Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Girl Named Yari, Havana, Cuba, 2005

At the end of our day, we return to our home base on the Malecon, near the hotel. We sit down for a few minutes and enjoy a homemade mixture of frozen fruits. When my friend's son appears, he is instructed to collect a young girl from the neighborhood. My friend's face lights up with the possibility, knowing my constant search for new faces. 

Here she walks in, in the darkness of the Havana night, into the room. Nothing prepares me for her features, lit even in the darkest of rooms. She stands there amazed at our amazement, 'why would anyone be so interested in her features' her expression seems to say. We agree on returning early the next day to photograph her. 

We search for many places and then settle on the sidewalk on the side of the Malecon facing the open sky and the waters. She sits down on the sidewalk and gives me less than a dozen images, each with its own expression. She shows a composure few else have shown me, she understands our purpose. After this first day and over the next five years, she continues to give me her portrait. 

When asked what she would like, she answers 'to be a model' without skipping a beat. Her image is included with the rest on Model Mayhem and receives more comments and views than any other in my portfolio. Behind the fame, she lives in a small one room apartment with her mother and step-father. She walks to school every day and has her 'Quince' without the pomp otherwise associated with this most special celebration, because her family has so little. 

She is educated, well-spoken, trained in dance, socially aware, respectful of her elders. She has dreams and a vision, she is at an age when she sees the world around her and understands the realities, she is at a crossroad. Her mother calls her 'Yari.' Her portrait is for sale with her knowledge, all proceeds will go to support her dreams.

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