Monday, December 31, 2012

Young Student, Humana People to People India, Chota, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2008

I have loved her features ever since first seeing her almost six years ago. One can sense the inner woman, as one friend puts it, within this small frame. Her cheekbones highlight a maturity behind her years, and her smile shows that she knows it.

Her hair, like so many others, is cut short and so fine to the touch. While her arms hint at a nervous posture, her facial features look incredibly relaxed. She shows one face to the village and an entirely different one to the viewers of her portrait.

The background of this image is the wall of her teacher's courtyard. In front of her is a wall perhaps two meters tall, blocking the view of people walking by during our session. The sun was non-existent during the first half of the session and just came up for her portrait, as well as for that of her older sister. We usually use the white wall of the house behind her, but decided to photograph within the courtyard for more privacy.

Later we did have a session outside, and she was just as magnificent. Her village has been documented by me over a span of four years, perhaps over eight sessions. They are very familiar with me and my collaboration with Humana People to People India. The school is quite successful, and will reopen this year with the generous support of donors here and the people on the ground in Rajasthan, India.

I do hope to see her and her sister later this year, and to document them much more intimately with their families, within their homes and outside during their chores. This is the next phase of my work with the foundation.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Young Girl, Corn, Konso Tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

She sat down on a small stool provided to us by the community. Perhaps over sixty people were standing less than four meters to her right, and twenty or so to her left. Their shadows would sometimes enter the frame, giving us pause until we could reorganize the scene once again.

Chaos it was since this was one of our first villages together, and the sound was almost deafening. The fact that the spoken language was unusable to me anyway made the situation more workable. In order to help the children feel comfortable and at ease, hand gestures would be used along with a smile. Running around to organize the scene like a fool helped a bit also, even though organization was the last effect of my actions.

In the end we made wonderful portraits in an open space, a place to which the community took us when asked about such an area. In this village the spaces are so tight that one needs to be careful about walking into sharp, hard and seemingly chaotic branches that make up the houses and fences. All of the children were running past me so quickly while I walked at a snail's pace to make sure my eyes remain intact. It was incredible, the energy.

The space was beautiful, open to the rising sun and with trees all around. The community shared with us a stool on which the people would sit for their portraits. One by one they came, some voluntarily and some at my request, some more shy than others.

She was sweet, and thought that we'd want to make a portrait of her without the goods that she was carrying. To her surprise we wanted both and this made her smile the entire time. Environmental portraits are usually outside of my work, but had been included more so in the past. I am now returning to this approach and will do more of these portraits in the near future.

When every person was finished with the portrait, I walked over to them to help them up and to also shake their hands. In this way their skin touched my skin, and when I do so in India or in Cuba that energy will be transferred to yet another developing experience. When I tell the children this in almost every single case they smile.

According to Wikipedia:

The Konso mainly reside in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, south of Lake Chamo in the Sagan River bend.
Although there are today marked differences in customs between the Konso and their Oromo neighbors, Konso society has also retained some commonalities with traditional Oromo culture. The latter include the gadaa generation-grading system of social organization, similar high priests and a cult of phallicism.
Konso society is largely agricultural and involves the irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Staple crops include sorghum and corn, with cash crops including cotton and coffee. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised for food and milk.
Polygyny is an accepted practice among the Konso.
Group members also erect carvings (wagas), which are created in memory of a dead man who has killed an enemy or animal. The statues are often arranged in groups, with statues representing the man, his wives, and his adversaries present.
In terms of creed, the Konso practice a traditional religion centered on the worship of Waaq/Wakh. In the related Oromo culture, Waaq denotes the single god of the early pre-Abrahamic, montheistic faith believed to have been adhered to by Cushitic groups.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, December 28, 2012

Woman, Water Collection, Somewhere in Senegal, 2006

We were on the road for  just a little bit when we can across this woman and a younger companion near a water well. They were just finished with water collection when we arrived, and let us speak with them for a few minutes. They then allowed us to make their portraits, giving us just enough time to set up before walking away.

She was doing just that when this image was made. My memory tells me that she has a natural toothbrush between her lips, the brand that's sold on the streets in bundles by vendors. The area around us was as seen in the image above, open and expansive. We were on our way to the interior of The Gambia and had a long road ahead of us.

Much of my work today is planned, scheduled and repeated. The people in my portraits are familiar to me, and I can identify their streets and homes from a satellite view of our globe. Her portrait and all other portraits from my time in Senegal are more mysterious. I will never be able to visit this place again, and am thankful for at least this image.

Perhaps I should refrain from using the word never, because I do have family in Senegal and they do remember the driver. He might just remember the path taken and just might be able to take me once again to this well. Regardless I have come to accept these single portraits, and cherish them actually. There are so many more spirits to document, that she will forgive my absence I believe.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Young Student, Humana People to People India, Village Med, Rajasthan, India, Early Afternoon on November 20, 2009

In between the early and late sessions we decided to visit this neighborhood during our break. One of the schools in this village, two existed at one time, had closed its doors. I wondered if the children would remember this work and would once again want to take part in it.

The good people of Humana People to People India were kind enough to entertain my request and we dropped by the small neighborhood in which the school was located. I immediately recognized the students and made gestures of greetings towards them. They acknowledged me somewhat and under the circumstances it was more than can be expected. Both my work and that of the foundation were at this time outsiders to the families, and we needed to regain their trust if we were going to continue with our respective work.

We called out to a few of the students and, after talking it over with their families, they came to meet us in the shade of a house nearby. The side of this home had the most incredible patterns, as well as colors. The sun was at a high position at this time and we were forced to make images in the shadow of this wall. We however had a small reflector to help us sculpt the light and my friends positioned it either above me or slightly to either side. In the image above the reflector is obviously to my right, and slightly above, to emulate a soft sun.

This young girl I had never photographed before, and she just came by to join in the activities. The colors and patterns of her dress blended beautifully with the wall behind her, and were further enhanced by the tones of her skin and hair. We made a few images with film and then switched over to the digital platform in order to provide prints to them later in the week.

Unlike my time before, the village was more subdued in its reaction to the work. It was most understandable since the school closed its doors the previous year. My experience has shown me that the energy present in a photographic session is a direct reflection of the supporting institution, the people of the foundation and the good work being accomplished by all involved. I hope to return one day and see such being done in this village.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Man + Sunglasses + Cigar, Corner of the Street, La Habana, Cuba, July of 2008

His image is that of the iconic Cuban, the generation of the Revolution with a cigar between his lips, photographed from beneath to accentuate the dignity, strength and character. Yet we know nothing about this man, nothing about his thoughts regarding the history of his island. He might just enjoy a cigar now and then, he might just have a cool disposition towards the world of politics.

The only thing I knew is that he was interested in the photography happening on the corner of his street. We were photographing a young girl and he of course knew her family. I pulled out the albums of pictures to demonstrate the nature of my work, and we talked a bit while waiting for the ideal light to develop.

I told him that I had been photographing his neighbor for perhaps three years at the time of this portrait. He was intrigued by the equipment, its vintage styling and history. He knew of the Hasselblad name, and the Zeiss lenses.

After a few minutes I asked permission to make his portrait, and he allowed me to do so. The tripod and camera were arranged quickly, and he stood in the middle of the street. I positioned the camera beneath him in order to gain the sky as a background. With the right exposure the sky would fade away,  leaving me with his outline and nothing else. I remember trying to focus on his eyes but having trouble due to the tint of the glasses. I then went ahead and focused on the corner of his glasses, hoping to achieve focus on the eyes thanks to the depth of field.

He thanked me for the portrait and then walked to his home. A year later I returned to the street to photograph the same girl of course and to hand him his portrait. He was deeply appreciative of the gesture, and proved to me yet again that returning to the homes of the people does more for the work than just about anything else.

Getting to some of these places is hard enough, and this is quite clear to the people in the images. To return to these same places, to show interest in the same people rather than moving on to the next 'big thing' shows them the true intent of my work. They in turn show me a love, a humanity, that has yet to be surpassed in my life. I appreciate them beyond words and their appreciation in return cannot be put into words easily. The best thing for me to do is to continue with the work and honor them with the images.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Father of Niranjan, Tailor in a Long Line of Tailors, Alwar, Rajasthan, November of 2009

It took months to finally wear the pants and shirts that this man made for me with such care. They hung in my closet all the while like articles from a distant past, a connection to the ancestors before him. This wonderful man is descendant from a long line of distinguished tailors, with one of his ancestors depicted in the painting behind him.

His family made clothing for everyone from royalty to the local, general population. Their work has been published in books, and remnants of those times still hung in the shop. He took great pride when he pulled them down from the hangers with a long stick to show me. The stitching was impeccable, the designs timeless. These were the very pieces that his father and grandfather had made.

When it came time to measure me for the proposed job, he smiled and told me that he had already measured me. He rattled the numbers to his son and my friend, Niranjan. Then he went ahead and made my measurements just in case, and the numbers coincided perfectly. The entire time I placed a recorder nearby to remember the moment when this most elegant of men did for me what few will ever experience.

We made his portrait in front of the very desk on which he would make my shirts and pants, the very desk on which his ancestors had worked. He stood with his tools nearby and allowed me to make twelve exposures. After which we had tea and biscuits.

Then Niranjan and I walked downstairs and into the street to find the fabric for the clothing. We walked a block or so to the store his father had sent us. The service provided was incredible in that they would pull any fabric down for us to see, without hurrying us at all. We selected four colors for the pants and the same number for the shirts.

My time with Nirvanavan Foundation was nearing its end in a day or so, so we made plans to meet after my work with Humana People to People India ended in order to make the exchange. When I did meet Niranjan for my clothes, they were prepared so beautifully in boxes, folded neatly and with the utmost respect. I remember placing them into my luggage and hoping that nothing terrible would happen to them during transport.

For the first time on my way back from my travels something more important than my camera equipment sat in the luggage. Today I wear this clothing with more ease, yet every time I need to take them to the local dry cleaner my heart skips a beat. I do look forward to another visit to India and to another fitting by the Master, an honor always to be remembered.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Student, Government School, Rajasthan, India, November 21, 2009

In between sessions with Humana People to People India my friends invite me to a government school. They know the director of the school and assure me that he will be receptive to our requests. After a few minutes of talking he allows us to set up our equipment and make images of interested students. We of course concentrate on the girls and this improves the dynamics of the equation regarding interest, and we barely have enough time to photograph until the sun moves into a less than desirable position.

The courtyard to the school is our space, and the girls sit down at the entrance to one of the classrooms which consist of a poured concrete floor and a seat for the teacher. This is their position while learning, so it seemed appropriate to photograph them so.

Every girl is so different, and gives me an entirely new expression. The young girl's face above hints at a certain sadness, perhaps a longing to tell her story. Since I am unable to speak with her directly, my task is to gently communicate with her using facial expressions and a soft voice. I am a stranger to her after all, and my presence in her world is anything but expected. One minute she was listening to her teacher and the next she is sitting for her portrait by a man never seen before in her village.

What is this for? Who will see her portrait? Why are we there? What is our intent?

She has every right to resist, yet is so gentle with me. She can rest assured that her portrait is safe with me, that it will be printed in my darkroom to join a larger family of portraits. She will be seen by her brothers and sisters from Asia to Africa and all the way to the Western Hemisphere. They will recognize her message certainly, and hope that she hears their thoughts in return.

I look forward to visiting this school once again, but this time as a friend rather than a stranger.

When we do return, it will be with prints in hand to give to the students. For they are the recipients of this work after all.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Migrant Worker, Syrian, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2008

Some will always respond to the above portrait with shock, in that an Arab girl could have such color to her hair. Viewers might be surprised to learn of the variety of colors present in this incredible community, from the eyes to the hair to the skin. The young girl above is but one example of this incredible community.

Every time I return to that first village in Lebanon new faces come running out of the homes. This young girl and her sister had never seen me before and had just arrived from Syria a few weeks before my visit. While most of the other children knew my name and shouted it out over and over again, they stood by in a slight shock at this stranger walking around with a camera.

They nonetheless took to the camera with ease and let me photograph them many times over a span of two weeks. The sky was once again used as a backdrop and a small chair was brought out for them to stand upon. She loved wearing this dress, although it seemed quite hot to me. It matched the color of her hair perfectly, and I hope that the above scan reflects this correctly.

She was very shy, never spoke a word to me. Her older sister helped her along, spoke with her in the middle of the chaos my presence at times evokes. The confidence and stillness with which these girls stand amazes me as a result. Here she is with at least a dozen other kids running around her, making noise, sometimes pulling on her dress, pushing her along so that they could get their turn, innocently of course. Yet she never waivers and stands her ground.

The following year she was gone, and this portrait represents perhaps the last session I will have with her. Who knows? Maybe she'll return with her family as migrant workers to Lebanon, and to escape the horrors of war now ravaging their own land.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, December 21, 2012

Syrian Girl, Covered, Migrant Worker, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, August 14, 2009

Continued from the previous post, this is her formal portrait with her hair covered. Her smile remains unchanged, pure. Her clear eyes, usually a challenge for anyone working in the sun, are a testament to her strength. As written before she has never refused me her portrait and has always allowed me to direct her during our sessions.

In this instance she was sitting on a small chair and facing her home. Behind her was a white sheet. Surrounding us was perhaps a dozen girls and boys in all stages of activity. Some were watching peacefully and others anxiously reminding me that the sun would set at some time in the very near future.

She was wearing a sweater under the shawl, and every once in a while that sweater would show at the lower right hand corner of the image. I would walk over to correct this and then back to the camera to make the exposure. She has since become accustomed to my insanity while photographing and just smiles in acknowledgement.

Her older brother is a dear friend of mine, and makes my work much easier by speaking to the younger boys. They look up to this most handsome man, and this makes all the difference in this world for me. He also has the same smile, shares her kindness and generosity.

As she gets older the time will come when I will no longer have access, when I will have to learn to do without her portrait. Until that time comes I cherish this last session and believe it to be more than I could ever ask for photographically.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Syrian Girl, Uncovered, Migrant Worker, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, August 14, 2009

Her clear eyes have always affected me deeply, along with her smile. She is among the most beautifully timid of the girls from this tiny village, and yet she continuously allows me to make her picture. She rarely speaks a word but says so much with her expressions.

She lives within a row of tents on the side of a two lane road, where cars speed by without thinking much of the children playing along the side. Children have been struck by cars many times and my eyes have seen evidence of this unthinkable violence. These are the children of migrant workers from Syria, and are seen in an unequal manner unfortunately in very much the same way as migrant populations in any other country.

This row of tents was the scene of my very first photographic venture of another ethnic group. She is young enough to be born within my time with this group of people, and I have photographed her older sister as well as her older cousins even before she was born. After fifteen years with these families my presence is almost unnoticed by the adults, while the children never seem to get tired from saying my name upon arrival even before my car comes to a halt.

For this image she sat down in front of neighbor's home, the leader of this community. A few of the boys sat next to me in the sun in order to prevent unwanted sunlight from below. We were just having fun and used a digital camera to make these images. The pace was faster and the work more enjoyable since they were able to see the images immediately, both on the camera's screen and through the prints provided a few days later.

She is wearing an informal blouse and has let her hair go uncovered. She is at an age when her hair is at times covered and at other times uncovered. On this day she chose the latter and allowed herself to be documented in this manner. I have always admired her and her friends, for they are courageous enough to work with me regardless of the statements made by some of the boys in the early part of my work (since then the boys have become fond of me and respected my decision to give the girls their day in the sun).

I miss her very much and look forward to next year's visit. Along with my family living nearby, she is a very important reason for my continued visits to the birthplace of my parents.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

My Session with Kittie, Studio, Cleveland, Ohio, March 4, 2012



As I was signing off this evening a message arrived from this beautiful spirit. The conversation that ensued brought back memories of a wonderful session earlier this year, when she visited my studio along with our dear brother Matt.

Respect is what she has shown the people in my work since our first communication years ago. We have worked together on three occasions. On every single one of them she presents something different, always brings a concept along and an incredible array of clothing. For this latest session she worked more with patterns/colors painted onto her skin.

She did all of this on her own, without help from an assistant. One minute she would be a certain way then fifteen minutes later she would walk out of the room looking completely different. Looking is one thing, but to engage the lens with an entirely different spirit reflecting the 'face' just put on is an entirely different accomplishment.

I look forward to another session in the near future as we discussed tonight as we said goodnight on the last day of the Mayan Calendar, quite fitting actually.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Widow, Mosque, Zakat Foundation of India, New Delhi, India, November 26, 2008

In the courtyard of a small mosque in Old Delhi this work was accomplished. The women and a few men, all widows, gathered to receive a bundle of dry goods to help sustain them for the next month. This work was made possible through the generosity of good people and the organization power of the Zakat Foundation of India.

The foundation arranged the day to coincide with my visit, and during the distribution of dry goods. As in the previous year we asked permission to use the local mosque's courtyard since the outside scene was beyond chaotic. To set up a tripod and make a photograph outside would be the equivalent of doing the same during the 'Running of the Bulls,' with only the slightest of exaggeration.

Thirty or so women and a few men gathered for their portrait. We used a light wall against which the women would stand, and set up the tripod perhaps three meters away. To my right was the basin in which the men would wash their feet and hands, and to my left was the entrance to the mosque. Behind the women and to her right was the entrance/exit to the courtyard.

We tried to pick the least cumbersome spot, but would inadvertently get in the way soon enough. About halfway through the session an older man walked over and told us that we needed to stop, that prayers were about to begin. He seemed to be the only one with the request, as I scanned the courtyard and received nothing but kind, generous faces in response.

He however kept at it, and what made it worse was that I had photographed him the year before and had his portrait in my bag, in a protective sleeve. He continued and continued until I finally had to break away from the work, go to my bag and pull out his portrait. I handed it to him with a sense of agitation and with a face that basically spoke of my disappointment. Here he was getting in the way of the women's portraits when he himself sat for his one year earlier.

A few of the men kneeling down saw this and made my day when they smiled with approval.

We then went forward with our work and finished photographing the rest of the women. What impressed me most was that none of the women walked away from the scene. They stood by me and the good people of the foundation, and demanded with their presence to continue with the work.

Such is the woman above, and for this detail alone she has my deepest respect.

A link to the foundation and to more work from this collaboration can be found through my website below.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Girl and Bench, Nirvanavan Foundation, Near Alwar, Rajasthan, India, November 1, 2009

We had just finished photographing in direct sunlight and decided to produce a session in the shade.  The village allowed us to walk around as we desired. We went from home to home looking for a perfect spot, and found the one above.

The sun was high above us, but a little behind the roof of this small room. A narrow path ran left to right of this space, with a natural fence marking the boundary behind us. One person, sometimes two, held a reflector behind me and to the right. The children took turns sitting on the ledge for a few exposures, then jumped down.

I photographed this young girl earlier in the sun, a dozen or so meters away from this spot. She was magnificent and stood strong in spite of the strong sunlight. When we finished and began walking around looking for a spot, to my extreme delight she followed us. As people talked I continued to look for her and she never disappointed me, always walking closely with the most curious, serene eyes.

She never spoke a word, never made a sound. When asked to sit for her portrait she did so with a most delicate grace. To describe my happiness when such a precious spirit allows me to document her is nearly impossible. I am always speechless when the answer is 'yes,' and always grateful. Perhaps this can be attributed to my present surroundings when such a portrait of a child by a stranger is almost impossible; perhaps it's the idea of my lens being the conduit through which she expresses her thoughts to a larger audience.

Regardless, I am speechless each time I am allowed to photograph such a girl. This reaction never ceases to be solicited under such circumstances, even after so many years and thousands of people. I made this portrait over four years ago and still remember it as if it happened yesterday. I remember the scene, the people, the house and the courtyard to the right with the pile of grass stacked high.

The good people of Nirvanavan Foundation are doing incredible work in this and other villages in the area. They have produced a school of exquisite quality and have enrolled hundreds of children from the surrounding villages in their program. They are a selfless bunch, and continue to inspire me.

To learn more about this beautiful foundation and its good works, you may follow the website listed below as well as my own website, which has a gallery dedicated to it.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography
Nirvanavan Foundation

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Girl Student, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 17, 2009

Another facet of these incredible girls is their timeless presentation, augmented by the most beautiful patterns. One friend upon seeing their portraits at a gallery almost a decade ago commented on this and to this day the fascination has remained. We arrive at a village and an endless array of patterns fills my eyes.

In the above portrait made on November 17, 2009 she stands with confidence, her hands on her hips. Through the second exposure on the twelfth roll of film she expresses herself so. She looks into the distance and releases a most subtle smile for the lens, for her future audience perhaps. The sky is her background and she stands elevated, above her environment.

Her hair is cut short like many of her friends, and this fascinates me immensely. The line between boy and girl is blurred, and at times the clothing is the only clue as to difference. For me however the gestures matter, the most nuanced tilt of the neck, the manner with which the hands are placed against her body, and the curve of her lips. One can cut her hair short but one cannot remove her identity.

I shall return to her village in 2013 and document the changes. My hope is that she has now joined the government school in her district, mandated since the government put into effect guidelines to enroll every single girl under the age of fourteen in formal education. Her time with Humana People to People India will have hopefully given her the tools to make the transition more easily.

For the older girls who had never received such a chance, we move forward with our plan for a school. Humana People to People India has gracefully entertained the idea of opening such a school in the area to supply an education for girls outside of the official mandate. If this is of interest to the reader, more information can be gathered through the following.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Student, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, Afternoon of November 17, 2009

Three years have passed since my time in Rajasthan, it seems a lifetime. The schools have since closed in return for new schools opening in other villages, helping spread the message of girl education to other villages. Next year we hope to reopen five schools with the grace of Humana People to People India, and continue with our support as long as possible.

The young student above was photographed from a low angle, using the sky as a background. Her friends stood behind me helping produce this expression. In their presentations exists an incredible sense of fashion, style. Children walk up to me dressed in timeless clothing, minus distractions associated with mass market productions.

On the eleventh frame of the ninth roll of film her portrait was made on this glorious afternoon. She stands with a deep sense of calm and with the support of her sisters in the audience. As one of the first in her family to attend school, she has been exposed to a world otherwise unavailable to her... and under the guidance of a young teacher from her own village.

She stands with her arms tightly to her side, expressing herself almost purely through her facial expressions. In one exposure she lifts her shoulders while smiling, in another she relaxes her shoulders and looks down at me with perhaps a longing to be understood.

I am proud to be able to represent this young spirit through this image. Of course my representation is actually her presentation, and I am humbled by this fact. As a photographer I understand my role as nothing more than making sure that the exposure is correct and that I am prepared for her performance.

People will sometimes ask: How do you capture such moments?

How does one neglect to release the shutter in reaction to this expression?

At times we get used to presenting ourselves in a neutral manner, walk through grocery stores with only the task of finding certain items in mind. So perhaps when someone expresses themselves so our reaction is somewhat blunted by this manner of living.

Does this limit my work at time? I am sure that it does and that it does so without my knowledge of it. Working with children from around the world has helped me recuperate from the ailment of indifference, and has helped me recognize the moment when a child expresses themselves with such joy, such happiness... and embrace it while releasing that shutter.

I hope to further improve upon this, and represent emotions more than likely missed by me during the early part of my recuperation. Next year I hope to return reinvigorated and rejuvenated in large part due to these beautiful spirits.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Monday, December 17, 2012

Two Students + Two Expressions, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November 18th, 2009


What never ceases to amaze me is the incredible variety of expression a single session can yield. Here are two girls living in the same village, attending the same school yet producing expressions worlds apart. In a world where girls must earn every bit of movement towards progress, they stand their ground and refuse to allow intimidation.

They seem relaxed, completely in control. In fact they are in control.

Here I am typing away, a man thousands of kilometers away and years later. I remember the day well but confess that certain expressions only come to me as the images are developed. They however are keenly aware of their expressions. Sometimes it seems to me that they are able to focus directly on the final viewer of the image and remove all variables unnecessary at the time of the exposure.

At the time of these portraits they were studying under the guidance of Humana People to People India in a Girls Bridge School. Hopefully at this time they are enrolled in a government program, and we hope to reopen the HPPI school in 2013.

In just these two images I find inspiration to continue with this work, to sit down at night and write down these stories. I hope that the viewers of these images find similar inspiration through these young spirits and apply it so to their own projects. Should you, the reader, feel close to this cause then the following links will lead you directly to them and to me. We look forward to hearing from you.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Father, Shower, Humana People to People, Banganga, Rajasthan, November, 2007

This man and his family have treated me since day one as one of their own. On my visits to Humana People to People India they are the first family visited by me and the last. My experiences with them are incomparable, as they continuously seem to outdo themselves with respect to showing their love to me.

Upon arrival I am greeted with the most incredible smiles, from all of the members of this family. They are genuinely excited to work with me without reservation. From providing the perfect background to allowing spontaneous visits, they go out of their way to make it most ideal.

His sister-in-law is responsible for the school sponsored by Humana People to People India, and organizes the girls perfectly. From their wonderful uniforms to the perfectly combed hair, there is a deep sense of pride in the presentation. The girls are usually waiting for us while sitting for class, and have never made my work difficult. Working here is about as peaceful of an experience as my mind can recollect at this very moment.

In the image above he is taking a quick shower after working diligently in the field straight behind him. His house is behind me to my right, and the spot of our first session in this village six years ago is straight ahead perhaps less than twenty meters. He was surprised that I wanted to make this picture and, according to his incredible character, went ahead and paused for a few seconds to allow me to do so. This is the smile that greets me upon arrival, and one can sense his brotherly love through the gentle countenance.

In Banganga, Rajasthan we hope to once again open the doors to the Humana People to People India school in 2013. Most of the girls from my last visit will hopefully be attending classes in the government school system since the nation has enacted legislation overseeing a government school in every single village. Our goal however is to tend to the girls older than the cutoff age, and devoid of education in their lives.

The need is great, and the project is quite urgent. Should you, the reader of this blog, find an interest in joining us more information can be found through my website. You can also contact me directly through my email and find me quite interested in your thoughts.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Young Girl, Banjara Community, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, Morning of November 21, 2009

While working with the good people of Humana People to People India, I was introduced to the Banjara Community. On the first day of my first visit I arrived to a festival arranged by the foundation, at which I saw the most beautiful, young girls dressed in exquisite, imaginative fabrics. The designs ranged from floral to abstract, and were worn tightly against the upper torso and loose from the waist down in pleated skirts.

Four years later during my last visit to the projects of Humana People to People India, we had an opportunity one morning to visit on our own time a few villages populated by the Banjara Community. Once again my work was fortunate enough to be given this chance and we decided to leave quite early in the morning to arrive as the sun lifted above the horizon.

The drive was as always a beautiful experience for me. Waking up very early in Rajasthan during November is always a cold experience. Usually there is a mist and everyone is moving about gathering themselves for that day's work. You see men huddled around a fire, or maybe a coffee stand, warming each other up in small circles.

We arrived at the first village only to find out that the girls were taken to the town for school. This happened to be a sporadic event and today was the day the government school decided to pick them up for classes. I was quite sad at the news (happy for them of course regarding their education) but did see a chance to photograph a few children remaining behind perhaps because of their age.

We asked to photograph the boys first, always a good idea, and they agreed quickly. We then photographed a couple of young girls, always keeping an eye on the young man in charge so as to make sure that he feels comfortable with the attention being given to the girls. The young girl above happens to be one of the girls left behind by the bus, and she was perhaps glad that she missed classes on this day. Only she knows if this is true.

Humana People to People India works with these and other communities, providing an education as a starting point. Once these children attend classes for three years they are encouraged to join the formal government school system, having caught up to their peers through the bridge schools HPPI offers. Many of the Banjara children work in the local towns as maids, as gatherers of plastic/metal/glass and so forth.

They live an existence that is day to day, and move from one area to another sometimes because they are forced to do so by the local populations. They lack proper identifications at times and are denied basic social services as a result. I admire their strength and tolerance towards me and my work, and hope that one day the world around them will appreciate their beauty as much as I have since that first day back in 2006.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Woman from Mursi Community, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

When it came to photographing the women of this community, the presentations were limitless. While much of it was for the sake of the tourists, including me of course, there were examples when they were themselves and enjoyed the session. My inability to communicate with them directly, as well as my translator's inability to do the same, led me to use hand gestures and facial expressions.

Their laughs were surely directed at my clumsiness, at my difficulty within their environment. While everyone else was dressed comfortably for the heat, here I was in the formal attire of pants and shirt. They saw my camera as an antique compared to the digital versions in the hands of the tourists. They were used to standing for group shots for a few seconds, and interpreted my work with a tripod differently.

My friend and guide just advised them that my camera was an old one and that all of my busy movements were to make sure that it worked properly. Every time he would explain my work to them through his own translator they would smile and laugh a little bit.

From most we asked for a minute in front of the camera, perhaps six exposures or so. They stood in a group to my right, in the direction of this woman's gaze. They would walk over, stand for their portrait and then go back to the group watching the work. The sky was used as the background to keep the images in line with my work from other countries.

After our session we went for a break in order to wait for the afternoon sun. Heading back to town seemed pointless, and we found a secluded spot to hang out until our time arrived. We wanted to give the community some peace and quiet, rather than burdening them with our presence.

In my next entry I will tell the story of our return to the town, and how we managed the breakdown of our truck halfway through the mountain path.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mursi Man & Cane, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2012

During my time in Ethiopia, I visited a dozen communities. Each experience had its own feeling, its individual flavor. We only had three weeks to accomplish these visits and so set a limit as to time spent with each, at least until I met the Mursi Community of the Lower Omo Valley.

After one session I knew we would stay put for the next five or so days. In order to photograph them we needed to stay in a nearby town, about one and a half hours away through rough, mountainous terrain. Because we needed to photograph as the light appeared and disappeared, this made it most difficult for our driver. The road up and down the mountain was barely a road, just a path actually. On either side of the mountain were dangerous slopes, easily engaged in pure darkness.

The Mursi live in a national park, and thus are quite remote from any possible accommodations. We arrived one day early because we were seeking a local hospital to take care of my health. Seven days prior to our arrival I had been unable to eat anything substantial, and anything that did go down came back up quickly. I lost perhaps a dozen pounds in less than six days, but continued to work because the energy of the place was irresistible. 

When we arrived to the small town, we visited the local hospital. There were many people already gathered for the attention of one physician, people with issues ranging from broken limbs to pregnancies to infections. I felt quite awkward being there for something so superficial, but knew that I needed this man's help. For the past few days tremors crept in whenever I moved a muscle, and this scared me very much. Every time I would try to stretch out in the truck my muscles would seize, every time I would move in bed while sleeping cramps would set in.

When my time came the doctor and his team saw me without prejudice. In perfect English he went on to explain how he was going to diagnose my ailment. He asked question after question, alleviated my concerns and then made a diagnosis based on his interview. He provided me with two prescriptions to be filled in the pharmacy next door. When we attempted to pay for his services, the doctor refused payment in the kindest of ways and included me in the social contract of the region. My visit alone with this gentle man gave me a sense of peace, and the medicine (for the price of one cup of tea) cured me in one evening. The very next day I was able to eat, and do all else associated with normal bodily functions. Sleep was finally available to me.

So we arrived to this community reinvigorated, and worked from sunrise to sunset. In between we would drive to a secluded spot and have our meals, and chat amongst ourselves. One night we were allowed to sleep near their homes, and thus were given rest between driving back and forth. During this night we set up our tents, and made a dish that included spaghetti and corn. We thought we were alone, but then found ourselves in the company of these good people as they arrived to our campsite with their machine guns in hand. Rather than being alarmed we felt safe, and slept through the night looking forward to the next day. 

While my time in Ethiopia was overall the most difficult photographic experience of my life, it was also amongst the most fulfilling in light of the images made. I do look forward to one day revisiting these communities and being more familiar with their customs, lending a more authentic feeling to our communications. 

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Printing Magdalena, Lucerne Valley, Los Angeles County, California, September 15, 2012

Now and then twelve exposures on a single roll of film are equally beautiful. This is the case with a roll of film exposed on September 15th of this year in collaboration with Magdalena. This was my fourth session with her, and over fifty rolls of film have been exposed so far in documenting her incredible spirit.

Without exaggeration she never gives me the same look twice, and has a seemingly infinite imagination regarding wardrobe. Without much time she changes from one into another, leaving me to think that she has a deliberate plan in mind. It all seems so effortless and continuous. She never objects to being asked for another presentation, and moves from the car to the 'stage' seamlessly.

This was that much more impressive during our last session in that she was feeling less than well. On our way to Lucerne Valley she slept the entire ride, apologizing ahead of time for doing so. She woke up thirty minutes or so before arriving to have a small salad, hoping to feel a little bit better.

In my opinion she performed flawlessly in spite of her physical distress. The wind was blowing as we were on the side of the road, and the sun was quite strong. Clouds were absent from the skies, unlike the city of Los Angeles just beyond the mountains. The areas just outside of the city have become my photographic playground because the sun seems to shine more often than in the city, where we are at the whim of the ocean and variations of cloud formations.

We worked for perhaps two hours, resting now and then from the sun and heat. In just this amount of time Magdalena gave us perhaps five presentations, and various minor changes in between. These slight variations become much less minor when printing a portfolio. It is these small changes that attract me so, leaving the variables such as the background and sun more fixed.

This week the last four negatives will be printed from this session, and Magdalena's roll of film will be the only one printed in its entirety from my portfolio for my book. By the time this entry is finished the prints will have washed for half of the necessary time. I look forward to seeing the dry prints tomorrow morning, even more so to Wednesday when another day in the darkroom is possible.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baker and Light Bulb, La Habana, Cuba, July, 2010

After we finished photographing a young girl a few meters away, we began walking around the corner to my friend's home. This man was sitting down on the sidewalk and holding an intact light bulb found in the garbage container on the corner.

He was shirtless and seemingly hanging out with a few of his friends. I had my 35 mm camera in hand and walked close enough to make this image of him with permission of course, concentrating on the light bulb as the point of focus. Only after focusing on the bulb itself through the viewfinder was it noticed that a reflection had formed, a reflection of me and my friend. In addition, the home of the girl photographed a few minutes earlier, a corner store previously, was our background. Perhaps six negatives were exposed and we thanked him before moving on to my friend's home.

Earlier this year I decided to print a few smaller negatives in the midst of my medium format printing. This negative was selected and printed to my delight, and has pushed me in the direction of street photography more so. Working with the smaller format is a liberating feeling and only compliments the larger format work.

Upon returning to the island this year the print was included in my album to show the people. The young boy, the brother of the girl photographed moments before this image was made, spoke this man's name and pointed out his work place. It turned out that this man was resting between shifts and that he worked as a baker in the corner bakery. His hands, rather than being covered with dirt, were covered with flour from his work place.

This image alone has taught me so much, from the lessons noted above to the idea that much more needs to be researched before forming an opinion regarding the person in an image. Rather than bringing a copy of his portrait to him, thinking he was anonymous, I was left without a second print to hand to him. In light of this predicament, the original print was removed from the album and handed to him. His sincere appreciation touched me deeply, deepened my understanding of the work itself.

Now every time we pass by the bakery I remember this man, and his light bulb.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another Side of Mariel, El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, Los Angeles, November 18, 2012

Just when I thought we were finished for the afternoon Mariel decides to produce an array of expressions with her face, in very much the same way she had produced so with her body for the first part of the session. She moved from one expression into another with such power, and dignity.

She is a professional, acknowledged my reactions and incorporated them into her next gestures. Her light eyes stood strong against the sun even though most would fold under such intensity. We had worked for over two hours by the time of this portrait yet she was unyielding in her output. When offered rest, she kindly insisted to continue with our work.

In comparison to the digital platform, moving at such a pace in the analog equivalent required reloading the film back over and over again. Rather than losing momentum Mariel would continue to move while I reloaded the film back. When I returned to the viewfinder she would be ready to show me much more and with an exuberance that made working with her the equivalent of working overseas.

Here is a woman, photographed literally hundreds of times by dozens of photographers. Rather than placing herself above those in my portfolio from around the world because of her experience, she embraces them by approaching this project with humility and respect. She never once asked me for a hair stylist, but rather let her hair flow freely in the wind. She had every right to do so, and such a team is an incredible asset to a photographic collaboration. However she recognized the meaning of my work and wanted to be one with the women and girls in my book.

On this day she achieved this most successfully and has earned my sincerest respect. We shall collaborate for years to come, and have plans next year to initiate a workshop in the Los Angeles area to raise funds for schools in India. On her support the girls of Rajasthan can depend, and have found a sister across the oceans.

As her essence passed through the glass elements of my lenses, she joined those in my portfolio in their struggles, in their joys. To learn more regarding my work, and the projects represented through these images, you may visit the website listed below.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Dreaming Mariel, El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, Los Angeles, California, November 18, 2012

While most would think twice about driving over two hours to a location, this young woman accepted the drive initially for our morning session. This meant leaving by four in the morning and returning well after two in the afternoon. She accepted without hesitation, always helping me feel comfortable in my attempts to make our arrangements ideal.

Perhaps by chance or perhaps by fate, the afternoon cleared for us to work and Mariel once again accepted without hesitation. We met by her apartment early in the morning nonetheless and began our three hour drive to El Mirage Dry Lake Bed just outside of Los Angeles. We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate, and chatted like old friends along the way.

When we arrived I was worried that maybe the lake bed would be closed due to the recent storms in the area. To my pleasant surprise the lake bed was open to the public, unlike my last visit to the area. We drove onto the lake bed, always to the side in order to preserve the integrity of the surface. We headed to the end of the bed where few would be around, and set up for our session soon after.

Mariel took a few minutes to prepare herself and was ready quickly. The angle of the sun was low and allowed us to work immediately, and throughout the afternoon. We began with an elegant black dress, and I soon learned that Mariel shed her inhibitions during her sessions. She began the session standing up and then laid down on the surface for a different presentation. Rather than worrying about the dust on the fabric, she embraced the dust and gave me yet another dimension to the images.

Then, for the image above, she returned to the car in order to gather an incredible piece that she had recently acquired. The wind, while ideal in most instances, made it quite difficult for Mariel to manage. Like a professional she managed beautifully, at times using her hands to stabilize the piece while adding lines, volume to the exposures.

She never complained, never once told me that we needed to finish early. We worked for almost three hours and then decided to end our session with peace in our hearts. We packed up our gear and headed back home, also chatting along the way. Some find it awkward after a session, since so much output is needed leaving one with little energy to talk. This exquisite woman understood the essence of my work and therefore quenched my need to learn about her. 

I very much look forward to printing more of her work, and to collaborating once again early next year.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brother of Student, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2008

My notes tell me that this portrait was made on the sixteenth roll of film, the twelfth exposure to be exact. In a roll of medium format film this means that his expression is the last one on that specific roll. Most of my work that mid-afternoon represented women and girls, and he along with a few of his friends snuck in for their pictures.

There is something about how young boys dress in rural Rajasthan that is most striking to me. It is timeless, almost always dark and perfectly in line with my work from other countries. So when boys offer themselves to my camera I almost always agree unless the work with the girls has yet to be finished.

On this day we arrive mid-afternoon to this village, making my traditional work in direct sunlight somewhat impossible due to the angle of the sun. We decided to set up in this courtyard with the good graces of the owners, and they offered a small stool on which the children may sit. A volunteer from Humana People to People India held a reflector to my right, and to the child's left.

Most of the children waited outside of the courtyard, perhaps five meters behind this young boy, beyond the wall just behind the baskets in the image. Once we are finished with one child's portrait another is let inside, very much like a formal studio setting. The only sounds are the voices of the children and the conversations between the adults. Working in such a peaceful environment and with the aid of a wonderful foundation is incredibly satisfying. While at times communication is difficult, there is a sense that we are accomplishing something beautiful and important between us.

This is especially clear with the youngest of the volunteers, with the exception of Baba as described in previous posts. He is an exception certainly and an example for all in the foundation. The younger volunteers are more closely associated with the very people benefiting from the good works of the foundation, and can relate to this child for example directly. There is a gentleness in their communication that is most admirable.

From this point forward I will include this more subtle approach in my photographic process in the field. In between the early morning and late afternoon more opportunities will be sought to make images in this manner, with a softer and more diffuse light source.

We are attempting to fund the reopening of this village's school in the near future and could use everyone's help. Should you feel attracted to this project, you may feel free to contact through the following links.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Printing Mariel, Darkroom, Cleveland Heights, December 1, 2012

Starting late this morning made me think very little would be printed in the darkroom. Rather than working between various projects, concentrating on my latest collaboration with Mariel seemed appropriate since yesterday was spent in the same manner. The negatives were still laid out on my desk and the proofs were on the screen for easy reference.

My time with Mariel at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed will be for another posting, for this deals with the process of printing her negatives earlier today. Earlier in the week we exchanged a few messages and got an idea of which images were to be selected according to our preferences. The image shown above was one such selection.

Before this negative was printed three others were processed, taking me to nearly 6:00 pm and a little later than my usual to print any more for the afternoon. Since I started a bit later today it seemed only right to print one more negative. I sat in front of the computer screen and went back and forth, finally selecting the negative shown printed above.

While most negatives are printed without cropping, something inside of me pushed me to crop this image considerably. Before doing so I checked the image sharpness with loupes and confirmed that such could be done without compromising the quality of the final product. The negative was placed in the negative holder, and the enlarger head was raised to achieve the proper image size.

A few minutes later it was clear that an exposure of nearly four minutes would be needed for this negative, complicated by the distance from the easel. In addition a considerable amount of burning would be necessary to calm the highlights down on the left cheek and forehead areas, adding almost three more minutes to the process. The chemicals had 'matured' nicely and would be different tomorrow morning, so I pressed on.

A little bit of dodging the background areas, burning the highlights on the skin, an overall exposure of seven minutes later produced an exquisite print by my standards of course. I decided to go ahead and print nine more for the evening, and made a quick snapshot of the final two prints right before they were removed from the fixer. At this moment they are washing for the next hour in an archival print washer, and will be laid on screens to dry overnight for viewing tomorrow morning.

Overall two hours were spent printing this negative, with ten prints to show for the effort. Many will wonder as to my reasons for using film, and the printing of that film in the darkroom. For the sake of clarification there are those performing much more complicated printing processes relating to photography to make my process seem so simple. The question usually arises in comparison to the digital process, and with this in mind the question is framed.

For me personally, I am in love with the process, the idea that the reflection from a person's skin moves through a series of glass elements, lands on a light sensitive film, processed to permanence through a chemical process, placed in an enlarger that acts as a camera in reverse depositing the negative image on a light sensitive paper, then processed to permanence through a similar chemical process to achieve a print that we will hold in our hands, and frame for those generations in the future to witness.

The details flow from one to another without steps, from one piece of grain to another. There is something magical about this, as my loupes show me every single time I view a negative prior to its printing in the darkroom. Soon Mariel will have this print in her hands, and we shall celebrate.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, November 30, 2012

Young Girl, Preparation of Spices, Solar Lantern, Humana People to People, Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL), Rajasthan, India

At the end of our day we are invited inside a group of homes to document the use of solar lanterns in this village. There is a sincere quality to the invitation, a sense of pride regarding the incorporation of solar power within village life.

One family has taken the initiative to sponsor the solar panels and the recharging units. For a small fee the other families are able to rent a solar lantern for the evening/night. They gather the lantern as the sun fades, make use of it throughout the night and return the lantern to be charged early in the morning. I watched as people walked to and from the home with these lanterns, and witnessed a most positive attitude in general.

In the scene above a young girl prepares spices for the family meal by hand, with a lantern guiding her efforts. She of course knew that she was being photographed and would stop now and then out of curiosity, giggle a little bit and then continue with her work mostly for the sake of the camera since she was more than likely done with the spices. She would normally perform this task in a dimly lit room, but now has the glow of the lantern to her side.

As the good people of  Humana People to People India explained to me, when the sun disappears so does the light from these villages. Any activities performed after this point are almost always done with only the moonlight to act as a guide. As we drove home on this night I realized how true their statement was. As we drove along country roads before our connection with the main road, complete darkness overpowered my senses. For me this was temporary, while this was the norm for the rest of the population.

For more information regarding this initiative, one may connect with LaBL at the following link:

LaBL Facebook

As for the school in this village, we look forward to its reopening in 2013 and will visit this village hopefully later next year to document the changes as a result.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Woman, Tool, Humana People to People, Chota, Rajasthan, India, November, 2009

Her portrait was made after a meeting amongst the women of the village in coordination with Humana People to People India. All of the women arrived after their morning chores, discussed topics ranging from the micro-loan program to the education of their girls.

In this small village exist various programs supported by the aforementioned foundation, and there is a sense of excitement perfectly palpable through their gestures, their smiles. One can sense the excitement through the latter on the face of this incredibly strong woman.

The spot of meeting was just behind her, on the carpet laid out by the owner of the home, also the teacher for the local school sponsored by Humana People to People India. In this home I have had lunch and dinner, as well as countless cups of tea. While they held the meeting I filmed the exchange, and the teacher's son walked around with my small camera and snapped images of the women. He was great, and the women finally had one from their community photographing them, even though they found it confusing in terms of their reactions.

Should they be timid as they were with me, should they be comfortable with one of their own children snapping images? It was fun to watch altogether, from the expressions on the women's faces to those of the young boy. What was most remarkable was the care with which he held the camera, and the attention he paid to the leveling of the image, to the composition. He was so gentle, and had an incredible sense of purpose when moving from one woman to another.

In this village a school is reopening once again in 2013, in this very courtyard actually. I look forward to a fresh cup of tea next year and dozens of smiling faces. For more information regarding this project, you may feel free to contact me through the following links.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mother and Child, Humana People to People India, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, Afternoon of November 16th, 2009

As the year winds down and thoughts arise regarding next year, this small village in Rajasthan comes to mind. In this corner of India exist families that have come to know my work and its purpose. When asked they organize photographic sessions and allow me to work without hesitation. The men are kind and courteous, and permit me to speak to the women and girls of the village spontaneously.

In this instance, because the skies were cloudy, we decided to work differently. On our way to the school I recognized one of the girls from the school and decided to drop by her home. All of these years we have never met anywhere outside of her school. She was so beautifully timid and proud at the same time to have us at her home. They arranged a few benches for us to sit upon and we talked for a while, the clouds were going to remain regardless.

We then arranged a few benches and placed a mat for the woman to stand upon and for the girls to sit upon for the photography. The work was mainly performed with a digital platform, while the film camera sat aside for another day. The girls enjoyed this freedom, since the film camera is usually placed on a tripod. We had so much fun, going from one position to another, making group portraits rather than the usual, single portraits.

We photographed until the sun set behind the home, and then made our way back to camp in order to have dinner and get organized for the next day.

Banganga is a special place for me, and next year will see a reopening of its Humana People to People school. In looking to next year this alone brings a deep sense of satisfaction to me, in that their portraits have helped a distant public realize the importance of an education for the girls of this village. I look forward to my next visit, and wonder how each and every one of them has changed since our last time together.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Manos de los Trabajadores, La Habana, Cuba, Julio, 2011


I walk up to two men and ask to photograph their hands, the hands of working men my purpose. As a gesture to augment my limited language skills, my hands are extended as an example. The first man thrusts forth his hands in the same manner and a few images are made. In spite of people walking by and the presence of tourists throughout the city, he spares time from his day to accommodate my request.

The next man sitting is asked for the same and refuses in a nice manner. For the sake of understanding I politely ask for his reason. Rather surprised I learn that he would allow the picture but would rather put his hands in a different position. He explains to me that there are those whose preconceptions would affect their interpretation of the image, seeing the palms up as a sign of asking or begging for something, rather than the hands of a working man.

I am touched deeply by his explanation and by his willingness to continue with the photography despite my lack of vision. He puts his forearms on his knees and places his hands in a most gentle fashion in front of my camera.  We exchange a few words while photographing, shake hands and then part ways.

In one instant I was taught an incredible lesson, one that I will never forget. Here were two men, friends sitting on the same ledge, with much in common yet an entirely different way of looking at a similar request. I am humbled by the countless workers that make up our societies, real heroes willing to go unnoticed for the sake of their families and require nothing more than serenity for their children.

These are the hands that I would place my life in should that time ever come.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mother of Student, Solar Lantern, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 14, 2009

On Saturday, November 14th the above image was made. The sun had almost set and we used the light from the solar lantern in order to enlighten the scene. During this trip we had spoken about making images of their other projects, and Humana People to People India supplied me with a wonderful team to help in doing so.

The local population was very proud of the various projects, from the solar lantern initiative to the farmers' clubs to the ecologically friendly fencing to the biofuel plants being utilized on their farms. In the instance above this woman was performing her daily chores with the assistance of a solar lantern. She was kind enough to ignore three grown men at the doorway while doing so and therefore give the foundation an image of their progress in the village.

With these initiatives the photography has grown, from making individual images to creating images of the family as a whole. The acceptance of this work has humbled me even more so, both from the foundation's perspective and that of the families. To this day I cannot overstate my disbelief that both would allow me to do so, and even welcome it. I hold this dear to me and will continue to do my best to shed light on their works, the least a photographer can and should do.

After this image was made, and a few others, we returned to our home base in complete darkness. This was the new norm because we were documenting the solar lantern projects... and therefore would return after the sun had set. Dinner would be waiting for us on the rooftop of the volunteers quarters, with water in an earthen vessel with a metal plate acting as a cover and a ladle as a glass. The food as always was spicy, and therefore more than a few ladles of water would be needed to quench my thirst.

At one point one of the volunteers made a remark that none of the previous visitors had eaten with them on the rooftop, even less have taken a sip from their water source. Guilt overcame me because I had purchased a water bottle or two during my trip for the sake of convenience. At the same time I appreciated his remarks very much, more so the looks on their faces. While they know that my life is quite different than theirs and resembles nothing like a sacrifice on any level, for this one moment they acknowledged my actions and this made all of the difference in the world.

I admire every single one of the good people working for their comrades under the flag of Humana People to People India. I have seen nothing but pride and dignity on their faces, where from Europe or from Asia. They work together to accomplish a common goal, incessantly and without reservation. They are to me the best humanity has to offer, I salute them with my work.

halim.ina@gmail.com
Halim Ina Photography