Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cwen, Daughter, Model, Friend, Model Mayhem, Parking Garage, Washington, D.C., Summer, 2010

She goes by the name of Cwen, we meet through a modeling website called Model Mayhem.

Responding to one of my posts, she shares her curiosity with me and offers to join her brothers and sisters in my portfolio. The sentiment that she shares with me is most genuine and we proceed to stay in touch.

Since my negatives are processed in her hometown, it seems practical to arrange a time that coincides with a visit to pick up my negatives. When presenting this idea to Cwen, she tells me just to tell her when and she will arrange her schedule around mine. Incredible.

A time comes when it's necessary to collect my negatives from a recent trip. She agrees to the time and goes about the process of finding a location. She tells me of a parking garage that will give us access to the open sky and we arrange to meet there.

After work one day, we drive to Washington and sleep overnight in a small town perhaps two hours away from the city. In the morning, we start our way before sunrise and almost make it to the garage, getting lost in the process. The highways are beyond confusing but Cwen, on the phone, calmly helps me to a spot and tells me to wait for her.

She goes out of her way, meets us on the side of the road, and then leads us to the garage. We park next to each other, leaving a spot in between as our studio. We spend the next hour making images in front of a white canvas, against the blue sky and on top of my car. We are fortunate to have the most perfect weather, warm and sunny the entire time without a single cloud in the sky.

Just as we are getting along nicely, an older woman in a car asks for the parking spot. She seems to be quite impatient with the thought that the parking spot is being used for something other than parking. She of course has a point and we move our equipment so that she can park her car. We think that perhaps all other spots are taken, then find out that the other half of the parking lot is empty. Regardless, she does have a point.

We set up about twenty meters away from our first spot and continue with the photography. The image above is made during the second half of our session. While film is changed and unlike so many, Cwen goes about asking many questions regarding my background, my photography. She then asks the sweetest of questions: 'when are you coming back?'

She then tells me that she would love to have me photograph her family. This honors me tremendously and we expose a few more rolls with this feeling in mind. Her portrait above is an example of the chemistry possible between two people having never met in person.

You may view her modeling work through the link below.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Store Clerk, Habana, Cuba, 2008

In between sessions we rarely do any work, other than organization.

This afternoon we happen to be sitting in a small park and notice the traffic walking by us. While speaking about some differences between us, the tripod is extended and the camera mounted.

We continue having a lively conversation and, in between making points, as a person now and then to pause for their portrait. Incredibly, almost all pause for a quick snapshot. The man above does so and makes a minute to tell us about himself.

He loves books and works in a book store. He is always reading and proof of such is in his hands. We make note of his name and address as he bids farewell to us.

We finish our discussion and then walk to a restaurant for something to eat.

Having become familiar with formal portraits, this single image makes me wonder a bit about the past few years. It seems just as magical to make portraits in this way, a split second decision without much preparation and anticipation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Caretaker, Home for Mentally & Physically Challenged Children, MACODEF, Western Kenya, 2007

In the sweetest of voices, she tells me of her struggles, of her needs regarding the children. Most of the time, there is barely enough to provide in terms of food, clothing and even shelter.

She and her staff work feverishly to make sure that the children have the bare minimum to eat. Since the children in this home are mentally and physically challenged, the process of feeding them is much more difficult.

She nonetheless tends to them like her children, speaks about them in this way. Her tone is very soft and calm, perhaps accustomed to speaking to children in need of such care. These children come from homes perhaps where they had been treated differently. She shares with me some of their stories, of how some had been locked in rooms and others chained to a tree stump.

This is the pain that she caries on her shoulders and does so on behalf of the children, taking the burden from them so that they can concentrate on their progress, on their well being.

She is the caretaker of the children's home described two posts ago. You may learn more and perhaps become active through the following link.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Raven Le Faye, Friend, Model, California, States, October, 2010

During my time in California, the weather seems to be acting outside the routine. For consecutive days, clouds seem to be the normal and rain as well. With this in mind and the forecast as well, messages are sent to the remaining models both in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The idea is to switch the days because the weather pattern seems to favor San Francisco for the remainder of the week and Los Angeles for the weekend. All but one model are unable to change their schedules however and it seems prudent to cancel my visit to San Francisco while remaining in Los Angeles for the remainder of my time.

Then Raven sends a message to me, one that includes an honest request to include her in my photography. In this message, she takes the time to include images of her wardrobe labeled for my review, with her wearing many of the pieces providing a fuller idea of the presentation. The effort involved in doing so makes a deep impression on me.

My plane departs on Tuesday and our plan is to meet on Monday. A session is planned in Los Angeles on Sunday as well. With Raven's most genuine message in mind, a decision is made to photograph on Sunday, drive halfway up to San Francisco during the night and finish the drive in the morning on Monday. We agree and then plan to meet in a park recommended to me by some friends.

Sleeping on the side of the road for the sake of brevity, the morning's drive proceeds quickly. The path up the mountain is quite difficult making me feel a little sorry for having Raven do the same. She arrives on time and we both realize that the location is a poor one, both in terms of light and temperature. Instead of a negative reaction, she agrees to drive down the mountain for a better location.

She of course cannot read my mind and follows me on the highway once we reach the bottom of the mountain. Driving and looking for a place to photograph on California's highways might be a very poor combination of tasks but one that is finally accomplished. We find a building with perfect white walls and black asphalt pavement. The corporate building is filled with employees but the walls that interest us both face the sun and are at the back. With the exception of a security camera, nobody bothers us during our session.

We speak for a few minutes and get ready. After a few exposures, it seems to me that perhaps Raven will have a hard time keeping her eyes open with the strong sun. She tries quite hard but seemingly cannot do so. While this saddens me, it seems unreasonable to continue making images with strained facial features and an abrupt decision is made by me to end our session and perhaps head down to Los Angeles early for my flight tomorrow.

Seeing the quickness of my decision as perhaps unnecessary, Raven comes forward and with the most gentle of tones opens a conversation with me. She explains to me her reasons and asks for us to try again. This is deeply touching and we decide to try one more roll of film. Needless to write, she stands anew in front of the camera and shows me a side of her yet to be seen.

She is incredible and continues to be incredible for the next three hours. We expose roll after roll of film in the spirit of the moment and end the afternoon exhausted and exhilarated. Only in my overseas experiences has a last day proven to be so productive, so creative.

We bid each other farewell and I head down to Los Angeles for my flight the next day.

You may see more of Raven's work below.

Raven Le Faye

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mentally & Physically Challenged Orphan, MACODEF, Western Kenya, February, 2007

The people tell me that this is his only shirt, as is the case with the two dozen or so children in this small orphanage. We arrive early this morning before the children wake, many of them sleeping almost naked in their simple beds.

The simple building is located on the outskirts of a government school where the other children from the area attend classes. The orphans in this small building however will never attend classes on even this simple campus. For them to even receive the minimum care in the orphanage, their families needed to be convinced.

The reality is that before the orphanage these children were hidden from Society, some locked in rooms while others chained and restrained. There is a stigma involved with their physical and mental condition, as perhaps in many other parts of the world. In their present home, they sleep peacefully and are attended to by kind and gentle spirits.

Another fact is shared with me by the people in the orphanage: many of these children are anything but orphans. They do have families but their families have chosen to place them in the orphanage for various reasons, ranging from shame to inability to maintain proper care.

So we arrive this morning and see the children get ready for their photographic session with speed and excitement. The sight of children moving quickly in the shadows of the building gives me an immense sense of honor, of humility. Here are children facing daily hardships that most in the world will never glimpse. Yet they get up this morning and give of themselves without asking for anything in return.

The children from the neighboring school gather on the fence and watch with genuine curiosity. Like the children in the orphanage, they face an extreme life regardless of their mental and physical abilities. They stand in silence and lend their support to their brothers and sisters being photographed, until they are called in by their headmaster.

We photograph for perhaps one hour, against the back wall of the building. The caretakers handle the children with gentle hands, guide them to the camera and allow the children to make their own expressions, to claim their own identity. The young man in the portraits above does just that, without guidance from anyone. He stands his ground and tells his story.

One may view more regarding the foundation doing good works on behalf of the children below.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tareequa, Tsemey Tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, February, 2010

People will often ask: how do you remember their names?

How does one forget?

Towards the end of her photographic session, she allows me to hold her hand and turn her body from looking right to looking straight to looking left. Her friends giggle the entire time and she gives them a few words in between exposures.

Her hair is perhaps the source of amicable teasing and is the result of my curiosity. When we arrive this morning, she is the first to greet us. Her little village is off the tourists' map and she rarely sees an outsider. The look on her face as she sees me demonstrates this even more so.

We get out and start making our way to the elders to ask for permission. They grant us a chance to make portraits and doing so away from the road makes this session perhaps the easiest session during my entire time in Ethiopia. The area is calm and quiet.

Before she has a chance to step away and neaten her hair, we ask her permission to make her portrait as she is and without change. She is completely surprised, laughs in a very shy way and accepts. The images above are the result.

In a previous post, a picture was provided of her in color and a fuller story was also shared. It can be viewed by clicking below.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Child, Banjara Community, Rajasthan, India, November 25, 2008, Roll 3, Exposure 12

On the same day as the previous posts this image is made.

As the title suggests, this is the last negative on the third roll on November 25, 2008. The child belongs to the Banjara Community, one that is on my mind as of late. The more learned about them the more desire to document that follows.

In between sessions, we find ourselves sitting down for a cool drink at a crossroad. The local shop acts as a bus stop as well. Sitting perhaps a few meters from us is a group from the Banjara Community, children as well as a few elderly people along with the parents of the children perhaps.

One thing noticed is how this community interacts while in the presence of others. While they are quite active in our presence, laughing and enjoying their time together, there is little contact with the people around them. A certain sense of confidence permeates through their interactions, giving me the impression that they receive all of their needs from within.

Even the smaller children find little wonder in my foreign face, much less so than the other local men sitting across the aisle from me for example. The children look at me out of curiosity and nothing else, then return to their parents without any further glances. They have their own language, speak on their terms.

One day soon, one day very soon.
Halim Ina Photography