Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Students + Flower, Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

Having returned from a summer in Cuba, I look forward to presenting our work in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to those of us involved and interested. Under the guidance of Nirvana and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation, we are proceeding with an interfaith collaboration in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh. 

This is made possible thanks to the hard work of Imdadullah and his community in the region, and to the generosity of two dozen people from this very circle. By the time of my visit early next year, our hope is that we have established the new school in these girls' village, as well as three sewing centers in the area.

The funds have been raised, and the first quarter has been presented... awaiting transfer in October to the foundation. Once such is done the materials can be produced, and the new school may begin. These two young girls will soon have a formal curriculum in between their religious studies, in this very space.

The need is great, and there are literally dozens of villages in the region deserving of such a collaboration. We hope that this school can be a model for such a movement, truly.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Three Friends + Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

At times when it seems this work will fall short, my mind drifts far away to this village and thinks of these students. They are and have always been the inspiration behind the work. It is for them that so many of you have come together, and it is for them that Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation move forward in this region.

These are the younger students from the village, yet have had almost four years of experience with the photography. Earlier this year we discovered photography in this room and my work was reborn. They have given so much to me, and thanks to all of you the work is going to give back so much to them.

As in the previous posts, I am honored to notify all of you that 50% of the funding is on its way and the remaining 50% has already been raised.

Congratulations to all of you, to all of the girls in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Young Ballerina + Countryside, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2017

It has taken me over a dozen years to begin to see below the surface on the island, and in those dozen years the families have bestowed upon me the deepest of honors: access to their most precious, their children. While I do enjoy walking the streets and making the random portraits, it is these lifelong relationships which fuel my drive to return year after year.

A single portrait of a laborer in the streets of Havana is priceless, but to have these children call me while on the island for a session is beyond my capacity to describe. Over the last few years, the number of tourists with cameras on the island has exploded.

This past year, one question kept creeping up on me: has the sentiment between photographer and subject on the streets disappeared in the city? Years ago, when I walked around with my camera on a tripod, the reaction was much less skeptical and much more inquisitive. The past few years have proven the reverse for me, while my relationships with the families has proven to be the best of investments.

Such a relationship is the reason behind this young dancer's portrait. On this afternoon her father called to tell me that the weather looked good, and we might have a chance at an afternoon session. We of course had our cameras with us, and made our way to their home. The parents wanted something different, and so we drove out to the countryside.

It was a familiar neighborhood, but we decided to cross to the other side of the railroad tracks in search of homes. We ran across this one and its owner granted us permission immediately. So we set up our cameras and began at this location first. We were able to use the outside, as well as the inside of the home, making for some memorable images.

She was just magnificent, and showed us how much she had changed over the past few years. Such a session in direct sunlight would have been very difficult for her then, but this year she reveled in the sunlight. She and her family will always have my admiration.

It is my sincerest honor to be given this opportunity, and in a few weeks when the film is processed my hope is that we have done justice on her behalf.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Students + Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

For those of us involved with this new school, and for those interested in joining, these two students share their smiles. Thanks to the guidance of Nirvana and the hard work of his team at Nirvanavan Foundation, much of the groundwork has already been accomplished and we are poised to join Imdadullah and his community in Shamli District.

While the education of the students is of primary importance, we have arranged to establish sewing centers in four villages as well. This will provide an alternative to the parents who may feel uncomfortable sending their girls to secondary schools far away from their villages, as is the case in this region.

The school in which these two stand will also be painted beautifully this year, as a gesture of goodwill to a community which has given so much. The children are truly selfless and give of themselves without hesitation. Their elders have been so kind, and have taught me many lessons over the past four years.

Early next year I will join these very girls in this room, and share the love from this very circle with them... thank you all!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Young Students + Window Light, Shamli District, UP, India, 2017

Once again a portrait of two students is being shared with those of us involved in their new school. Thanks to Nirvana and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation the possibility of this school was born, and thanks to those tagged within this post that possibility has turned into a reality.

My photographic work began in this district thanks to Asrar, who had taken me there to document the thousands of refugees from the recent Muzaffarnagar riots. This was one village which we visited, and I fell in love with the area. While the children were of course beautiful and the environment surrounding the homes took my breath away, it was the generous nature of the supporting families which impressed me most.

So last year Nirvana provided me with incredible insight, making it clear to me that something needed to be done. The local elders did the same, asking for our help in the education of their grandchildren. This was the impetus in bringing the new school to your attention, and thanks to your generosity the first donation has already been sent, while the second donation is only a few weeks from being sent as well. This will allow us to remain on schedule, and all can rest assured that the first two years' worth of budget has already been put aside.

Congratulations to all, and thank you in advance for allowing me to tag you!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Congregation of Sheep, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2017

Earlier this year we did something different, we explored the western landscape of Rajasthan without much of a plan. With the help of my dear friend Mukesh, and the guidance of Nirvana, it turned out to be a great experience.

We talked as we drove, stopped whenever we wanted and took the camera out when the scene showed itself to us. In this instance, we witnessed some sheep gathered without movement. It was a striking scene, and as we walked closer to the animals they remained together without movement.

This region is within 25 kilometers of Pakistan, and was filled with pure silence. Traffic was non-existent, and sand was everywhere. The Muslim community treated us well, but informed us that none of the villages in the region would allow photography. They had gotten together years ago and agreed upon this, mostly due to the fact that the area is filled with tourists and, while they worked with these tourists as guides, they wished to preserve their privacy at home. 

So we photographed sand dunes, and sheep, and had a great time doing so!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Turn + Smile, Rajasthan, India, 2017

For those of us who have come forth on behalf of 240 children in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, this image of one student is being presented. My hope is that her joy is clear to all of us, that even though she is turned, we can see the extreme happiness in her expression. This is the magic of an education, the power of hope. Thanks to all of you the new school will begin later this year in Uttar Pradesh, as well as four new sewing classes both in Rajasthan and in Uttar Pradesh.

With the guidance of Nirvana Bodhisattva and Imdadullah Nadvi Nadvi, your donations will be put to good use. Last month the first quarter of the budget was sent, and next month the first half of the budget will be met. Now that I am back from the summer in Cuba images will be posted, and stories shared. All of you can rest assured that the progress will be noted for all of us to witness.

A sincere thank you for all of us, to all of you!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens combination.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Model + Shadow, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2017

This year promises to be an incredible one at EGOS, a school for models run by the magnificent Gysleda. This young man is one such example of the beauty and power on the island, and helped us produce beautiful images this past week. 

While he has exquisite attributes, it is his humility which stands on its own. He was both soft and strong, and worked so well with the other model during the session. When asked to remove his shirt, he did so without hesitation... and when asked to pour water on his beautiful hair, he also embraced the request. This image is the result of his cooperation, and spirit of course. 


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Anays + The Blue Chair, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2017

This past week the work has begun on the island, and with the most magnificent Anays Diz Pe. For this image we returned to a small village just outside of the city, and to the home with my favorite chair. While of course her dance images are without compare, she decided to display her sense of fashion and style for this session.

Her talents have now grown to include being a dance professor in two schools, while strolling the catwalk in a most prestigious modeling school. My schedule looks empty in comparison to hers, yet she still finds time for us to collaborate. If she could be photographed every single day she would do so, for she was born to be photographed.

On this morning we were fortunate enough to have sunshine, and plenty of it. We collaborated for perhaps one hour before the sun turned a bit hot for me. Anays could have gone forward for much longer, but perhaps it was best to save our time, and film, for our session this Sunday at the beach.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3, after hitting the ground from 5 or so feet high.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Young Syrian + Home, Zahle, Lebanon, 2017

During my last visit to her camp over seven years ago she was yet to be born, and the circumstances in the region were very much different. Her community was made up mostly of migrants working in Lebanon in order to support their families back home in Syria.

Since then much has changed, and her homeland lay in ruins. Her camp is a mix of migrants and refugees, and the most dangerous elements from the wars in the region have even made their way into the camps doting the landscape around her. This is the environment in which she lives, and from which this portrait was taken just this past week.

Her camp happens to be where my photography was born over 20 years ago, and where my photography was reborn last month after a seven year absence. To say that my mind was filled with hesitation before this trip would be an understatement. Yet making my way to her camp just seemed right, regardless of the risks involved.

In the end the camps embraced me as they had done two decades ago, and have given me the confidence to return next year. For this portrait her family invited me into their home to photograph her youngest sister. While that portrait was never made due to her sister's shyness, hers was more than easy to make for she is anything but shy!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Young Syrian + Shawl, Zahle, Lebanon, 2017

Her portrait was made almost exactly in the spot where my photography was born twenty years ago. She is from the same community, Syrians living in Lebanon... but the circumstances today are much different than they were then. Her homeland is in ruins, and amongst her community are those who pose great danger to all regardless of faith or political leaning.

She endures a most difficult life on a daily basis, living in a tent settlement on a winding road. Cars pass by without slowing down, and without much care for the children playing near the edge of the street. While of course her parents love her so, the life of the children in these camps is more than just rough. The actions of the boys, in any other setting, would be seen as anywhere from violent to criminal. In front of my eyes, while we were making her portrait, two children fought with fists and without reservation hitting each other with full force in the face.

This goes on daily in front of this beautiful girl, and much more. Lebanon has absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, totaling almost half of its normal population. The jobs are now even more scarce, adding to the friction between the communities. In this pot of emotions she has to exist, and does so with such strength.

Many ask me, especially after seeing how difficult the photography is in the camps, "why continue?" It is simple, I admire this young girl and those like her for surviving the ignorances of those around them, and for doing so with such innocence and grace.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Syrian Refugee + Fabric, Zahle, Lebanon, 2017

The men driving me to the camps have been amazed by the beauty within them, especially this young girl living just fifteen or so minutes from my grandparents' home. The men have lived in this town since birth and have driven past the camps on countless occasions. Yet they had never stopped for a minute to interact with the populations within, had never seen such beauty.

Most are offended by the intense smell, or by the mere presence of the refugees within their country. In so many ways such a presence has put a strain on the country, with the economy in distress and the already fragile security more strained.

However for me these camps are the birth of my photography, for me the children within them are as beautiful, as strong and as vibrant as any encountered in my travels. They are the flowers amidst the chaos, they are the inspiration behind my work.

This young girl's smile erases the difficulty in achieving her portrait. While men look on at times in disapproval, she stands her ground and speaks her mind through her portrait. She refuses to be silenced, refuses to be ignored. If this portrait can communicate such to the viewers, then it has done justice to her spirit.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Syrian Girl + Garden, Zahle, Lebanon, 2017

She is as striking as her predecessors in her camp, as beautiful as any other in this world. Her homeland is in distress, and her life in Lebanon is anything but stable. Yet she does what she can to help her family, and endures with such grace.

On my second day to her camp she was helping her mother with the purchase of some vegetables from a visiting truck. She caught my attention right away, but her presence was missing as we had our first session.

As the third day arrived it seemed that she would never come, and then she approached us with a smile. She might have seen the photographs in her friends' hands from the day before, or just the commotion from the photography. Regardless she allowed me to make her portrait twice, in the shade and in direct sunlight.

She was silent the entire time, but spoke volumes through her expressions. My hope is that this portrait does justice to her spirit, and that she allows me once again to make her portrait tomorrow.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Designs of Yudel with Patricia, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2016

There is something truly special about this incredible island that continues to bring me back. While of course the cars are sublime and the music is untouchable, the people of Cuba impress me deeply for they embrace without hesitation. 

This image is such an example. It all began when we visited a modeling school seven years ago, and were welcomed on our first visit to photograph the students. Every year since then the collaboration deepened, allowing us to photograph those we wished to photograph. In addition, the two best designers in the capital have allowed us to freely use their works with the models, and to do so for as many days we wished over the past few years.

For this session we were fortunate enough to have the designs of Yudel on hand. This man is simply divine, as is his work. For the models we were photographing, he selected pieces suited for their frames and personalities. He allowed us to visit his shop, also met us at a park near his home all to make our work that much simpler.

We made this image at the end of our session, as the sun's strength increased. Patricia put the long, flowing dress on and began to dance in the rural streets of Guanabacoa. The shutter was released in line with her movements, pure magic.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Daughter of Sheikh, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2009

On the 11th of August in 2009 her portrait was made, over a dozen years after my photography was born in her camp. She and her family lived in Lebanon as migrants, and her father was in charge of negotiating between the Lebanese farmers and the Syrian laborers in his encampment. Her community had one foot in Lebanon, and the other in Syria.

She has two older sisters who had been photographed by me previously, when they were allowed to be photographed... and two younger sisters who photographed freely with us at the time of this portrait. She is the most precious of girls, and words fail me in describing my feelings for her and her family. She is like a daughter to me, and my upcoming trip to Lebanon is filled with the hope of seeing her again.

One day as we finished our photography and were walking back to her tent, we shared the most incredible conversation out in the open, yet out of hearing range from the community. It will remain in my memory for life, and is what drives this work forward. Such experiences are priceless and demonstrate how special this path in life truly is.


Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 V system.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Teacher + Student, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2016

When people ask why Cuba... it is difficult to answer in words. In the beginning perhaps it was the allure of vintage American cars behind the curtain of communism, the Afro-Cuban rhythms carried over to American jazz by greats like Dizzy Gillespie. 

It has been a dozen years since that first visit, and now it is the people of that sweet island... as perhaps it has always been. They are a most magnificent collection of cultures, colors and spirits... turning the everyday into an experience to remember.

Such was this morning with Gysleda and her wonderful apprentice in Guanabacoa, about 20 minutes outside of Havana. It was an ordinary field before they stepped onto the grass. With their immeasurable talents they transformed it into a stage like no other, and helped us produce images hopefully worthy of their efforts.

Nothing needed to be said, as the shutter was released most effortlessly. I am sincerely humbled to call these two women my sisters, and to be allowed to document their performances year after year. My hope is that we can do the same this summer!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.