humanity.
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miss Dayna, Daughter, Model, Friend, Childhood Park, Los Angeles, California, 2010

From Cuba to California, from Habana to Los Angeles the images take us.

This young woman is a model living in Los Angeles. She is kind enough to share her portrait with us, to allow her images to be published for the sake of girls from around the world.

Out of all the places in Los Angeles for us to meet, and one chosen by me near her home, we end up collaborating in the park of her childhood. Bailey is with me and is a witness to this. We begin making portraits on a hill, move onto another area and then next to the baseball field.

These images are made as the sun is setting, with the softest of lights caressing her features.

She is a remarkable, young woman. Her expressions move with ease from one mood to another. We finish our session for the afternoon and then she takes us to the local burger joint, being beyond surprised that we have yet to experience it.

For the next ten days I must admit that an addiction developed for this specific spot.

Dayna has joined the rest of her family in my portfolio, as she has welcomed them into her life.
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Ballerina named Irinita, Lizt Alfonso School of Ballet, Habana, Cuba, 2008

We meet in front of the famed Lizt Alfonso School of Ballet. While looking for a spot to photograph someone else, I stumble upon perhaps forty ballerinas waiting with their parents for classes to begin. The girls are standing in groups and chatting with their friends, the same with the parents. The space is a large square, surrounded by beautiful, two-story buildings with light walls. The place is one large soft box, and I decide to head back to inform the family of the location to be used for our photography.

Then the thought of photographing the ballerinas comes to me. I am by myself, without my interpreter. While I have learned quite a bit of Spanish since my first trip to Cuba, speaking with dozens of parents regarding the photography of their daughters intimidates me. I walk around a bit and hope for a friendly face. I find it in a young woman, and she speaks both Spanish and English.

I begin explaining my work to her and a few parents around us, a bit of Spanish mixed in with the English. She tells me that my Spanish is fine and to speak to the parents in Spanish. After a few minutes, a few more parents come around to hear about the work. I show the albums of my work to them, and ask them to allow their daughters to be photographed.

From the view of the parents, it must be quite a leap to allow a stranger to photograph their daughters in a public space. Regardless one girl steps forward, her name is Irina. Only after her courageous offer do others begin to line up. We decide to begin the photography since classes will begin in less than twenty minutes.

We pick the front of the school as the background, with the opposite building beautifully lit by the sun. I put the bags down, grab the tripod and begin setting up. Everyone gathers around, curious to see the work. They see a scene different than the usual perhaps, a medium format camera set up on an immense tripod, with a cable release and film to boot.

Irina steps forward, in front of her classmates and strangers alike. She is a most confident, young girl. She smiles at my fumbling, at my nervousness initially due to the fact that twelve girls with their parents are waiting all of a sudden. There is a calm about her that makes me feel quite comfortable however and a few exposures are made of her. She then walks away and stands to the side watching the rest being photographed.

Everyone writes down their names for me, and provides their addresses as well.

The doors of the school open, and the girls all walk inside to begin their lessons. Most of the parents leave, but a few wait outside for the classes to end. At this time my friend arrives and we make her portrait in front of the school a little bit away from the previous spot.

We walk away with the memory of this experience deeply stamped in my mind. In the next blog entry, the story will continue.
Halim Ina Photography