Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bedouin Girl, An Alley with Wind, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer, 2005

In the beginning my work includes images with indirect light and darker backgrounds. This is certainly true of the early portraits from the Middle East. My inexperience at the time forces me to seek shaded areas and use any light available. Much of the time the results disappoint me, lead me to seek other avenues to produce images respectful of the subject matter.

On this one day a few children catch my attention while photographing a neighboring home. At this point my work in Lebanon is in its sixth year or so, and the people of this area have become accustomed to my camera. I talk to their parents and they allow me to make portraits of the children.

Looking up the alley from the main street, a three story apartment building is at the entrance to the left while a one story home is to the right. Further up is a small shed to the right that houses the livestock and another three story apartment building next to a home on the left. Then the alley ends in an open field. The alley is quite narrow, able to accommodate one large car at a time.

Over the years many portraits are made using the indirect light bouncing off of the larger buildings to the left. The result is a natural studio, with soft boxes to the left and various backgrounds to the right. For the portrait above the shed serves as the background. The young girl stands in front of a large window with only the bottom of the frame showing. The white shape behind her is the window to the back of the shed.

What makes this natural studio that much more incredible is the constant flow of air. On every occasion, the wind provides movement better than any fan could and is relentless. The result is that every exposure brings with it another composition.

This young girl is a Bedouin that has long since become a Lebanese citizen. Once migrants with livestock, now they live in concrete homes and tend to their sheep daily. The girls refrain from attending school and are responsible for the livestock. She and her younger sister walk the animals to graze all by themselves, and show a confidence most striking to a first-time viewer.

She is a tough, young girl... as is her sister as well. They take every bit of energy out of me when being photographed. They are extremey resilient and show remarkable fortitude. They cannot be pushed around and fend for themselves without reservation.They know that they have me at their disposal and that pleading for their portraits is most natural for me. At times it becomes a bit overwhelming... but has yet to keep me from asking. Last year I made the decision to only visit socially and allow a year to pass before asking for their portraits once again.

I hope to visit next summer and make their portraits once again. There is a slight chance that they will refuse, since they have become older and, in this most conservative Society, become less accepting of the image. Regardless they have given me more than I could have asked for already.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joylyn, Model, Photographer, Friend, Near Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

She introduces herself to me through Model Mayhem and we arrange a session. During my time in Los Angeles, the climate is a bit out of character with clouds and rain in the forecast. It becomes apparent to me that my photography will take place over the mountain range, and away from the city.

We plan on meeting at Vasquez Rocks Park, a location suggested to me by another wonderful model named Vamptress. As has been the week previous, clouds are in order for the day in and around Los Angeles. I arrive at the park and cannot see the rocks, or much of the landscape around me.

We speak on the phone and decide to drive out to Palmdale where information tells me that the sky is clear. We meet on the side of the road and she follows me to a small water tower near Lake Palmdale, a location spotted by me a few days earlier. It is both secluded and higher than the surrounding landscape. On our way the clouds disappear and the sky becomes much clearer. The sun is shining on the water tower and this can be seen all the way from the highway as we descend down from the mountain.

The feeling is indescribable.

We park our cars and meet formally. Her personality is quite charming and she helps me feel comfortable straight away. She is dressed the part, and we make portraits immediately. She is a professional and brings with her the wardrobe discussed previously, dark and simple. She stands on a small hill and I position myself below her, allowing the sky to take its place behind her.

The winds are mighty and we make the best of it, allowing her hair to play around. Rather than distressing about the situation, Joylyn enjoys the circumstances. She changes between pieces of clothing easily and without stress. We work for perhaps two hours and then decide to head back to Los Angeles. Instead of separating and going her way however, she allows me to join her for a meal in a local restaurant.

We sit down and break bread over meaningful conversation. She tells me about her life, about her family and about her modeling. She is real, and genuine. My time with Joylyn teaches me that everyone has a story, that models are more than faces and that understanding can be found in a stranger. Joylyn is anything but a stranger to me on this day. She sends messages to me now and then, always asking about me.

I admire and respect this woman, and will continue to be her friend. She is a 'Rock Star' indeed.
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Migrant Workers, Syrians living in Lebanon, Bekaa Valley near Zahle, Lebanon, August, 2010

We make a portrait inside of their home on this day, with one flap of the tent open to the right allowing light to enter. Outside the view of the public and to the side of their mother, two sisters share expressions otherwise rare in this reserved society.

They live as migrant workers, traveling from Syria to Lebanon for work. These young girls go to the fields a few times per week to harvest vegetables for twelve hours in the hot sun, dressed in three to four layers of clothing as is customary. They return to their homes only to find more work, from collecting water to washing clothes to cleaning the home to helping their mothers with dinner.

The man in charge of this camp is my friend and finds work for these families. He keeps a detailed log of each worker and their salary. As of last year and depending on the type of work being done, an average young girl will earn perhaps $5 per day.

After fourteen years with these children,  my senses have yet to become desensitized to certain details, from the coarseness of their hands to the cracked nature of their skin to their parched lips. Whenever the hair is exposed as in the younger girls, it lacks a softness normally associated with youth and is soiled with the dust and particles from the environment.

These two sisters have been present in my work since its inception. They have distinctive personalities, sharing the trait of shyness regardless. The young girl with her arms crossed to the right of her mother is a bit more reserved and cooperative, always accepting my invitation to be photographed. Her sister has been photographed extensively by me and as such perhaps is a bit more hesitant in being photographed. She nonetheless accepts in the end, with a bit of pleading from me.

They both have light eye colors, and wonderfully full hair. I have photographed both of them with their hair uncovered and covered.

Sometimes we miss each other, and they return from the fields with a sense of sadness in having missed the fun of being photographed. We always find a time however to collaborate on a different day, and their happiness is restored at least with respect to me. The day will come when they will no longer accept my invitation to be photographed. At first it will be with a sense of pride in joining their older sisters in this reserved culture. Then it will be with a bit of nostalgic sadness, and this will lead perhaps to their acceptance as it has with some of these very same older sisters.

I miss them very much, this family of women living near my mother's hometown.
Halim Ina Photography