Friday, January 27, 2012

Willoughby School of Gung Fu, Master Joseph, Students, Suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, January 26, 2012

This evening a gift is handed to me by my dear friend, a master in the art of Gung Fu.

A week or so ago we discuss the thought of documenting his students, and his school. We talk about the details, and without a single hesitation this good man agrees to allow me to photograph the women in our first session. Diplomacy and kindness are displayed in every single one of his words.

We plan on an evening, and cancel once due to my schedule. We try again and this time my focus is completely on the school, on the students. I arrive before class begins and am enabled by the master to set up my equipment as I wish. I do so at the other end of the studio, while the rest of the students arrive. They begin the lesson while my lighting is set up.

We begin with the Master of course, making it a bit easier for the younger female students to begin. He is thoughtful, precise with his movements. He understands my needs as a photographer and holds his positions for me. He moves from one position to another effortlessly.

We then call our first student, the younger of the two women. We begin with simple gestures, then document various positions, movements. Her presence is incredibly poignant, and holds my attention through four or so rolls of film. She has never been in front of a lens before outside of her mother's, yet she is able to communicate with a clarity few possess.

We ask her to take a break and return after a little bit of time for her next session. She smiles ever so gently and goes back to her lesson. The next young woman comes over and leaves her hair up for the session. She is a seasoned student, both in Gung Fu and in ballet. With only the slightest of explanations, she places her body and arms in positions favorable to my eye.

Roll after roll are exposed in joy, and we celebrate by bringing students and Master together for a few portraits as well. We move the lights to a different position for more directional lighting, and make a series of the two students in various positions. Then we set the background up once again for the younger student. She knows that we have saved a few more rolls for her and seems to shine with happiness.

Her hair is up this time, beautifully scuplted while she waited for her turn. She once again displays an uncanny ability to both concentrate on her positions and to look directly at the camera. In the end she is made aware that my work with her will continue perhaps as early as next week, and through the rest of the year as well. This bit of news makes both young students quite happy, almost as happy as me.

Instead of walking to their cars, all of the students help me with my equipment, stand out in the rain next to my car and help me load it into the trunk. This evening they teach me the meaning of humanity, of respect. I will return next week perhaps to this beautiful corner of the world.

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Halim Ina Photography