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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Young Arab Girl + Sky, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2010

Whenever this young girl steps in front of the camera she presents the most beautiful smile. Her features alone are beyond compare, and being with her in person is an indescribable experience. She rarely speaks, and when she smiles she lights up the world. She is of Syrian origin, and lives with her family in Lebanon in order to earn a better living. Their home is a simple tent and is without running water, a toilet... with electricity being a simple wire for a single light.

She and her family have fascinated me from the beginning. They live just outside of the tiny tent city, at the edge of the field. The families in the main homes refer to themselves as Arab, while they refer to her family as Bedouin in origin. She may be 15 years old by now, and my mind can only imagine how beautiful she has become. i look forward to visiting the site of this portrait, and hope to reunite with her family in a few weeks.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Zion National Park, Utah, 2016

While having to cancel my trip to Lebanon last year was difficult to do, my time in Utah turned out to be a blessing. Every weekend was a new national park, and every weekend was an opportunity to expand my photography was well as reflect in solitude. It was truly a blessing, and the images from those weekends have left me with the visual memories of those reflections.

Walking and driving through Zion National Park took my breath away. It seemed impossible for this space to have been formed without planning, for it was perfect in every detail. Perhaps this was the true face of nature, something that my eyes had never seen before in my travels. Spending two months in Utah has given me the desire to document the natural beauty of the other countries, while continuing with the portraits of course.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System, onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Asian Couple + Mesa Arch, Utah, 2016

Last year what was perhaps a disappointment turned into a blessing. On the eve of my trip to Lebanon work called me to Utah, and in turn gave me a chance to visit the national parks in that beautiful state.

Since it was a bit cold, most of my time in the parks allowed me to photograph without tourists in the scenes. These were some of the most serene moments in my life, allowing me to reflect upon my time away from home as well as the nature of my photography.

Now and then however tourists were hard to avoid, especially in the more popular spaces. This frame is one such example, as Mesa Arch is world famous. Towards the end of my session a group of tourists walked past me and to the arch. They walked around and made some photographs of each other, while taking in the incredible beauty around them.

It was at this moment when the thought came to me: why not photograph the scenes as they are?

So the shutter began to click, and the attached image is the result. The couple clothing reminded me of my own parents, and especially of my father's photographs of my mother in New York City a half century earlier.

As the tourists made their way past me once again, the men stopped to admire the film camera on the tripod. They were astonished to see the camera, and especially the lens mounted. Little did they know that their portrait was made a few minutes before... but my intuition tells me that they would be more than pleased. At least I hope so!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/250 mm Superachromat lens onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ballerina + Beach, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2016

As summer nears my mind wanders to the beaches of Cuba, and the dancers kind enough to allow this collaboration. This young dancer and her parents have been involved in my work for the past two years, and my hope is that this summer makes three. 

We were fortunate enough to have found her as we waited for one of our families in front of the dance school. That morning we were looking for a young dancer to take the role of an apprentice to our veteran dancer. She then appeared seemingly out of nowhere, on the back of her father's bicycle. We knew immediately that she was the one, and the rest is history as is often said.

On the day of this image, we picked her and her parents up from their home in Havana and headed for the beach. We were lucky enough to have sunshine in the late afternoon on the island, and took advantage of the light. She was very courageous and climbed up to be photographed, embracing her moment in the spotlight.

She lives to dance, and takes photography just as seriously. Her family's acceptance humbles me truly, and even more so in that they go out of their way to ask for inclusion in my work. I look forward to this summer, and hope to do better for her and her parents.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Eduardo + Rolleiflex, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2016

To be a photographer on the island is difficult enough, but to be one working exclusively with film is something entirely different. This incredible man, a dear friend and brother, works in a hotel to supplement his love of photography. He works in all three formats, from 35mm to the field camera, and also develops his film in his own darkroom.

As he walks in the streets of the city, most Cubans believe that he is a tourist, until he responds to them in their native tongue. He is one of the few on the island who wants nothing to do with leaving, and embraces his life fully. He is an artist without comparison, and moves to his own rhythm. He speaks to the guests in the hotel in well over four languages and is the man photographers visit when arriving to Cuba.

I am honored to call him my brother, and to know that he always comes along to collaborate when we offer a session with our families. Here he is with his favorite street camera, with that familiar zest for life.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shanu + Shawl, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2017

She is the most gentle of girls, and alone is reason enough for us to continue with her school. Thanks to the generosity of two dozen from this beautiful circle, she and the girls in her village attend classes guided by Nirvana and his team. She lives adjacent to the school, and attends classes every single day.

When the camera is present, the expression on her face turns completely serious and she steps in front for her portrait. Her hands are usually down to the side, and her gaze is deep and heartfelt. She will look to the other girls nearby now and then, to perhaps share her amazement at being photographed.

She cannot speak, yet communicates volumes... she cannot write, yet uses the chalk and a simple board to express herself perfectly. The school is everything to her, and we aim to make sure that as long as she wants to attend the school will remain. She is the first to greet us when we arrive, and the last to wave goodbye as we drive down the path to the main road.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Anays + El Ministerio del Comercio Exterior, Havana, Cuba, 2016

Here she is again, in another spontaneous performance as we drove around the city to find an appropriate stage. She transforms any location we find into the perfect setting, and is in tune with its significance. 

We were driving around the city and spotted this building. Even though it was drizzling a bit, and there were plenty of people around, Anays and her friend stepped out of the car and performed without hesitation. Her ability to express spontaneously is supreme, and she has my deepest respect for allowing me to be her photographer.

This year she and her mother have moved to the city from the outskirts, and feels that we can make more use of the city in our work. The thought of walking around Havana with Anays in search for locations makes me want to purchase the tickets today!


Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System, onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Colors of Cuba, Four Emblems, Havana, Cuba, 2016

On every trip a few dozen rolls of color film also come along, and thankfully so in a place like Cuba. The emblems of the cars have enchanted me ever since Alejandro pointed them out to me, when we had cloudy days and nothing to do. 

From that point to the present, anytime we have a free hour we drive around the city looking for these eyewitnesses to the revolution. Like the elders on the island, they have born witness to the revolution since its inception... have driven down the streets for over six decades as the changes unfolded before their bumpers.

The series will continue this summer, and color will come along for the ride!


Note: These images were made with a Hasselblad V System, onto Kodak Portra 160 film.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Puppy + Doorway, Manzanillo, Cuba, 2016

As we were waiting for the family to prepare their daughter for her portrait, this puppy slowly walked out of the room. He stood still for a minute or so, just long enough for me to expose two frames. Then he went back inside with the calmest of attitudes.


Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System, onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Campesino, Manzanillo, Cuba, 2016

Last year my brother Alejandro made it possible for us to visit the eastern end of the island, in search of one very specific child and open to all. The countryside is quite sublime, with every corner worth making a moment to explore. We were fortunate enough to know a few families, those willing to take us further into the countryside than ever before during our travels.

During our stay in Manzanillo, we photographed our families in the mornings and then drove out to a few remote neighborhoods to document another way of life. In these smaller villages many of the homes are generations old, and most of the community works with the land. We were welcomed with open arms thanks to our hosts, and were allowed to photograph as we wished as we walked through the villages.

This beautiful man was sitting with his neighbors chatting at the end of the day. We were driving by and decided to stop for a conversation. After a few minutes the topic of photography came up and I shared my albums with them. The families were kind enough to allow me to make their portraits. We did so within the shadows of the trees, with their houses in the background.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Gysleda + Man from Neighborhood, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2016

Over 8 years ago happenstance brought me to the peerless Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega, and life in Cuba has never been the same for me. Her school for modeling is the place to be, as the most talented from the capital come together to learn from the master. 

Her manner of teaching is sublime, as she teaches through example. While she does guide the young models through her verbal instructions, countless times she walks down the catwalk herself in supreme style.

Saturdays are our days in the school, and we visit with the hope of finding the newest of faces. She always welcomes us with open arms and a kiss. When we show interest in a few students, she informs the students and immediately they respond with enthusiasm... for Gysleda's word carries that much weight.

So on this day we welcomed the idea of photographing Gysleda in the countryside with the stylings of Yudel R. Contreras, a most talented and kind man. As we were getting ready for the session, a young man was walking down the path. She knew immediately that this was an opportunity to engage the community, and went along with the moment. The young man responded beautifully and we exposed a half roll with him alongside the master.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Young Student + Madrasa, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

For those of us working with this school, and for those of us looking to join, we present this young student's portrait. This was her first year with us, and she took to the camera in the most natural of ways. This was her expression day after day, as she arrived to school to find us waiting.

She lives in a village near a mystical river, surrounded by the most sublime fields. The village itself is quite small, yet it has a government school and a madrasa. While all of the children are registered in the government school, few actually attend. We visited the school on many occasions to see the well-meaning teachers sitting around with perhaps a dozen students playing in the courtyard.

This is the thought of our host from the village, and it is his intention to try and change the standing of the village's children. He runs the local madrasa and would like a formal curriculum introduced. Thanks to those involved, we have begun the search for three teachers at this time, and have also organized a list of sewing students who are more than ready to begin classes.

Later this year, guided by Nirvana and his team, the formal curriculum will be introduced and the sewing machines will start turning as well!


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Anays + Tree, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2016

Many adjectives have been used to describe her, and all of them have fallen short in the end. The power with which she presents to the lens is undeniable, and she gives every frame her all. She loves dance, and loves photography as much. As my friend Alejandro likes to say, 'she was born for photography.'

While many with much more experience have stepped in front of my lens, few have ever produced such results over and over again. She loves to be photographed, and asks to come along even when we have a session with someone else.

Just looking at this series may help us to understand the talent needed to make some images. These twelve frames were made in less than two minutes, yet in each one she presents differently. It seems as if she has the next two frames in mind while the present one is being exposed, always ahead of the shutter.


Note: This series was made with a Hasselblad V system onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Young Girl + Madrasa, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

For those of us involved in the interfaith effort taking ground in her village, this portrait is being shared. This is the second image we have shared of this young student, and in both she presented with the same exuberance. While her life is a most difficult one, this is the smile she shares with us every single time in front of the lens.

She is one of the younger students and often times gets less exposure during our photography sessions. When she does however she shines, barely being able to control herself. The room in which she is standing has become our favorite room for photography in India, and allows her to be herself without the prying eyes of the village.

During our most recent visit to her region we spent well over three weeks, and did as much as possible during that time to help move the interfaith effort forward. The madrasa's leaders put together a list of prospective students for the sewing class, and have moved along with the list of teachers for the collaboration. We hope over the next few months to report on the progress, and to make sure all of those giving to this project see this project bear fruit.

So far all is coming along nicely, and later this year this young girl will be attending a revised curriculum in her own village... thanks to the guidance of Nirvana and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.