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

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