Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ballerina + Stairs, Pan American Stadium, La Habana, Cuba

We first met in front of her dance studio. I was waiting for a few dancers when a man on a bicycle taxi spotted me and asked about my work. One of his nieces was dancing inside and might be interested in being photographed. Earlier in the afternoon we had spoken with the parents sitting outside of the studio and some expressed interest in the project. We thought that perhaps we'd be overwhelmed but certainly welcomed his niece should she be interested.

As it turned out most of the parents walked past us without pause but his niece gave us the gift of her portrait. We photographed her and four other dancers as the sun set over the adjacent building, then took down everyone's information for a visit the following year.

When we did return one year later, we made a visit to her home. As we waited in the living room, a strange face walked into the room with excitement. Her features made me lose my concentration and I found myself studying her responses. What was she thinking? Did she want to be photographed also? Would she allow us to do so?

Before I could say anything, she smiled and nodded in approval.

The gift of her sister's portrait one year earlier yielded two incredibly gentle girls for my portraiture on the island. From this point forward the young dancer above would be accompanied by her sister and older cousin, all of whom would be photographed every single session.

In the image above she stands at the entrance of a stadium built for the Pan American Games of 1991. This has become my preferred location for its white walls, the elegant staircase and the statues on the other side. It is a most serene place and speaks of past accomplishments when life was quite different on the island. Construction of this incredible space might have had nations in mind more than two decades ago, but it now serves the people of this community for it was their sweat that contributed to its presence.

On this day the sky was cloudy, and the light diffuse. She moved from one position to another, changing her expressions accordingly. She wore her black outfits and gave two hours of her time while her friends were playing in the streets and the temperature/humidity combination was almost unbearable. Variables like these have helped me develop a deep respect for these young girls, and a dedication to their families.

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Halim Ina Photography