Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Daughter of Sharecropper + Home, Guanabacoa, Cuba, Summer of 2015



Her portrait was made with a humble phone camera, as my trusted state-of-the-art camera took a turn for the worst with a few weeks left on the island. We stumbled upon her as we were leaving the neighborhood one morning, after photographing two ballerinas in the field in front of her home.

She was sitting to the right on a small bench watching us photograph the ballerinas the entire time. Even though we saw her for a few seconds only, there was something about her expression that made me want to come back immediately, after we dropped off the dancers. When we did return, she knew exactly why before we had a chance to explain.

This young girl is new to my work, and my sincerest hope is that she will allow us to photograph her next year. While she was more than eager during the first session, the following collaborations were more complicated and presented a reason to have a conversation.

We were confused, Alejandro and I. She spoke very little, but communicated much to us through her expressions. She was living with her father and relatives in this small home hundreds of miles away from her hometown. They lived as sharecroppers, waking up well before sunrise to get the produce ready for sale at the market.

Theirs is a difficult life, far from the glamour of 1950s cars and wind-beaten facades lining the capital. My friends would remind me over and over again that such families knew nothing of how a certain segment of this island lived, those in charge of the programs by which these families barely existed.

So when our sessions with this young girl took a turn towards the complicated, we decided that we needed to have a talk. She was that important to us, and deep down inside we knew that this was very important to her. We talked with the families one afternoon, presented our case and asked the families to think about it until our next visit a day or so later.

When we did return, her reaction was so sincere. She still spoke very little, but her expressions gave her away. She was truly happy with our interest, and wanted to continue with the collaboration. Her father treated us with extreme kindness, and had such patience with us. The reality was that this was his daughter, yet he gave us a chance to speak with her directly and to include her in the decision-making process.

I very much look forward to next summer already, and hope that she will be there. Otherwise it'll be time for a road trip, and gladly so!