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 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 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 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 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 Photography

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Along the Coast, Gambia to Senegal, An Afternoon in February, 2006

After our time in The Gambia and on our way back to Dakar this scene exposed itself along the coast. Our drive back to Dakar was more deliberate in comparison to our ride from Dakar to the interior of The Gambia days beforehand. As we drove north along the coast this quiet village appeared and I asked permission from my two travel companions to stop and make this image.

While most of my work in these two nations comprised of portraiture, making such an image allows me to breathe a little, removed a bit from the hustle of the streets and the need to negotiate always with so many more than just the person desired for the portrait. In this instance we pull over to the right of the road, step outside without another car in sight and set up the tripod slowly while taking in the sounds and smells of the scene. The only movement was attributed to the animals, people were perhaps inside their homes.

We made this image without being questioned, without being pushed along and without being noticed. While I must say that this is pure bliss for me, I know down deep inside that faces will always attract me, that people will always pull me to make their portraits with their kindness, their love and their beauty. Regardless of the heckling of the crowd and the accusations of the neighbors, I will always be attracted to the human face.

I feel however that a balance can be achieved and such images as the one above can provide a moment of solace from which to rise for the stresses of street portraiture. All in all my attraction to the more restricted will always win over, and I will always want to make images of those hiding behind the doors while the rest come running towards the camera, usually the boys of the neighborhood.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, November 23, 2012

Student and Brother, Humana People to People, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, Afternoon of November 15, 2009

Her portrait is the most elusive from her family. While she is most willing to be photographed, her light eyes are unable to work in the sunlight that so accentuates my work. Here she sits with her brother in the field in front of her home, as the sun was setting.

She alone will change my work during my next visit and enable me to work indoors, in the shade of trees and so forth. She will extend the nature of my work, and this excites me incredibly. Her aunt is the teacher of the local Humana People to People school in her village, and the two families together treat me like a son.

Upon every visit both families prepare tea, and then either lunch or dinner. They live right next to each other with the closest neighbor in the invisible distance. They tend to their land without help from anyone else, and are never found sitting, always working actually. This is my fourth year with these families and my experiences with them have been marked by both extremes.

To be clear my time with them has been nothing short of magnificent. They and their neighbors have always welcomed my photography and all of the children have always been prepared. They have allowed the use of their lands, their benches and their sheets as backdrops. They have organized the sessions and made sure that the children listened carefully to our instructions.

The other extreme was marked by one afternoon on my second to last day in this village. Without reason the shutter on my lens seemed to snap, or my mind just seemed to notice the malfunction in the middle of their session. It was my second to last day and I thought that perhaps this malfunction had existed since the first day of this trip. My heart dropped to my feet and I was barely able to continue after changing lenses.

We finished the session, and then arranged to return the following morning even though my plane departed from New Delhi on that same day in the middle of the afternoonI. Even though we were five hours away, we arranged to come back to this village and made new portraits of everyone just in case. They were touched by the gesture as I was touched by their willingness to do so twice in less than 18 hours. I barely slept the night before, heard almost every single sound until sunrise arrived.

As it turned out the lens shutter did malfunction at the very moment that last afternoon, but only at the moment that my ears noticed. So all in all the images turned out nicely, and the pit in my stomach was finally removed several weeks later as the film was being developed.

This village will always serve as a reminder of how fleeting our experiences can be, and how much there is to be thankful for in my life. I am fortunate enough to have met these two families and to announce that their school will reopen next year, along with four other schools, as our collaboration with Humana People to People continues.

For more information regarding the foundation and our collaboration, along with images, one may viist the following websites:

Halim Ina Photography
Humana People to People India

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Older Woman, Dancing, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2009

As she sat for her portrait she danced, moving her  hands about and giggling like a little girl. While she lives in one of the traditional villages documented by me over the years, her jewelry resembles that of the Banjara Community. She however dresses like the other villagers, and sat with us as we photographed the girls from the local school sponsored by Humana People to People India.

We arrived at this village in the middle of the day and took advantage of the shade. A couple of young men took turns holding the reflector, and we arranged a small stool for the girls to sit upon for their session. The cookware next to her was already there, and for the sake of variety we moved them a little bit in between sitters.

I enjoy it when an adult, like in the previous post, injects a bit of humor into the scene. This allows the students to be freer with their expressions and makes for a more interesting session. This is exactly what she did, moved her hands through the air and allowed me to photograph her all the while. Behind me and to the left sat a group of men watching, which made her actions that much more remarkable.

Contrary to my experiences in the past, the men also enjoyed the humor and supported all of our work. Their presence served to give our work more plausibility, and we did our best to present all of them with photographs a day or so later.

In the beginning of my photography, years ago, I would return to the villages the following year and hand the pictures out to the people. While they very much appreciated it, the number of photographs was limited to the amount my luggage would allow, plus the protective sleeves. Taking a digital camera along allowed me to make images and print them immediately afterwards at the local photographic lab. In this way the local economy benefited from my humble offerings and the people received their pictures much sooner, and more of them.

This engendered a warmer response, and allowed further sessions to have a flow unattainable before.

I look forward to visiting this village once again, perhaps next year. My hope is that the girls of this village are attending government schools, and that they will allow me the privilege to photograph them once again.
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Man and Woman, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, Evening of November 18, 2009

We schedule the girls for a session and the men invariably join in the fun. When they approach me with kindness it is a blessing, as in the image above. In many ways he makes the rest of the work easier, sharing with us his approval and allowing the girls to be themselves more so.

He is willing to make fun of himself a bit for the sake of the girls, rather than sitting a few meters away and staring at them as is the usual in these circumstances. Whether the photography takes place in the Middle East or in Asia or in the Caribbean, my work with girls and women brings out in men a less than desirable reaction, many times understandably so.

One interaction such in the image above diffuses such reactions and allows me to work in peace. These are after all girls accustomed to doing their chores and rarely taking center stage. Their place is that of the woman in the background, secluded and separated from the activities in center stage. During our entire session she never allowed her face to be seen, only a few times lifting her head enough to see the girls having fun and smiling in turn.

I will admit that I know very little of this culture, and the other cultures within my photography. These visual records are but clues to the larger picture, but I feel deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to make such an image, to be able to later on reflect on it and perhaps gain a slightly better understanding of the people within it.

To this village I will return soon, perhaps next year in order to see the success of the schools sponsored by Humana People to People India. I do hope that this elder and his colleagues continue to support the school in their village, to send their girls to gain an education.

We are in the final stage of funding for the five schools of 2013 and could use any support. Should you feel attracted to these faces and their stories, then you may contact me through the following links with your thoughts.
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Young Student, Humana People to People India, Khera Village, Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2009

Here we are in the teacher's courtyard, protected from the gaze of men, making portraits of the students. The teacher is but a few years older than this young student, yet the respect that is shown the teacher is nothing short of admirable. In a few minutes we need to move outside in order to gain access to the setting sun, but for the time being we make snapshots inside the space and are free to do so without the restrictions that come with being in public view in a small village.

The rest of the students sit to her right, behind a line drawn onto the floor in chalk by the leader of our team. All of the girls, and I mean all of the girls, sit behind the chalk line without moving forward until they are called for their portrait. The name of her village is called Khera and it is located four or so hours away from Delhi, in Rajasthan, India.

Here in the Land of the Rajas exist the most exquisite of feminine spirits. One can walk through an entire village without seeing a single one, but should one take the time to look the faces can be overwhelming. My fortune is being connected with Humana People to People of India, and being granted access to the students of their Girls Bridge School Program.

This was my second time in this village, and this school has since been closed. We however are looking forward to its reopening next year and have organized the funding necessary for her and her friends to attend classes again, to pick up that small piece of chalk and write their names on the black board. I have witnessed them sitting on the bare floor, walk up to the chalkboard and write numbers in order, recite the vocabulary with immense pride in front of all of their friends.

To my amazement all of the girls were basically at the same level, even though some were much older than others. When one student would have a little trouble with the recitation, perhaps because she was nervous in front of the stranger, she would make it through with the support of her class and smile rather than frown. I was and continue to be impressed with this village, and look forward to visiting this school once again next year.

For them this work is done.

Should you feel inclined to join us in this noble endeavor, you may feel free to contact me with your thoughts. The funds necessary to keep a class of forty girls learning is equal to a cup of nice coffee per day. I am certain that if you are reading this entry you already have a purpose. However should you feel that you have enough room in your life for two purposes, I would be happy to introduce you to these girls.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, November 2, 2012

Magdalena, Dry Lake Bed, Lucerne Valley, Los Angeles, California, September 15, 2012

Two years ago I met Magdalena through a website for models and photographers, and since then we have collaborated four times. She has the uncanny ability to transform from session to session and most amazingly during a session.

My preference for darker clothing happens to be her preference, and she tries to present variety always. When asked to be photographed she never denies the request, and in her own way accepts most willingly. Two years ago we worked three times together over a span of a week. This year I photographed her in September during my Los Angeles trip and hope to document her moving spirit in less than two weeks during my upcoming trip to Santa Barbara.

While my schedule will be busy, I will make time to photograph Magdalena. Her place in my work is understood, and she has already accepted my invitation.

Our collaboration in September was most difficult for her, for she was feeling a bit under the weather leading up to the day of the photography. We arrived at her home in a suburb of Los Angeles, and parked on the street. While waiting we walked over to one of her neighbors to look over some clothing, since she was having a yard sale.

Bailey looked at some dresses and then walked over to check a pile of shoes in a box. I checked out a few shirts but found nothing. All the while the resident of the house walked in and out to check on her sauce, the sweet scent of which teased our hungry senses while we waited.

Magdalena walked towards us quickly and apologized for the wait, a sure sign of her respect for both us and our work. She has always been this way, quite sincere and genuine. We gathered ourselves and headed out to the dry lake bed almost two and a half hours away in Los Angeles traffic.

We could tell she was feeling a little ill and asked her about it. She told us that she would be fine and then asked our permission to fall asleep in the car. We drove to the area while she slept, waking up when we arrived at a local fast food restaurant in order to get some much needed food into her stomach. She was more than appreciative, ate the salad and felt much better as we drove the remaining half an hour to the site.

In contrast to El Mirage, the dry lake bed at Lucerne Valley was quite accessible, and split down the middle by a nicely paved road. We drove up and down this road for a little bit in order to find the perfect spot, with few houses in the background. We did so, got out and set up the cameras. A few minutes later Magdalena was ready with her first outfit, and so the photography began.

We worked for the next ninety minutes, now and then fetching a piece of our equipment as it flew over the road to the other side. The wind was wonderful and we managed to expose a dozen rolls before calling it quits for the day. Considering how this young woman was feeling, the session was more than a success. In the middle of the desert, under the sun and with the heat, she gave us what few could have.

I am honored to know Magdalena and look forward to a collaboration in two weeks.
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Afternoon of Medical Care, Chota Village, Rajasthan, India, November 14, 2009

The children huddle close to each other as they watch the good people of Humana People to People dispense medical knowledge and medicine. This is the courtyard of the foundation school, and the man supporting the small child oversees the schools in the area.

During her visits to this and other villages, the medical volunteer meets with women to discuss various medical issues ranging from prenatal care to diet and nutrition. Without her presence the women and girls of these villages would otherwise lack the most basic of medical information and care.

All of the women in this single image have been photographed by me on several occasions spanning four years. I have had the privilege to work with them in the past and hope to support the reopening of their school starting in 2013. On many occasions I have eaten in this home and tea has been served to me during every single visit.

The white wall behind them is the white wall used in my photography to achieve the white background so many people wonder about upon seeing the portraits. Having the girls stand two meters away from it allows the subtle discolorations to disappear. These girls never cease to amaze me, their curiosity is unlike any other and one can see this in the image above.

I love this about them, their lust for life and their desire to learn. This point alone drives me to move forward with the search for funding and to sit down at the end of a long day to type out these words. Should you or your friends have any interest in becoming a party to this important endeavor, you may feel free to contact me through the information below.
Halim Ina Photography