Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Girl with the Clear Eyes, La Habana, Cuba, 2005

The first time her color portrait was shared happened to be the wonderful pop-up at the Cleveland Print Room this past weekend. It so happened that her photograph was made in monochrome and in color, both on film at the time. Every time her photograph is displayed in monochrome someone walks up to me and asks about the color of her eyes.
So here she is, and I am pleased that her photograph was purchased by a dear friend and colleague. As in the previous years, the funds will be placed in her gentle hands when we meet in July. What she has always done with the proceeds is improve the conditions under which her family lives, rather than concentrate on herself.  
She lives with her mother, stepfather, grandfather, sister and her own two children in a one room home. They have split the room vertically and have added a bedroom above where everyone sleeps on mats laid out on the floor. On the first floor is a small bed for the grandfather, a tiny kitchen area and a small television.
Years ago I presented the idea of putting her image up for sale, since so many seemed interested. She loved the idea, as did her mother. In our conversation we talked about the making of her portrait, and that any proceeds from its success had been earned by her courage in front of the lens.
The first time I handed the funds over to her was quite an experience. She was incredibly humble, and was almost unable to accept the gesture. After a few minutes she did so, and put the proceeds away in a safe place.
A few days later we returned for another portrait session. We were welcomed as always with grace. However before beginning our photography, the future school teacher wanted to show something to me. She took my hand, and with the permission of her mother, guided me upstairs to the bedroom. Her stepfather was also upstairs getting ready for work as a security guard.
She pointed to a new bed, one large enough for the women in the family. This was the first time she had a bed in which to sleep night after night. To put words down describing the feeling inside is impossible. Suffice it to say that a great emotion came over me and we just stood there smiling, the stepfather included.
She then took my hand once again and walked downstairs with me. She pointed to the new floor-standing fans in the room. This was also the first time that she had such ventilation in her home, enough to keep her and her family cooler during the day. A few people were also sitting inside and looked pleased at my reaction.
While my partner in work had seen much reaction to our work with the families before that day, this experience also left him with the impression that the photography had taken on a new meaning. We left the family on this day like never before, and promised to return the next week.
Should you like to make a difference with the purchase of her print also, please do get a hold of me and let's make yet another difference in her life!
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Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System.