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.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

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


These two young girls are students in the village adjacent to our host's home. They attend a traditional madrasa which also presents the formal government curriculum. Over 200 students attend, with six teachers doing their best to provide a quality education. The headmaster is a most generous man, inviting us to his home the very next night for dinner.

On our way to another village the day before we passed by this school and our dear brother Imdadullah offered to speak with the headmaster. They happened to be good friends. We talked for a little bit and arranged to stop by the next day for photography. Classes happened to begin by 6:30, a perfect beginning for our session.

So we agreed and the very next day we arrived by 6:20 in the morning. The students were already in their classrooms, and looked our way with curiosity. We spoke with the headmaster and the teachers for a little bit, and then organized to photograph the girls first.

It was a great morning, as we photographed with direct sunlight first and then ambient light in the classrooms. Learning from our sessions in another village, we asked the girls to pick a good friend with whom to photograph. The mood was light, allowing the girls to be unusually free with their expressions. After all, this was still a traditional madrasa.

We hope to include this school in our interfaith efforts next year and will present it in the near future to this wonderful circle. 


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Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Young Girl + Field of Trees, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2016


On the third of August this portrait was made, just a few hundred meters away from her home. While her home is far to the east of Cuba, she now lives near Havana with her father in the search for a better life. Years ago she came into our lives as we were photographing ballerinas in the field across from her home, and now she has become an integral part of the work on the island.

Documenting this young girl is quite an honor, for she truly loves to be photographed. At first it seems that maybe she prefers differently, then after a little bit it becomes clear that she embraces it. This is especially true when we go to the beach, and this year we will do so at least twice. She deserves to have such experiences, and we will do our part to make it happen for her and her family.


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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pontiac in Cuba, Havana, Cuba, 2016


The hood ornaments from Detroit move eerily along the streets of Cuba, like ghosts from the past. They range from Chief Pontiac to Cadillac's Flying Lady. They are reminders of a complex past, when automakers with arrogance placed certain symbols on the front of their shiny cars, without much thought to the significance.

In Cuba these ornaments take on an additional significance, for the history between the nations has made it so. They sit on top of cars which have existed since before the revolution, and have seen the evolution of that same revolt for over six decades. They have born witness to the exultation as well as the heartbreak.

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Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens with extension tubes onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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


This past visit to Shamli was filled with hope, and we held onto this as we visited village after village. With the help of our host Imdadullah and the guidance of Nirvana Bodhisattva, we were able to document the students.

Face after face, student after student, they came forward. This was for most their first time in front of a camera. Their expressions touched me deeply, as this was their chance to communicate from someone outside of their community.

She was as strong in front of my lens as any model has ever been. In front of her headmaster's office she stood, with the field behind her school as a backdrop. We hope to introduce a sewing class to her school, and hope to include the older girls from the village.


Website
Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sisters + Embrace, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017


This year we spent considerable time in this beautiful part of India, and visited many villages thanks to our wonderful host Imdadullah and family. It all began in 2013 when we were invited to document the refugees in the region, and continued through last year when we were asked to take part in an interfaith effort.

These two sisters attend traditional classes in their village's madrasa, and look forward to a fuller curriculum thanks to their headmaster's desire to provide such. This idea has been made possible thanks to the generosity of those on here who responded to my posting a few months ago. We have organized a small group of people, and have begun the process of helping this village achieve its goal.

The girls loved the spontaneous sessions, when they would be called up from the classes below to make photographs on the rooftop of the school. At first holding each other seemed a stretch for them, especially in front of a lens and their friends. After a few days however they took to the closeness and allowed their expressions to flow freely.

These sessions were so popular that the girls allowed me to do my film work without any hesitation, knowing that the fun images were to come next!


Website

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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


It's been two weeks and the memories are still fresh in my mind. This image was made by my brothe Mukesh during our last weekend in Uttar Pradesh, India. We had finished our formal portraits and the girls were having fun with the small camera, expressing themselves alone and with friends. I was walking over to get some film and stopped for a second behind the girls, while Mukesh made this portrait. For those of us involved in these schools, these are two of the students in the new interfaith effort guided by our dear brother Nirvana and Imdadullah.

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Note: This image was made by a Sony RX100M3 by my dear friend Mukesh. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Namely 11 Years Before, Havana, Cuba, 2005


...and this was Hamely's first portrait over a decade ago!!

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Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System.


Hamely + Ocean, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2016


I wonder how many of us will recognize her now, how many of us know her features. It was over a decade ago that she was sitting in front of her home on the sidewalk as we walked by with our cameras. She was less than four years old then, and her mother permitted us to make her first portrait in the street next to the home.

Since then her portrait has been made every year with the exception of one. Last summer we had the honor of being allowed to take her to the beach, along with the family of course. She absolutely loved it, all three times we did!

She brought a few pieces along and jumped into the water almost immediately. I was so glad to have purchased the hand-held camera a few years ago for just such an occasion, as these images were made in the water with her. She of course was a natural, as she has been in front of my camera for over a decade.

Her home also is located in one of the most visited parts of the city, and she is used to having her photograph made by countless tourists. Almost all of them comment on her hair, and her clear beauty. With the exception of myself and my dear friend Thomas, none however have ever brought photographs to her afterward. It is my honor to have been a part of her life for so many years, and I do hope for many years more!


Website
Note: This image was made with a Fuji GA645i onto Ilford Delta 100 film.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Students + Bench, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2017


These are the smiles of the students in one of two schools guided by Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation. For those of us involved in these schools, we share this snapshot from one afternoon in the village. Since 2006 I have visited this very village, and will continue to visit as long as I am able to do so. With the generosity of this incredible circle, the school and these smiles will flourish!

Website

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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


For those of us involved in the effort to establish a school in this region, we present this young girl's portrait. During my three weeks in this region we were able to visit more than a dozen madrasas in order to sense the pulse of the region. Some madrasas had large buildings with many teachers, and some had one room. Hers was of the latter variety, yet had the most passionate headmaster and a wonderful teacher as well.

The single room had three walls made of brick alone, with a metal rooftop. It lacked electricity, and was in the middle of a field just to the side of the road. Yet the classroom was very organized, and all were attentive to the teacher. The students came from two adjacent villages, and a small 'bus' took the majority of the students to the further village. All this was being done with a shoestring budget, and with incredible effort.

While we are working with three villages presently, we hope to include this small madrasa next year and will present this effort to those interested soon!


Website


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

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


A few months ago two dozen people from Facebook came together to help fund a new school in Uttar Pradesh, and for this group of people we present her portrait. She is a new student in a local madrasa, and her community has expressed a desire to include the government curriculum as well for their children.

With the help of our gracious hosts we have begun the conversations, and have started to move forward as well with respect to the plan. As of this week her school's new teachers are visiting Nirvanavan Foundation for an initial review, while sewing centers will begin in three villages in a few months.

This was her first portrait session with us, being a new student to the madrasa. Her eyes are the most sensitive to light in my experience, yet she was able to stand next to the window for this photograph. There is something about making portraits of young girls new to the camera, something magical about their presence. My hope is that her school will turn a page thanks to the generosity of so many of you, and that her future is as bright as the light coming through the window.


Website


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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


A few months ago two dozen people from Facebook came together to help fund a new school in Uttar Pradesh, and for this group of people we present her portrait. She is a student in a local madrasa, and her community has expressed a desire to include the government curriculum as well for their children. 

With the help of our gracious host we have begun the conversations, and have started to move forward as well with respect to the plan. As of this week her school's new teachers will be visiting Nirvanavan Foundation for initial training, while sewing centers will begin in three villages in a few months.

This was her first portrait session with us, being a new student to the madrasa. Nonetheless she was a true natural and brought her own ideas to the table. In this image she extends her hands and faces the wheat fields adjacent to her school. There is something about making portraits of young girls new to the camera, something magical about their presence. My hope is that her school will turn a page thanks to the generosity of so many of you, and that her future is as bright as the light coming through the window.


Website

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Student + Chalkboard, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2017


For those of us involved in the two schools within Rajasthan, we present this young student's portrait. Her older sisters attended the school since its early days with Humana People to People India, and now she and her younger sister attend the school supported by Nirvana and his wonderful team at Nirvanavan Foundation.

My last week in Rajasthan this past Spring was spent at her school, as well as the second school in the adjacent village. We spent the early part of the week watching the lesson plans in action, then turned on the 'dance machine' and witnessed the girls light it up with their creative movements. It was a wonderful time, with smiles on everyone's faces!

On our last day we headed to the school once again, with lunch for the students as well as for the young women beginning class with the new sewing center. We looked forward to meeting the latter, and to making their portraits as well... which was allowed beautifully and thankfully so!


Website

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, May 8, 2017

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


A few months ago one friend encouraged me to present this school to my Facebook circle. My thought was that two schools were already being supported by a dozen good people and asking two dozen to do even more felt like too much to ask. Thanks to that friend, these young girls' school was submitted to  my circle and two dozen people came together to offer their support.

One month ago we spent so much time in their school, as well in adjacent villages and madrasas, in order to gain further understanding of the need and to help implement the educational program desired by the community. The result so far has been very encouraging, and we have begun the implementation. We have gained the support of the community, began the process of putting together at least three sewing centers, and are working towards our first model, village school in the region.

These girls live in the village which will host the model school, and have sensed that something is happening. The energy is palpable, and their excitement has come through their portraits. It has been my honor to bring this proposal to this circle, and I look forward to sharing more news as it develops.


Website


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

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


While this work began with the girls, the boys are certainly being included. This young student attends the madrasa daily, and will be attending the new classes as soon as they begin. Two of the five teachers have been located, with a promising lead on a third. While we are beginning in a humble manner, the vision is grand and we hope to include at least a dozen villages over the next five years.

In this portrait he is standing in one of two existing classrooms, facing the window to the rear of the room. We had just finished photographing the girls upstairs, and came downstairs to make portraits of the boys. He was the first one photographed, and was so happy to be included. His smile lights up the room, as much as the light coming through the window.

Our hosts from the region are presently in Rajasthan, witnessing the wonderful work of Nirvanavan Foundation. Yesterday they spent the day at Advaita Garden, a school which hosts over 300 students from five villages with activities ranging from 'common action' to the Rajasthani curriculum. Our hope is that this collaboration bears fruit for the sake of this beautiful boy, and all like him in his village.


Website

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Two students + Madrasa, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017


Yesterday we had the privilege of visiting yet another village and its madrasa. In this small school we met about 80 students, and were able to photograph all of them thanks to our hosts. The school was quite beautiful, with two teachers for two classrooms, and the most serene fields facing the front of the school. The headmaster was nice as well, and had his son as one of the teachers.

This was the first time most of them had been in front of a camera, and especially in front of an outsider with a camera. In spite of this we had quite the afternoon, from the overall serious girls to the energetic boys. Sometimes it was the reverse, and the girls showed more than their share of spunk.

We photographed some alone, and some together with their friends. In this portrait we photographed two of the older students, and they were surprisingly expressive in front of their headmaster and teacher. We look forward to visiting their school this week and handing them their portraits in person.


Website


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

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


An excerpt from March 20, 2017:

It's a bit past 10:15 in the evening and the lights have already been out in the village for the past three hours. We arrived about four hours ago and were immediately greeted by a handful of the students in the path leading to the madrasa. They were as happy as we were and made for an incredible reception. 

Our hosts made sure that we were comfortable, and we had dinner shortly thereafter thanks to the wonderful women of the household. Mukesh and I have decided to stay at the school for the next ten or so days, so as to get closer to the students and also learn the ways of the village.

For those of us involved in the new school, we share this image. It shows Mukesh with the students of a nearby village, one which we will visit over the next few days as well. We share this image in order to show the type of people working on this project, and what it takes to connect with the students. Without Mukesh the documentation of these villages would be nearly impossible. He does more than drive me to the area, more than hold a reflector for me and more than translate as well. This is a snapshot of this man's dedication to this work, and what true community engagement means to me.

We had finished with the photography for the afternoon and Mukesh, rather than watching me pack my cameras, sat down with the girls and was having a great time. Of course I knew nothing of what was being said, but such was unnecessary in order to understand the joy that was being shared. This is what the work is about, and I am honored to work with this good man.


Website


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.