She is now fourteen years old, and four years into our collaboration. Unlike most her age, she looks forward to her quinceañera in a very different way. She wants nothing to do with the fancy dresses and the almost-nude images common to this event photographically. She would love a book of her portraits since we began, representing the five years up to and including her fifteenth year.
She loves the monochrome image, never asks for color. She has very few friends and would rather spend time with her mother and grandmother. Never to be caught hanging out in the streets, she plays with the computer at home and listens to her music all of the time. The entire neighborhood knows about our visits, and looks at us as we pull up to her house. They know that a photographer comes specifically for this mysterious girl in their midst, and acknowledge us with respect.
Up until this year, I never knew this last part, thought our work was unknown to the neighborhood since we did our work far away as per her family. This past summer her mother told me that everyone was aware, thus the looks of curiosity as we roll down the street to and from her home. It made me feel quite good actually, that our collaboration is seen in such a positive manner.
Her neighborhood is one of the toughest in Havana, and most of my Cuban friends are surprised that we work with families living there. They themselves have very little to do with it, yet to me the people in this neighborhood are like the people in all other neighborhoods… with a rainbow of reactions to the photography. We give them the benefit of the doubt and receive the same in return.
I wonder how she will be this summer, as she turns fifteen and perhaps sees the photography differently. She has already changed so much and while I will be very happy regardless of how she reacts to being photographed, I will sincerely miss her should she choose to move on. I have learned to accept such with others, but know that in her case the acceptance will be much more difficult to attain. We shall see!
Note: This portrait was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.