Friday, December 31, 2010

Pretty Poison, Model, Friend, Summer, 2010, Northeast Ohio, States

On that same cold summer afternoon, Cassandra is there.

This is Scarlett's friend, the person who has set up this photographic session. She is kind enough to share her time with me and allow Scarlett to be photographed. When we meet in that parking lot, it is the parking lot of her friend's business.

We start by meeting each other at her home, a home reflecting her personality in every single way. She shows me kindness and courtesy. She and Scarlett bring an energy to the session that is refreshing, especially on this cold afternoon.

We begin our photography perhaps a few blocks from her home by searching for an appropriate wall. We are all included in this search and drive around looking for that wall. We find it and expose a few rolls at this spot, a small business as well.

We then move on to the spot that she had told me about a few weeks ago, even including images of the space for me to see. This is how organized and caring she is, how much she respects the collaboration.

As with Scarlett, she also awaits her portraits without worry or concern. She never sends me an inquiry but rather waits patiently knowing that much is on my photographic plate at this time. Just yesterday the portraits were sent to her, perhaps four months after our session. She sends me a note of gratitude immediately, perhaps within thirty minutes.

She also wishes me a very happy New Year. What a gem, what a gentle soul she is.

On my way back home after our photography, a friend calls me and tells me of a wedding reception on the West Side, a coincidence actually since the video camera is with me as well. The gathering is quite casual and a band is present. We set up the equipment and make a recording of the event for the groom, a friend as well.

Such is this afternoon and evening, just perfect in every way.

Her Model Mayhem page can be reached by clicking below.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scarlett Von Sinn, Model, Friend, Northeast Ohio, Summer Day, 2010

On a cold afternoon we make this image. The wind is blowing quite cool and the sun is perhaps one hour from disappearing. Three of us are working, two models and one photographer. While her portrait is being made, her friend waits in the car and warms up for her portrait.

The session occurs in the parking lot of a friend's business. We set up and use the white wall of the building as our background since our own is blowing in the wind. A spontaneous message a few days prior has made this day possible, in addition to the clarification that traveling to her area has been my intention all along. Her humility and courtesy had given her the impression that they would need to travel to my area and such was most difficult for her and her friend.

Many rolls are exposed, from different distances. In the end however, making her portrait from a closer distance allows me to document her ability to present the most subtle changes of expression. From one negative to another she displays this uncanny talent, so much so that my instinct is to load another roll of film and continue until the sun sets.

During the entire session, she is kind and courteous and without hesitation. Whatever is asked of her, whether to turn her head or to perhaps to look a certain direction, she does so in the most gentle of ways. She honors the people in my portfolio with every gesture, by wanting to be included in my portfolio rather than asking for something in return.

It has taken me almost four months to process her images and she has yet to express concern.

The camera rarely leaves my home in the States, for various reasons. Working with Sarah has given me more reason to do so in the future.

One may see her portfolio through the link below.

Scarlett Von Sinn

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Student, Orphan, HIV/AIDS, MACODEF, Western Kenya, March, 2007

So we walk from one school to another, from one town to another and from one church to another. One variable that seems less than variable is a shaved head. Almost every single child, especially the young, wears a shaved head.

The people from the foundation tell me that this is to lower the presence of lice. While most do come to school shaved, a few children have a considerable amount of hair. The same people from the foundation tell me that certain families are better situated financially and are able to maintain their children's hygiene more easily. Should they be able to prove such care, then their child is able to retain their hair.

On one occasion, we walk by a home where a mother is shaving her child's head with a razor blade. She is holding the blade in her bare hand and coating her child's head in soap water. The shaving occurs over a tub of water and the child holds herself extremely still. The sound of the blade against bare skin is similar to sand paper on metal.

She notices us to the side, smiles and continues with the shave without a second's hesitation.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that feed on your blood. Lice are easily spread — especially by schoolchildren — through close personal contact and by sharing belongings.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Orphan, Schoolchild, HIV/AIDS, MACODEF, Western Kenya, March, 2007

Driving from one spot to another, a scene is to become more and more familiar to me: coffins lined up on the side of the road for sale, some obviously small enough for children.

In this part of Kenya, orphans are orphans because of an epidemic called HIV/AIDS. In school after school visited, the first children to be photographed with the help of MACODEF are the orphans under their sponsorship.

These children know little about wars, conflicts and so on. They know all too much about the violence perpetrated on their social fabric by this epidemic. At the time of this child's birth, one out of every ten women in this region is infected with HIV/AIDS.

According to many estimates, the population living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya is third in number behind South Africa and Nigeria. With an active HIV/AIDS population near 1,500,000 living within its borders, the number of orphans in Kenya has increased to 1,200,000.

The young child above is one such example of the ongoing struggle with the epidemic. On this beautiful morning, we arrive early in order to photograph the youngest of the students. The previous day we photographed the older students.

All of the children are wearing sweaters due to the coolness of the morning. They stand up on a chair while the teachers help with their clothing. My position is below them and in a ditch so as to give me a lower angle. The portraits are made with the sky behind them, this is true for the girls.

We make perhaps three to four portraits per child and then move onto the next student. Each child takes off their shoes prior to standing on the chair. The respect between student and teacher is immense.

We finish our work for the morning and then move on to the next school, where the students will be waiting patiently for our arrival, a population that will tragically include a number of orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Issue #04- December 2010

by Giuseppina Magazine on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 7:46pm

With the release of the December winter issue approaching, I'd like to take a moment to briefly voice some of my thoughts and feelings towards the upcoming issue. While some information will be contained, and kept exclusive to the authenticity of the release I'd like to simply start off by saying how grateful and privileged I am to have developed the community of artists and fanbase here via Giuseppina Magazine. I truly appreciate all who've contributed as well as helped launch Giuseppina by consistently promoting and advertising us! Giuseppina started off as a thought, just a thought to help promote and expose undiscovered and non-published, deserving talent alongside their peers and alike industry leaders. The magazine took flight with our debut release in June of 2010, and it is now widely described by a diverse range of individuals as "beautiful."

As Giuseppina Magazine continues to grow larger, our concepts will vary from our usual artistic thematic to concepts honing more substance. The December winter issue is the first of several issues that will serve as a substantial mark in making a statement. Without further ado, I'm proud to announce our headlining feature, Halim Ina. I was fortunate enough to come across Halim's work in my searches; a brilliant photographer who travels the world, documenting our brothers and sisters. His images simply encapsulate the energy of both the youth and elders prominent in the countries and villages he visits. Unlike so very few in the industry, he uses his photography as a tool to generate awareness, sharing his experiences and imagery with people across the world. I was so inspired in reviewing his work, that I also wanted to share it. Giuseppina Magazine was my solution. In collaboration with Halim Ina Photography, we are bringing something new to Giuseppina Magazine! I hope our fans are eager for more information on the release, and enjoy the cover preview of what's to come!

The issue #04 cover features a beautiful young girl from Havana, Cuba. The image was photographed in 2005. Below are some brief words from Halim Ina, about the image and experience:

"One warm evening at the end of a photographic day, we were resting at my friend's home when his son returned from a day of play. My friend then asked his son to gather a specific neighbor for me to see. Even in the darkness of the room the brilliance of her eyes was more than evident. We talked to her father and he agreed to allow us her portrait the next day.

We arrived the next day to make her portrait and noticed that she had just returned from the beach, still in her bikini. We arranged a place across from the Malecon in front of her home and set up our gear. We made a dozen exposures and then arranged to meet the next day for another session at her grandmother's home. For the very first time in my photography, a second session was arranged after the first.

We arrived that next day and saw her with her hair perfectly made. She had a way about her, immediately willing to allow us her portrait on more than one occasion. Her nature is calm and endearing. We made her portrait on the side of the road and also went to a neighbor's home to make her third portrait while seated on a mosaic floor.

In the five years since her first portrait, she has allowed me every single time to photograph her, five times in all. During my latest visit this past summer, she invited us back for a second session, one that was most appreciated because of her clear understanding of my work. She has now become a young woman and makes the decision to be a part of my work independent of her parents while of course having their permission.

She lives with her mother, stepfather and grandfather, along with two siblings from her mother's recent marriage. The family lives in a small, one-room apartment just outside of Havana. She is in school at this time and, when asked, responded that one of her aspirations in life is to become a model.

Every time we leave, she stands at the door waving her hands. She never allows us to leave without a kiss on the cheek and without her sweet words. This is a young woman who is aware of her surroundings, of herself and of the people that love her. This last category includes the masses of people that have seen her portrait and the photographer responsible for making it."

Please stay tuned for the official release towards the end of the month!

Thank you,

Jessica Rowell

Editor in Chief


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Young Woman, Model, Somewhere West of Habana, Cuba, 2008

People often ask: is this a studio portrait?

Since this portrait is from my experience, it is often difficult to see it from the viewer's point of view. The young woman above has never walked into a professional studio and lacks access to such a luxury.

On our way to the Baracoa, we notice a few farmers working the land. We step out of our rental car and ask permission to make their portraits. They accept graciously and all three of us proceed with our photography. My two friends, both of whom are Cuban, walk around with their 35mm cameras and make portraits of the home, the land and the people.

My camera and tripod are put into place and the first of the portraits is made from a low angle, leaving the blue sky as the background. A few older men are photographed as well as one older woman. In the process, some children gather and their portraits are made. We are near the main road and are visible to others from the area, including the young girl above. She walks over with a friend of the same age and watches as portraits are being made, clearly showing a desire to join in the photography. We ask her to ask her parents and then we proceed to make her portrait.

She is in her element, comfortable in front of her family and neighbors. Her poses are natural and her expressions candid. She tells us that she is visiting her family for the summer and lives in the outskirts of Habana for the rest of the year where she attends school.

We ask her friend to be photographed and she is a bit shy to do so. We finish our work, bid our farewell to everyone and then get back on the road.

In hindsight, perhaps the portrait could have been made to include the background, perhaps the image could have had a more inclusive style. In the end, the choice to exclude the background and focus on the person in the portrait was made, therefore producing a portrait in the style of a studio.

In the end, what is a studio?

We made our own studio that wonderful afternoon, on the side of the road and in the company of brothers and sisters. Others will have agents, contracts, make up artists, hair stylists and a large circle of professional assistants. We had each other, a camera and the sky. For my part, this is a most preferred set of circumstances.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mursi Man, Earrings, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

He walks over from under a tree for his portrait, along with the rest of the men. The sun is behind me to the left, we have two hours of light left before we need to start back on the road to the motel. The trouble with the truck forces us to leave the engine running, the noise becoming a part of the background by now.

One by one, the men take their turns. Some of them smile, some of them refrain from doing so. A few bring their rifles, a few others brandish their swords. They have seen me before in the form of other photographers and appear quite comfortable.

During my day with this Mursi Community, tourists come and go. They get out of their air-conditioned vehicles for the standard dozen or so photographs, haggling over the price a few portraits that in the end are less than the bottle of water in their other hand. The lack of courtesy shown surprises me very little for the most part, for these tourists barely look my way as well. They remind me of others from their Society that walk past me in the airports, in the streets, in the coffee shops; barely lifting their heads from the bright screens to notice my presence then either.

One man approaches me however. He is this group's tour guide. He has seen enough and walks away for a break from the excess. He notices me and starts a conversation. He is quite friendly, telling me about his work as a tour guide and the number of visits to Ethiopia before this present one.

He then asks me about my ethnicity, about my history. His face turns to curiosity when he learns of my Lebanese descent and time spent in Lebanon during the Civil War. He inquires as to the exact location of my family. When he learns the answer, he smiles slightly and tells me that he has been to that city.

Knowing his background as an Israeli, my guess is that his time in Lebanon was under the occupation of my country by his nation. He confirms this and tells me of his time in the armed forces during the Egyptian conflict as well. His face is transformed at this time, he tells me of one difference between the two conflicts: during the Egyptian affair, if a missile missed its target it might have struck the natural landscape behind that target... but during the invasion of Lebanon, if a missile missed its primary target it might have struck the urban landscape behind that target, quite possibly a civilian series of casualties.

At that moment, he says something completely unexpected, that he has never had respect for his government's decision to invade Lebanon and to engage forces within the population in such a manner. He extends his hand as a sign and we shake hands in the middle of a foreign nation. Here is a man that might have pointed a rifle at my family in Lebanon, telling me of his sorrow for the act, and then sharing his humanity with me years after the incident.

All the while the women from this village are walking around and trying to sell their crafts to the people under his guidance, pieces ranging from woven baskets to clay lip plates. We talk for a few minutes more until his tourists are finished with their snapshots. We bid each other farewell and he returns to a home on the other side of a border from my family.

It is on this day that the portrait above is made, hours after the conversation with the former Israeli soldier.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Girl with Shawl, Daughter of a Prostitute, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Is she really that? Does that define her?

Do her aunts still trade sex for money? Are her uncles the pimps behind these transactions?

Can a Society calling itself a democracy allow this to happen in plain view? Are the police aware?

Do the neighbors think of them as the lowest in the Society while they pay for their services?

Does she have a chance in this dark world? Can there be a future for humanity with this in mind?

How much pain has she seen? How many of her sisters have been sent away for money?

When she plays in the alley in front of her home, is she only a wall away from the truth?

Does she perhaps already know her sisters' reality? Does she believe it is hers?

Are there men that believe being with her will cure them of their sexually transmitted illness?

What payment will they make? What price will she pay? What has Society lost?

Does anyone care?

Only the answer to the last question is clear to me. It is one reason for her smile.

She will survive, she will overcome her destiny.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lacey and Will, Just outside of Los Angeles County, October, 2010

Although most of the sessions are arranged prior to the visit, a few women contact me throughout my time in California. The young woman above is one such example. Through an announcement on ModelMayhem, she responds with a sincere desire to collaborate.

We arrange to meet within a day or two just outside of Los Angeles County. It has been cloudy all week and raining as well. Everyone tells me that they have never seen such weather in their area. This gives me the feeling that they almost feel responsible for it. A silver lining is that once outside of the county and over the mountains, the weather is usually clear, thus the reason for our meeting in this area.

We meet and then drive perhaps fifteen minutes further in order to place ourselves under the sun. A large white wall is found next to a supermarket and we proceed to make her portrait. Lacy for her part is calm and soft-spoken. She follows instructions beautifully and even though her eyes are very sensitive to the sun, she maintains a positive attitude and allows us to continue our work under the brilliant, blue skies.

She tells me of her dance background and we decide to make a series of portraits with this in mind. She changes from one outfit to another without a single complaint and her husband shows his support throughout, with ideas and with words. Working with them is a delight and we end by exchanging information and two prints to remind them of the photographic family that they have just joined.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Krys, Model, Storyteller, Vasquez Rocks, Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

Some respond once, few do more than this during my visit to California.

Many talk regarding their humanity, few demonstrate it.

Most make arrangements, few keep them.

Such is the case with the young woman above. One morning we set up to photograph, only to cancel at the last moment due to car trouble. The difference in her case is that she is awake early enough in the morning to give me a call. The difference is that she arranges another meeting and makes sure to show up, on her own and determined to collaborate.

She has a vision, she wants to express her experience through portraiture. She is humble enough to share time with someone else in front of the lens, another model already present, and she is focused enough to produce the portrait desired within twenty minutes. She is able to express her emotion on film and with four other people watching, in a public space.

Every single one of her portraits, the ones viewed on color positive film so far, are perfect.

After the session, she decides to climb a rocky formation and have her portrait made by Bailey from a distance. She sees this climb as yet another accomplishment and does so with the smile of a little girl. She is an inspiration to us all and we applaud her strength, both in her ability to tell her story through photography and to climb an incline many would decline.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vamptress LeeAnna, Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

One month before my visit to California, a few dozen messages are sent to models in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Out of those few dozen messages, two dozen responses are received. Out of those two dozen responses, a handful respond in the manner of the young woman above.

Her name is LeeAnna. As my messages are sent out her messages arrive. She is precise and dedicated to the thought of our collaboration. She reaches out to other models in my list, shares with them her vision. She never gives up, even after two then three then four models fade out of communication.

On the very day that we are to photograph, a model informs me of her cancellation as we are driving to the location. It seems that her boyfriend feels that this location is secluded even though it is a popular park and tourists abound in addition to the park authorities. The compassion that LeeAnna shows me and my work erases such negative experiences for me and restores my faith in humanity.

She has photographed with accomplished photographers, has worked on extensive projects. Yet she makes the time to meet me almost two hours away from her home, without a hair stylist or a make-up artist on location. She agrees to be photographed in the sun and with the wind in her hair. We select one location only to find clouds over that location. We then make a spontaneous decision to meet at another location, near a place called Mormon's Rocks. All this is done while driving separately from different locations.

We meet at the local McDonald's and look around only to see clouds again. My experience, although limited in the area, tells me that the sun will be shining twenty minutes further up the highway. With an unlimited sense of faith in the project, LeeAnna and her wonderful companion decide to follow me in search of light. We drive twenty or so minutes and find that sun, albeit in between clouds.

We take an exit and drive to find a neutral background. We park on the side of a building and organize ourselves, me with my equipment and LeeAnna with her attire. We make close portraits of her, waiting for the sun in between clouds to shine. We are fortunate to be able to expose a few rolls and then decide to make full body images. A small electrical box serves the function of a stand and brave LeeAnna stands on top of it for the last series of images.

She is proud, she is elegant in her stances. In the middle of suburban sprawl, she shows us a most beautiful spirit, shows the other girls and women in my portfolio their sister from California. She looks past all of the buildings, all of the plazas. She looks to her compatriots in Asia and in Africa, shares with them her smile and her strength.

She is an inspiration to me, to them.

We conclude our session and cannot find enough words to thank each other. This most beautiful of women and her companion on this day have shown me the meaning of friendship, of kindness and of love. This will be shared with the others in my portfolio, they will feel it through her portraits.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Magdalena, Woman, Daughter, Model, Friend, Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

The time in Los Angeles is filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, this is the first time more than a weekend is spent in the States with photography. On the other hand, it is one week away from doing work overseas.

Will the models show up? Will they have the same enthusiasm as girls never exposed to a camera? Will they share a bond with the women in my portfolio?

These questions are answered one woman at a time, one session at a time. The portrait above is an example of an affirmative to all of the above.

Magdalena shows up every single time, working with me on three occasions. She does as is asked of her, she offers her ideas seamlessly and moves in a most free fashion. She climbs boulders with bare feet, changes into different outfits without hesitation, loves the color black and brings emotions my camera has yet to experience.

When we have time, we talk. She shares with me a little bit about her life, one detail at a time. She learns from me that these details will be shared with the girls in my portfolio. The girls in India, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Cuba and elsewhere will learn her story, will see her portrait.

One afternoon after driving back to her neighborhood, instead of thanking me and then departing, she takes time from her busy evening to have dinner with me at a local spot. Instead of joining her friends immediately, she takes the time to have a real conversation with me over a sandwich, a conversation formed out of mutual interest.

The women from photographic sessions in Los Angeles and San Francisco are wonderful examples of humanity; they give of their time and of their talent for the sake of girls on the other side of the world. While many models drop the lines of communication and fail to show up after being confirmed, many more do show up and place their stamp upon my work beautifully.

They are admired by me and respected by the spirits in my portfolio. They prove to me the worth of the past two weeks in California.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orphan Child, MACODEF, Western Kenya, March, 2006

In four weeks images from the States will be shared alongside images such as the one above.

The past three months have been filled with portraits from the States, with the last two weeks being spent in California. The impetus behind such work is to include faces and spirits from the West alongside the portraits from the East.

The girls from Ethiopia will be able to see women with similar features from California; the girls from India will be able to share their smiles with women from Ohio. Similarities will be as evident as differences, perhaps more so.

In soliciting models from the States, many lessons are learned. While some models dismiss the work through their lack of response, many accept my portraits with nothing short of love. They give of themselves, they donate their time for the sake of sharing their portraits with sisters in my portfolio.

Being accustomed to working with a team of designers and hair stylists, these very women show up with their own wardrobe and a most humble presentation. They understand my work without having ever met me. In four weeks the first images from California will be presented alongside the images from Ohio, images of women whose understanding of my work is without parallel.

In my own backyard faces have been found, lessons learned.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Miss Dayna, Daughter, Sister, Model, Orange County, California, October 14, 2010

This is my second day in California photographing women from the West to put alongside their sisters from the East. A young woman named Miss Dayna visits with us and allows her portrait to be shared with the people in my portfolio; she is especially taken by the young Dasanech girl in the above portrait and chooses her print to take home with her at the beginning of the session.

The young woman from Orange County is anything but a stranger. She sends me a note in response to seeing my portraits and immediately accepts to have her portrait made. Even though she is leaving the very next day for a tour of the East Coast through her modeling, she gives of herself for almost four hours today for the sake of her sisters in my portfolio.

She is happy to learn that we want to drive to her area and provides us with a place to photograph according to our specifications. While waiting for her to finish a few necessary tasks for the next day, we decide to drive around a little bit and find a natural setting for her portraits. We drive up to a spot and see a perfect, small hill. We decide to turn into the park and find it to be completely accessible.

So we contact Miss Dayna only to find out that the park is her childhood park, that she grew up playing in this very space. She is so happy to learn of our choice and arrives a few minutes later, ready and completely prepared with a perfect wardrobe, dark and simple.

We work for the next three hours, climbing hills and going between dry bushes with sharp edges. She braves all of it with the most ethereal of smiles. While the sun is shining strong, she maintains her gentle nature, always laughing and keeping the session light and professional. She is to be greatly respected and has now joined the family of portraits she has so admired.

The women in my portfolio will soon see her portrait, her spirit and, most importantly, her smile.

What a gentle soul!

At the end of our session, she learns of the fact that we have never visited an In-N-Out. After a few questions, she immediately plans out our order and organizes a trip to the nearest location. We follow her on the highway for two exits and end up having a wonderful dinner together. She has the curiosity of a young girl and just smiles from ear to ear at our reactions. What a meal!

At times the photography takes on a life of its own, this afternoon was one of those days in great thanks to Miss Dayna.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Upcoming Visit to California, Connection with the Girls in Portfolio, October, 2010

The past two weeks have been spent corresponding with women, models from the West Coast. Thoughts have been passed back and forth, concepts exchanged regarding a photographic collaboration.

Most of these wonderful women are professional models, earning their wages from their profession. All of these generous women have offered to give their portraits on behalf of the girls in my portfolio, to share with the a glimpse of their world. Without hesitation they did so. In four days, the photography begins.

For me at least, the thought of placing faces usually found on the covers of fashion magazines next to faces never before seen outside of their villages is a motivation. Another is to show an album to the girls that consists of their faces next to women with similar features but from a world far away, women that have taken the time to learn about them and to give their portraits for their various causes.

My hope is to come back with faces like the one above, with expressions very much the same.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Young Girl, Habana, Cuba, Woman, Letter, States, 2010

Every once in a while, someone from the world of the internet sends a note my way.

With every one of these notes, my perception of the world around me improves.

The message included below arrived unsolicited and as a reaction to the images in my portfolio. It is better to refrain from analysis and present the words to you as they were presented to me.

'Your photos have reminded me that i am so privileged. Ive never traveled to India or Africa but i traveled to mexico in the past. Of course there was the beautiful tourist spots but then there were the areas where it was shocking to me to see what some have to live through and go through everyday when i am just handed everything Ive ever needed.'

'Modeling is new to me and is inspirational, two weeks ago i was unable to walk. For a year i had to deal with horrible debilitating pain. The last few months i had to start using a wheelchair. thanks to a surgeon and for having medical insurance i am now walking again and once again feeling beautiful. I feel like my life has just begun.'

'Not meaning to tell you my life story, i just wanted to let you know that photos really did touch me, i wasn't just saying that to be kind.'

'I now know to appreciate what you have, because you never know how important it is until its gone. Including being able to walk.'

When asked to select an image to go along with her words, she responded with a most humble request, that this image be chosen by me. This in my opinion speaks volumes of this young woman, speaks of her overall love of all people and her preference to leave that selection to the person that made the portraits himself.

Hopefully in the near future an opportunity presents itself for us to collaborate in making her portrait. Then the young girl in the picture above can see the woman whose life has been affected by her story.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Man, Beard, Jacket, Church, MACODEF, Rural Kenya, March, 2007

When we first arrive to the area, nobody is standing around. A few men with tools walk by as part of an environmental group organized by the foundation. The sun is still high and we decide to spend some time in the pastor's home until people start to come by. They have been told of our planned photographic visit in advance.

We sit inside the home, being watched by the children intently. Spoken word is unnecessary, expressions are the norm. The children express to me the desire to go outside. There, they carry on with their games and are content with the new audience. The girls take up the game as well and play with the boys. The game consists of a small bag that is a substitute for a ball. They try to keep it away from each other, in a game of tag.

An hour or so later, people start to line up. We are provided with a table and a bench. The representative from the foundation takes a seat behind the table and begins to write names down. All is so organized. The women are allowed to be photographed first, with some resistance from a few men, very little resistance though in comparison to the other countries visited by me in the past and since then as well.

The line extends perhaps fifteen meters at first. Each person takes their place in front of the camera and give me a minute of their time, then move on to tell the representative their name. We use a local church as the backdrop, the wall is pure white. We photograph the women first, then the girls and then the men and boys.

The man above walks up with a wonderful jacket. We make a few portraits and then decide to make some changes, his styling is just wonderful. We make more portraits and then he walks away back to his village.

As we finish our work, a wedding commences inside; song and celebration can be hear clearly since windows are lacking. The thought of documenting the event crosses my mind, then fades away along with the sounds of the singing as we walk away in peace.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Conversation With Athena, September 18, 2010

There are times when this most limited form of communication breeds understanding. Such is tonight, when a young woman named Athena sends me a note regarding the above portrait.

In her message, she speaks of being inspired by the young Mursi girl, of seeing her as a female even before clicking on the tiny thumbnail, of seeing strength and beauty through her portrait. Finding new inspiration in her, she calls her 'mi Reina.'

We exchange a few messages, each one longer than the one prior.

She is humbled by the portraits, spends much time going through them. In her words:

'Thank you so much. Your kind words have filled my painful day with light and happiness... thank you again for considering working with me. It is truly an honor to stand beside them, knowing all our hardships and days of pain are not forgotten but which memories bring strength to shine through our gleaming eyes and bright faces.'

She responds beautifully to my desire to photograph her and to place her next to her new inspiration. Her humility, obvious through her words and through her immediate responses, is an example to be respected and admired. Instead of writing a few empty words in her responses, she shares a flourish of thoughts, of graceful comments.

Often times when responding to one's comments on ModelMayhem or elsewhere, a response from the sender fails to appear. For some reason, it seems to be more the rule than the exception. For gentle Althea, responding to my messages is as natural as responding to an old friend. She writes with a fluidity that comes with familiarity. The astonishing variable here is that we have just met.

She defines love for me.

She shares her trust without asking for anything in return. When asked for permission to use her words, she responds with 'yes you may.'

For a closer look at this marvelous young woman, click here and see for yourself.

In closing, she takes the time to send me a thank you as noted below:

'thank you. Zikomo kwambiri
thank you. Gracias
thank you. Yewo chomene
thank you. Barka
thank you. Dua Netjer en ek
thank you. Alla magah
thank you. Gaza yagabzal yushen
thank you. Danko
thank you. Imena
thank you. Tamemmirt
thank you. Kazaare
thank you. Mwebare
thank you. Asante sana
thank you. Nandee
thank you. Sabkaa
thank you. Dhanyawaatha
thank you. Abhari ahi
thank you. Galatoomii
thank you. Tampi asiq
thank you. Nitumezi
thank you. Rumba nandri
thank you. Nangreeih
thank you. Tamara krutagntha
thank you. Siyabonga

a million times thank you.
in all languages to all people.
thank you.'

Monday, September 13, 2010

Girls 4 Schools, Short Video Presentation, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2009

Girls 4 Schools from Halim Ina on Vimeo.

This is an attempt to reach out to you, friends and colleagues alike, to gain as much support as possible regarding a certain topic. We are trying to pair a dozen schools in the States with a dozen schools in India, sponsor them in short.

Should you know of a school, better yet an energetic teacher, then please do share your thoughts with us. A school in India can be supported by $1,500 per year at a minimum, basically a few dozen chocolate chip cookie sales!

As a dentist, you can count on me to purchase at least half of that amount at your next sale, regardless of cavities!

You have my gratitude in advance for watching, my hope that we can collaborate in the future.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Karo Man, Headrest, Paint, Feather, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

On the eve of this image, we camp an hour away from this village. The hour can be attributed to the fact that a road is lacking. A rough path is what guides us to this man's home.

He belongs to the Karo Community and lives on the east bank of the Omo River. With a population ranging between 1,000 to 1,500, the survive growing sorghum, beans and maize. They are well-known for beautifying themselves with chalk, charcoal and other materials.

The women in this community produce scars on their body in order to augment this beautification process while the men do the same thing but for a different reason, the killing of an enemy or a dangerous animal. The women also prepare their hair with a mixture of clay and organic material, giving it a most beautiful appearance.

This man carries a headrest, one that he uses when lying down so as to keep his head from touching the ground. This headrest also doubles as a small chair.

We arrive on this hot day after camping out nearby. After this morning, my friends decide that seven days without a meal for me is enough and decide to take me to a hospital four hours away. Before the drive however, we make magnificent portraits, both in color and in black and white. Due to a physical weakness this morning, the truck is parked right behind me, protecting me from the sun. A seat is also provided for me to sit upon, allowing me to manage the still and video cameras with ease and without exhaustion.

The portrait above is a still from the video camera.

We have a short discussion with the men and begin the photography after agreeing on a price for the portraits. In the Lower Omo Valley, negotiations are always necessary and a price is to be fixed prior to the photography. This community, like the rest, are used to tourists and requires an amount for each portrait, as well as an entrance fee for their village.

They are unsure of my work since it requires a dozen exposures for each person at times. We agree that a higher price is to be paid in exchange for the possibility that more is needed by me. We advise them that, for most, the payment will actually be higher. This is the balance that is struck.

We photograph the men first, followed by the elders and then the younger men. In this village, the children seem missing and we walk away without any younger portraits. We drive to the next location, four hours away and with the thought that a good doctor will be waiting on the other end of this drive to improve my condition for the remainder of my time in Ethiopia.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shannon, Daughter, Student, Model, Cleveland, Ohio, States, July, 2010

Her profile states her location as being Cleveland.

In the end, the drive to her family's home takes over one hour, a most refreshing one hour. Upon arriving, her family welcomes me as they would welcome a family member. They take me on a tour of the property to find a location for our session, then hand me a cool glass of freshly-made grapefruit juice, by far the most delicious version of this juice in my life.

Four generations of women are present, with Shannon being the youngest. A most conservative and humble family, they open themselves up to my work without hesitation. Her grandmother walks around with a large bowl of popcorn, something she just adores they tell me.

They are most supportive during the session, offering to me multiple glasses of juice and water. They help me carry the equipment in the beginning and at the end of our evening. Their support is also evident in Shannon's ease with the camera. For this young woman to present herself so to a stranger shows how confident she is with her family.

We begin photographing when the sun is weak, believing that this is all we will have. Slowly over an hour's time, the clouds disappear and the sun shines brightly. We move quickly to make portraits with different pieces of clothing. We then move a table to an open area and she takes her place on its top for the remainder of the portraits.

The images above are from the end of the session. The poses, the expressions are all her own. She is a most creative spirit, taking on a new position with almost every single shutter release. We work until the sun is almost down, giving us enough time to sit down for a wonderful chat, to a most delicious watermelon and locally made ice cream. All this is offered without hesitation and with a kindness natural to this family.

We talk about my travels, about their community, for perhaps an hour.

The people in my portraits never get to see such an American family. Their view of the States filters through the television, through the newspapers. With Shannon's portrait, they will experience people just like them, people connected to the land, communities that work with their hands and understand the value of a day's hard labor.

She has made my portfolio that much better.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sene'a, Friend, Model, Daughter, Cleveland, Ohio, States, July, 2010

We meet through ModelMayhem and arrange to collaborate at the end of the day. The sun is shining and we drive around looking for a place to make portraits. After a few detours, we find a spot and walk to the end of an open, abandoned space to arrange our equipment.

Her equipment consists of a black sheet she has purchased for our collaboration. This to me is refreshing, for at times choices hamper rather than aid the session. She arranges the sheet on herself beautifully and we go on to make a series of portraits with the sheet in different positions.

Sene'a is quite comfortable with herself, posing in an open space with little more than this black sheet. This is our first meeting and the trust she shares with me mirrors the trust that the people overseas show me. She understands the project and its intentions, giving of herself without asking for anything in return, even waiting until my return from two overseas trips before receiving her portraits.

During these overseas visits, the people of my projects witness her portraits, commenting on her grace and her beauty. They marvel at seeing a darker American, one of such beautiful features. They are normally subjected to a different version of Western beauty and find something refreshing in seeing Sene'a.

She is a sister to them now, for they have come to adore her.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ebon, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Cleveland, Ohio, States, July, 2010

Ebon decides to come along with her sister for support, her sister being a model.

She ends up being photographed as well, as natural as the subjects from Asia and Africa.

In describing the people in my portfolio, a dear friend named Edith writes the following:

'A wonderful, exotic piece of wood, a hunk of wood from a tree that has not yet made my acquaintance, from a forest not yet discovered by man or woman, perhaps on a few colorful lizards, a slice of wood cut in an unusual way that exposes a grain pattern previously unseen except by a bolt of lightening that split it in that particular way back in 1837, a hunk of wood shaped around a burl produced by a temporary insect transplant...'

'Not just any piece of wonderful wood, you understand...'

Edith is describing someone else, yet her words come to mind in sharing my thoughts of Ebon.

It is my humble opinion that Edith would feel the same way.

By the way, Edith is a Certified Picture Framer and a link to her work is included here.

While of course my opinion is biased, her work nonetheless is exquisite.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Panda, Friend, Model, Student, Cleveland, Ohio, States, July, 2010

Her name is Panda, or at least this is how we meet through ModelMayhem.

Our initial contact is a response to my casting call. She informs me that she will be out of town during that time and hopes my work will be extended to allow her a chance to be included.

The words that she uses are precise, direct and honest.

Panda writes: 'I love when people call me Sir, then change to Miss, then blush and stutter. I laugh a lot, but reassure them it's okay because they genuinely seem embarrassed.'

She reads the entire description and provides a response that is relevant to my work and brings a fresh approach as well. So many glance over the meaning of my photography while Panda takes the time to understand how she will bring something new to the work while maintaining a flow to it as well.

When asked about a similarity between her and the subjects in my portfolio, she writes:

'I think a similarity is obviously human. I find it funny how race is so emphasized, when in all reality we are one species, and race is a social construct. It's one genome. We've all seen our fair share, you can see it in the eyes and fine lines and markings.'

My work is clear to her even before meeting.

She arrives to the studio on time regardless of difficulty. We proceed to the rooftop and, in the span of a few minutes, she is ready to be photographed. We begin with close portraits and she moves from one pose to another, from one composition to another and from one expression to another effortlessly.

There is something about her; she moves with great delicacy and intent. She knows when it is time to show another face, another facet of her personality. Even though the sun is striking her with sufficient strength, she calmly gives me half an hour before we make portraits in another style.

The three images above are from this initial series.

Even before this session, Panda kindly accepts the thought of being photographed over a span of a few times. She feels that perhaps we can produce a more complete body of work given the benefit of a few sessions. Her patience with me and my work is extraordinary.

Last night she received the images from six weeks ago with grace, regardless of the time taken to produce the work. When asked to use her words for this entry, she responds with the same humility and grace.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kiara, Model, Sister, Daughter, Cleveland, Ohio, States, July, 2010

We meet through ModelMayhem a year or so ago and collaborate earlier this month.

Unlike many others, she and her representative contact me consistently regarding details throughout the preparatory process. We discuss the need for natural light and darker outfits. She comes to the studio prepared beautifully and with her two sisters as well.

We work for more than an hour, photographing the entire family as well. All are kind and generous to me and my portfolio, showing interest in being included alongside the women from all over the world. They change clothing when asked and allow me to make portraits while the sun strikes their skin boldly.

The idea behind her portrait is simple, to include faces from the States alongside those from Africa and Asia for example. It never ceases to amaze me when women from other parts of the world view faces from the States and are surprised for various reasons.

It seems to me that the media has sculpted a view of the West that excludes features such as those in my portfolio, that excludes darker skin and features. With the inclusion of Kiara in my portfolio, my hope is that other women in my portfolio can better understand the women in the States and can see even more clearly the fact that they are sisters.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Girl, Student, Humana People to People, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November, 2009

This image is made in the morning on my last day of photography, as has been traditional for the last three years in this village. The students and teacher always show their desire to be photographed by being ready as the sun rises, even though the temperature is usually cold enough to trace the anxious breathing of the children.

She has been there from the beginning, from the very first year.

In her village, the teacher and her sister always show me their hospitality equally. As one prepares tea, so does the other. As one prepares dinner, the other prepares dinner. They are neighbors and have eight children between them. As one watches me eat my dinner, the other does the same watching me eat the dinner that she has prepared for me.

As always, the families serve the guests, allow them to eat first and then sit down to eat their meals.

In her village, all the students have uniforms, unlike the other schools. Their education is provided for by Humana People to People India, an education that at this time has ceased to exist due to a lack in funding.

During our session this morning however, she shines like few can do. She is photographed from the left, from the right, from directly in front. She is photographed with one hand on her hips, with two hands on her hips.

In every single exposure, she is without equal and shows me so. There are few that can do such as consistently as this young girl. Should she be the only reason to visit India, she would be reason enough for me to purchase the next ticket.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Christi, Model, Musician, Daughter, Cleveland, Ohio, United States, June 17, 2010

We meet in a park near her home about six in the evening under a beautiful sky. We talk for a few minutes and make plans for the wardrobe and sequence of photography.

Her enthusiasm is genuine, her curiosity true.

Before our session, we exchange a few messages and in one of them she shares her concern of disappointing me. My answer to her is simple: the fact that she feels it within herself to share such a concern means that she cannot possibly disappoint me.

This turns out to be more than true. We work first with one outfit, then move to another seamlessly. During one of these changes, I ask about her boyfriend and she tells me that he lives nearby, offering to call him immediately.

She does so and he arrives a few minutes later, turning the session into a wonderful experience. The sight of this gentle man makes her smile even more so. He changes into an outfit and we make his portrait as well. He does so without effort, with a kindness that people in my portfolio have shown me year after year.

He leaves after perhaps thirty minutes of photography and we finish our session about one hour after his departure. Instead of packing her stuff and leaving immediately, she lingers on sweetly to talk for a little bit. This shows me once again her genuine nature, her most thoughtful curiosity.

Her portrait sits alongside the Mursi from Ethiopia and the ballet dancers from Cuba. She is a sister to them all and walks seamlessly between all of them.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Widow, Courtyard of Mosque, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, November, 2008

Just like her counterpart below, this woman is shunned by her society and is placed in a situation of need as a result. She comes to gather her bag of dried goods for the next thirty days, until she needs to return the following month.

This is her second time in front of my camera and in the very same spot, the courtyard of a local mosque. The scene outside of the courtyard is one of madness and extreme difficulty in terms of photography, so we choose a place that allows us to make portraits in peace.

However, as our session extends into the second hour, men start to gather inside the courtyard for prayer. Because of timing issues with the foundation, we still have a dozen women in need of photography. Men begin to complain about the camera and also the presence of women in their midst.

One man especially does so a few times, loudly in fact. He continues to do so and his face is familiar to me, he is a face from last year's photography. So instead of asking my translator to quiet this man down, his picture is found in my bag and handed to him quickly by me.

He quiets down immediately, albeit with a sense of disgust, and walks away.

A few men sitting down for their prayers smile as a result.

Blind Widow, Courtyard of Mosque, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, November, 2008

This man represents a part of society that is generally shunned. He is both blind and a widow, resigned to receiving a bag of dried goods monthly in order to survive.

The people that provide this bag do so through the Zakat Foundation of India, in an anonymous manner. Usually, about twenty to thirty widows gather at a specific site three times a month, three different groups, to collect their bag of goods.

They, or someone that sponsors them, apply for this program and their application is reviewed by the good people of the foundation.

For this session, we use the courtyard of a local mosque. They are kind enough to allow us the space for photography due to the fact that the foundation is well known in the area. The streets are busy beyond our control and the courtyard allows us to make peaceful portraits.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Young Girl, Student, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, Humana People to People, November 20, 2009

From the note on this roll of film, this portrait is the first negative from the 24th roll of film on November 20, 2009.

She is dressed in her school uniform, has her portrait made in front of the teacher's home. Ten girls or so stand to her left only a few feet away and perhaps a dozen students and bystanders are to her right. Behind her is a white sheet stretched over a bench.

The teacher of this school is also the owner of this house, along of course with her husband. They are of the highest caste yet do almost all of the work themselves, from plowing the fields to the irrigation.

The teacher has a sister whose house is but a few meters away. Together they have considerable land and respect among the rest of the villagers. Instead of having others do the work, the two husbands work from sunrise to sunset. In all of my visits, four up to this year, I have never seen either husband sitting down upon arrival; they are always at work in the field.

Every time we arrive on this spot, both women and their daughters prepare two sets of tea for us, one from each family. Every time we have a meal, both families prepare a meal for us and sit down to watch us with smiles trying to finish both meals.

This is her fourth portrait in as many years. This session lasts for over two hours yet she and her girlfriends are able to maintain their composure for that length of time without hesitation.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mursi Man, Earrings, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

This portrait is the morning after the portrait below, in the middle of Mago National Park.

The night before we sleep near a stream and under a large tree. For our dinner, we have corn from the previous day and some canned tuna. While we sleep, a guard from the park services department watches out for us along with some men from his tribe, the very tribe we intend to photograph the next morning.

The reason for the decision to camp is based on the amount of gasoline remaining for the trip. Sleeping near the tribe allows us to eliminate the arduous trek over the mountain range and also lessens the wear and tear on the truck, as well as the driver.

Clouds, for some reason in the land of sunshine, decide to appear on the horizon just as the sun is shining most beautifully this entire week. Sleep is hard to find all night because of this. Every once in a while, I unzip the small tent and look up at the skies only to see stars. Then I go back to sleep only to repeat this a few times during the night.

In the morning, before the sun rises, I check on the sky one more time, seeing only stars. Excitement builds and we decide to move quickly. We pack all of our gear, place it on top of the truck and head to the village only a minute or so away.

As written in previous posts, a tribe that is supposed to be most difficult is in actuality more than gentle. We begin with the girls, then the women and then the older men. During this morning's session, a large cloud appears out of nowhere unexpectedly and seems to be moving in the same direction and with the same speed as the sun.

With the previous five days in mind, I almost decide to put everything away and give up. The translator tells me to be patient, tells me that the sun will reappear in less than one hour. In the end, he is right. The sun does reappear and even though it is higher and stronger than before, the people are able to stand up and collaborate beautifully.

We finish on a high note and move on to the next tribe, until our return next year hopefully.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mursi Man, Hat, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

This portrait is made on a late afternoon while our truck idles behind me. He stands looking to his right where perhaps twenty women and girls sit. Earlier today they had their portraits made and even sold a few lip plates to me, all with different shapes, patterns and colors.

In between sessions, we wait under the hot sun, to the surprise of the driver and the translator. While most of their friends bring customers into the village for a few minutes only to drive back to the motel for the rest of the day, these two good men get to hang out with me all day and wait for the sun to begin its descent into the late afternoon.

We would rather go back and rest ourselves but know that to come back would be most difficult for the truck. So we have our lunch under a tree, share a can or two of sardines with a few tribesmen, sleep for a bit, talk to the older men and generally are the center of attention for the younger generation.

Today the sun exists without clouds and my only wish is that this remains so until the afternoon. We are granted this wish and arrange to make the men's portraits. One by one they walk from under the row of trees to stand in front of the camera. Some come as they are, some bring their rifles and some bring their swords.

While this tribe lives in a most inaccessible part of Ethiopia, they have been photographed beyond ability to count. Almost every single day a group of tourists stop by for their dose of a different world. They typically get out of their SUVs, walk around with their eyes wide open, stand behind their guide and wait for an opportunity to make some pictures then return to their air-conditioned vehicles twenty minutes later on their way to the next visual attraction.

So this tribe has seen it all, the world has come to them and continues to come to them on an hourly basis. For this very reason, their portraits amaze me this afternoon. While cameras are nothing new to them, their collective reaction to my camera is fresh. They usually negotiate a fee for a single image but are willing to stand in front of me for a few minutes and hear the continuous sound of the shutter without refusing me their portrait. According to our translator, our approach is quite unorthodox yet accepted.

These men honor me and my work, I am humbled by their worldliness.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Girl, Student, Humana People to People, Near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 19, 2009

Once again, the note on the roll of film tells me that this portrait is the 8th exposure from the 11th roll of film. The background is that of a white wall. Behind her and to her right, a woman is working a fire, away from the frame of the portrait.

During her portrait, she is both serious and funny, most of the time the latter dominates the former. Her laugh is infectious, helps everyone around us laugh when she does. Even the older men laugh and then poke fun at her. To my surprise, she pokes fun back at them with an attitude rarely seen by me in a young girl from this culture.

Her village is away from the beaten path and it takes us at least thirty minutes over rough terrain to arrive. She and her friends are performing chores and gather themselves the instant we arrive for their portraits. We arrive early in the morning, almost before the sun has risen.

We walk to the end of the village and, to our pleasant surprise, we find a home with a glorious white wall, and with the sun directly striking it. We set up our equipment after receiving permission from the owners of the house. The setting is quite private and enables the girls to feel comfortable. The older men are quite gentle and allow the girls to express themselves both in expressions and in their choice of clothing. Many of the girls are dressed in their traditional attire but some of the girls have chosen other styles.

In this image, she is in between expressions. The film is exposed while she is trying to regain her composure. She is perfect before, during and after this image.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Angie, Mother, Wife, Model, Cleveland, Ohio, United States, May, 2010

Every once in a while in the States, someone approaches me and asks to have their portrait made.

Usually, my camera stays in the closet.

An email is received from Angie and all of a sudden a realization comes over me: there are plenty of people on this side of the ocean that can find their way into my portfolio.

Her words are concise and sweet. For her portrait, she wants nothing in return. As a matter of fact, she is willing to drive across the state for the photography.

As of this portrait, she has given me two opportunities to make her portrait, the one above is from our second session together. Because of my need for natural light, she reserves time for me without knowing for certain the chance of meeting.

Unlike the subjects in the rest of my portfolio, she has modeled extensively and has been photographed by some of the finest photographers from across the country. She has been photographed in larger and smaller cities, in professional studios and in natural settings.

For our portraits, she arrives on her own the first time and with her family the second time. She comes dressed beautifully simple, with nothing to decorate her face. She is a most humble, kind individual, one who has taken her rightful place next to the faces in my portfolio.

She has my deepest respect.