Friday, January 28, 2011

Marie, Daughter, Friend, Model, Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

During my time in Los Angeles, we exchange messages almost every single day.

She never gives up, never forgets about our collaboration.

One day we arrange to meet and time seems to get the best of us, we never do meet on that day.

Instead of walking away like so many, she responds to my messages. We talk about a few options and leave it to happenstance.

She is one of a handful that offer so many days to me. The temptation is there to take a couple of them even though it is certainly a selfish act, knowing that she is quite a busy person.

We agree on one day and, as it turns out, the day comes without complications. We meet at a corner coffee store and drive out to the agreed upon spot. Just like the rest of the week, clouds seem to be hanging over Los Angeles in a most unconventional manner.

We take a chance and make a few rolls at this spot, a rock formation called Vasquez Rocks. However it seems that the clouds threaten to come back and she kindly agrees to go further in search of clearer skies.

We drive perhaps twenty minutes to the other side of the mountains and find a peaceful spot, in a parking lot next to a white wall. We make a few rolls in between clouds just as the sun breaks through. While waiting for the sun we have wonderful, short conversations. She is just as comfortable in person as in front of the camera.

Instead of being just another face, she is a friend to me. She gives her time to me as well as her considerable modeling experience. She helps me feel at ease for keeping her from her life for this afternoon. We make one more roll and decide to drive back home. This has been an incredibly memorable afternoon, one filled with images to last a lifetime.

You may learn more about this incredible woman and see her portfolio as well below:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vamptress LeeAnna, Another Snapshot, Outside Los Angeles, October, 2010

She has been seen before on this blog, in color and now in black and white.

Just today she sent a most gentle greeting my way, all with the grace of a most genuine person.

She speaks of love in her message because she lives her life in such a way. From my limited experience with her and her wonderful boyfriend, it is clear to me that this is so.

Should you like to see more of LeeAnna and learn more about her other enterprises, you may follow the link below.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Young Model and Widow, Old Delhi, India, Zakat Foundation of India, November, 2008

A young woman on this beautiful Sunday contacts me regarding the portrait above. According to her first message, the older woman above has been on her mind ever since she visited my website some time ago.

The young woman sending the message informs me that she has saved enough money to purchase the print. While many think that the prints sell easily, the simple fact is otherwise. There are few people from my experience that feel an affinity for the people in my portraits, enough so to make a purchase.

Perhaps it is difficult for most to look at such a portrait in their homes, safe havens from the troubles of the world. This young woman proves to be different with her first message and even more so with her second.

In response to my curiosity regarding her admiration of the older woman above, she writes:

'I have always felt a strong admiration towards people who have lived into old age. I feel that they hold wisdom to understanding life as to what it is, instead falling so deep into ourselves by living as though we will forever. Maybe it is from respect of my own grandparents, who have loved and raised me fully with their hearts. To me she is what I have loved and lived as a child in Ukraine..and to what my own mother was fortunate enough to escape. I am no different from her, as my fate was sealed through the hard work of my mother. Her face stays in my thoughts as does the life I left behind, for the passing of time is the only thing that separates us.'

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bedouin Woman, Syrian, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer, 2009

Every once in a while an older woman steps up for her portrait.

Most of the time my work deals with young girls for they are accessible in this culture. On this afternoon she walks right up to me in plain sight of everyone and makes everything that much easier.

Her row of tents was the first row photographed by me almost thirteen years ago in Lebanon. Most of the inhabitants still remember a young Lebanese man with a strange accent coming by with his camera, even my name. On this afternoon a dozen or so years later we make new images of children unborn at the time of my first visit.

This time around, digital images are also made and distributed a day later. This has proven to be a very positive step in the evolution of the work, enabling the people to see their portraits right away and in color, something almost everyone wants rather than black and white.

While we are photographing the children the woman sit down and watch. A few words are said to them in order to perhaps solicit their portraits, none of them being effective. Then for some reason she gets up, at first being somewhat shy perhaps due to the culture and perhaps due to her appearance. Her reaction draws giggles from the smaller girls but she nonetheless stands with the most beautiful, humorous and dignified manner.

The session goes on much smoother after her appearance and the younger girls feel less inhibited as a result. Did she want her portrait made or was she doing so for the sake of the younger girls? Only she knows the answer to this question.

Last weekend I began printing negatives from the distant past, from my early work. Unlike my newer work, this image includes her surroundings and uses available, indirect light. She is a young girl living behind a service station in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. This is her first and only portrait, since her family has moved on without a trace. Like many of the families living as migrants in this area, they have moved from Syria in search of work and continue to move for the same reason. I remember her well, and the circumstance behind this portrait.

The refection in her eyes confirms the place of our collaboration, and the people standing around watching this image being made. On this day I visit a tent to inquire about a group of children. The adult tells me that the children are working in the fields but that there are more children nearby. We talk for a little bit and get noticed by these very children. They run across an uneven, dry field and make their way to us. They have heard of me and know that I am the photographer.

The girl above is one of them. All of the children appear as her, with disheveled hair and skin abused by the sun. When my hands run across their hair, the feeling is of coarse wool. We talk for a little bit and the adults consent to the photography. The front of a storage facility is perfect, with indirect light coming from behind me to the right. The children line up and wait for their photography. I am alone but the children are very cooperative.

She stands in front of me and behind her is a window without glass. In the distance and to her right is a window of the same size. It is the late afternoon and the sun is behind her. A handful of negatives are exposed, and she moves to the side to allow others to be photographed. This is the last time my eyes have witnessed her face, her incredibly poignant features. Next year I will return to the same place and ask about her, hoping to make her portrait once again

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dawn and Trent, Arbore Boy, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

An entry with this young boy from the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia has already been made.
This entry is about another story behind his portrait and has something to do with a wire motorcycle.
Before one of my flights within Ethiopia during this trip, the men were as usual going through my baggage and inspecting the bags and bags of film. A few other passengers were also questioned regarding their belongings, helping me feel a little bit less odd this time.

One such passenger was a man named Trent. He was questioned regarding a toy motorcycle he had purchased for his little son. For some reason, the security personnel felt the need to question this seemingly caring man regarding a gift for his son.

After we cleared security, we sat down for a little bit and chatted about our experiences. My photographic work had yet to begin and this flight was to take me to the Lower Omo Valley. We talked about the toy motorcycle and enjoyed the intricacy of its construction. It was completely made of wire and had all the details right down to the mirrors. The security people were also amazed it seems.

Trent and his friends seemed very interested in my photography, in the fact that nobody was with me and that my work was all on film rather than digital. We said our goodbyes and parted ways never to see each other again.

Then one day, just a month or so ago, an email arrived from a woman named Dawn. In a sweet, gentle way she explained that she was looking for a photographer and a dentist that lived in the States, one that had travelled to Ethiopia earlier this year and one that perhaps had met a man with a toy motorcycle in the airport. Since all of those facts applied to me, my answer was in the positive.

She then explained to me that her husband was touched deeply during his time in Ethiopia and that he would so appreciate one of my photographs from our mutual time in that country. She selected an image and kept all of this secret from her husband with the help of her dear friend Kelly.

In her own words:

'It was perfect!!! I wrapped the framed photo separately from your letter and a few notes from me. He opened the photo first, and the tears started even before he really understood the whole gift. He immediately recognized the little boy as someone from Ethiopia, and that was all it took. :) He then opened the other package, read your letter and asked in a somewhat "shocked" voice, "Is this the man I met in the airport?" I think it took him a minute to take it all in, but he absolutely loved. loved, loved it!!! And the print looks amazing matted and framed. Trent is excited to reconnect with you, and I'm sure will do so once the busy-ness of Christmas, birthdays, etc. subsides.'

'I really appreciate your help in putting together such a special gift for Trent. It's really a treasure, and I just knew that he'd love it!' 

 Thanks again, Dawn

PS Trent hung his photo today. It's beautiful. He plans to have some of his own framed, and they'll hang alongside yours. :)