Sunday, March 3, 2013

Elder in Color, On the Street, La Habana, Cuba, July of 2008

He sat for his portrait without a word, following his friends. They were gathered in their usual spot on one of the busiest streets in the city. Each had their own story and had seen more than their share of hardship, had lived through the revolution and were a testament to human endurance. They caught my attention from across the street when one of them offered to have their portraits made by me, in exchange for a fee of course.

To do so one time on the island is to place myself in a peculiar situation, and so the offer was kindly rejected. For some reason he offered once again without the financial request and the offer was gladly accepted. They might have seen me before on the street and perhaps had a sense of curiosity. I certainly was curious in return. We talked for a few minutes and set up for the photography. Many people from across the street showed their disapproval, since they might have seen this as a tourist making pictures of the helpless once again for the sake of profit.

These men treated me with respect and surely had mine in return. We made photographs using the tripod and film, then switched to a hand held camera for spontaneous captures. The background was the beautiful floor beneath them, while gorgeous light struck their faces from the street behind me. The man in the portrait above had a difficult time raising his head, and was kind enough to do so in this instance. Unlike the children in my work, the men in this group sat very still and were quite easy to photograph.

After perhaps thirty or so minutes we packed up our gear and bid these men farewell. We made note of their locations and promised to return the following year with their portraits. When we did return on our next visit we learned that one of the men had since passed away. It so happened that this was the man who had approached us in the first place, and who had made these images possible.

I will always be thankful for his curiosity and for the opportunity to have met him, to have made his portrait. Being in a position to meet such a variety of people is a true fortune, one that inspires me to continue upon this path.

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Halim Ina Photography