Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drawing by Hamely, Habana, Cuba, July, 2011

This drawing is by Hamely, a young girl that lives in Central Havana. She lives in a small home, perhaps a bodega in its previous life. The rooms are separated from each other by bed sheets, and the kitchen consists of a burner and is open to the rest of the home. 

She lives in this small space with her mother, stepfather, brother, sister, aunt and two cousins. One small window the size of a milk crate brings light into the space. One side of the room is made of metal sheets, doors once used as entrances to the corner store now their home.

Our first day in her neighborhood this year yields photography without her. She is away to the countryside with her father, just like last year. We go on and photograph her siblings and cousin. The next time we meet she is yet to return, and we photograph the children at my friend's home. We decide to walk back to their home two blocks away and suddenly hear that she has returned.

As we walk up the block to the main street, we see her perhaps twenty meters away. Her face lights up and she runs all the way to us stopping only when she hits my arms. We hug for a few minutes with everyone looking, wondering about the foreigner with the Cuban princess. This surprises me so but is a most welcome development. While the people on this island are less conservative than their counterparts in my other work, such an expression of happiness is still rare.

I have been photographing Hamely for the past six years but this is the first year she has expressed herself so fully. We go on to photograph her four more times this year, any time we get a chance to do so. We spend hours in front of her home, inside as well. We make portraits of the entire family and provide them with the photographs a few days after each session.

She loves the camera, and loves to make pictures as well. She holds it like a professional, with the strap behind her neck for safety. She poses her sister, brother and cousins as she wishes. With her they feel relaxed and provide more relaxed expressions. Every time we leave a negotiation is needed to remove the camera from her hands, always with humor.

She draws the picture above and hands it to me, with her mother smiling in the background. She knows that I love the sun and includes it along with a portrait of herself above the table. She also knows that I love her so and knows that I will return to her as long as my legs carry me.

Leaving the island this year, and especially her home, takes more out of me than in any previous year.
Halim Ina Photography


  1. Great post Halim,

    What makes your post great are two things; Hamely's drawing and your description.

    Your descriptions are poetic, yet so real, especially the description of the Cuban princess and the metal sheets. I think people may think that this is an exaggeration, but how real it is. Have you ever wondered why they have metal sheets?

    Beautiful post,


  2. As always Thomas,

    You have a way with words, making me proud to call you my friend and colleague.

    In response to your question, it is my belief that their home used to be a corner store, perhaps a bodega. The metal walls are but garage doors in my humble opinion. Such is my thought until next year's visit.

    We do certainly need to publish our work. My dear friend has already designed the first book and we can include your images in the next book. I will send you a note in a minute beginning that discussion.

    With deep respect,