Friday, October 26, 2012

Student, Smile, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November, 2009

The young girl above lives in Banganga, Rajasthan and was a student of a Humana People to People Girls Bridge School in her village. She has been photographed by me on at least four occasions, alongside her friends and neighbors.

In our efforts to reopen her school, we have found friendly ears within Humana People to People India. The good people of this organization have listened and have let me present thoughts regarding the schools. They have gracefully accepted the idea and offered help on their side in order to make schools a reality once again for her and others like her.

Just this week a young woman named Ann Averbach reached out to me with a wonderful idea. She and her team are opening a second yoga studio in Santa Barbara and have offered their space as an educational center, as a gallery and as a source of possible financial support for my work; and these five schools are an integral part of my work presently.

The name of her efforts is DiviniTree Yoga and she hopes to open the doors to the space starting the first week of 2013. Should you live in the area, or perhaps have an interest in this collaboration, then you may feel free to contact me through the information listed below. My website has been redesigned by the original designer, Patrick Luu, and contains links to the various foundations from my past photographic work as well as my present ventures in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Next month we will collaborate in documenting Ann's team of instructors, and hope to produce images worthy of this collaboration. We will then produce a show in her space which reflects this collaboration, images from next month mixed with images from Africa and Asia, as well as the Americas.

I certainly look forward to my California visit next month, and to a lifetime collaboration with Ann. On behalf of the young girl above I share my gratitude for being allowed this opportunity.
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Michel, Metalsmith, Family, Bekaa Valley, Zahle, Lebanon

He has since passed on, but this portrait is etched into my mind. In the early years of my work, my Mother's hometown was the starting point. Visiting the family seemed like a good excuse to take along a camera and head into the streets while they were either working or sleeping.

Language was never a barrier, and people knew my family well. Safety was nothing to be concerned with, and walking in the streets was as natural as I had remembered from childhood. Everywhere I turned someone greeted me with a smile, acknowledged our common thread as Lebanese. Most were curious and conversations would begin very easily.

In this instance this man was working in his shop as a metalsmith. I asked him for his portrait and he offered his time happily. We talked for a few minutes then set up the camera to make the image above. In the middle of setting up he asked about my connection to Zahle. I responded with my Mother's maiden name and, as it turned out, he happened to be related to my Mother as a close cousin. He asked about my family, and then asked if perhaps he should change to more proper clothing for his portrait. I assured him that my Mother would love him as he was, and respect him even more so for allowing her son to make his portrait without doing so.

We worked for a little bit, talked more so and promised to see each other the following year. I returned home to tell my family that I had photographed Michel, and noted the smiles on their faces. They were used to me photographing migrant workers, unknown faces, and were in disbelief that my work now included our family. My Mother however knew my work and was sincerely pleased that I had finally included my own family alongside the endless stream of strangers.

I visited Michel every time we returned to Lebanon over the years, sometimes just passing by his shop and seeing him hard at work. Then one year I heard the news of his passing, that a car had struck him while walking down the narrow street of his shop. I was upset because I have seen firsthand how careless drivers can be on these streets, and knew that he had so much more to give. I admired then and admire even more so now his work ethic, how he cared about his job whether he was working for a prominent farmer or a migrant worker, taking care of their respective tools.

One year I returned with his framed portrait to give to his wife. My Mother gave me directions to his home and I decided to go alone. I knocked on the door and a young African answered the door. After exchanging greetings I asked for Michel's wife. She returned a minute or so later and looked at me in a curious manner. I took the framed photograph and placed it in her hands, the entire time looking at both of their faces. This was the first time that they had seen the image and were so surprised that Michel had  been photographed.

The look on their faces was sufficient in itself, and we separated without saying much more. This experience showed me that people do cherish the visual record, and even more so the fact that one took the time to return their loved ones to them. This I do with honor, and pleasure.

Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Young Student, Fence, The Northern Road, The Gambia, 2006

Some I will never see again, and she is one of them.

On our way to the coast from the interior of The Gambia, we stopped at one very small village as children were heading home from school. All of them were standing by the side of the road, under a large tree and in front of this incredibly beautiful fence.

We were outside of our comfort zone, in another country and in front of so many people. With the help of our translator we managed to speak to a few people and organized the children for photography. We used the indirect light of the sun, and the shade of the tree. The background chosen was that sweet fence, and we managed to work for perhaps a half an hour before heading back on our way to the coast.

The previous day our driver decided to change plans, and head to the interior from our agreed upon coastal path to The Gambia. It sounded good to us, we would see more of Senegal and perhaps get some photography accomplished in a spontaneous way. What we thought would be a leisurely drive ended up being a speedy run to the eastern portion of The Gambia, so that we could reach his family's village before nightfall. This seemed to be an amazing coincidence and we soon realized that such was the reason for the change in plans.

Opportunities to photograph whirled by us, and we were just happy to arrive in the middle of the night to our destination. Our driver dropped us off at a motel without a single light in sight, complete darkness, and then headed out to his family's home to stay for the night. We were shown to our separate rooms, my friend and I. The rooms were dark and lit by a single candle. We cleaned ourselves in our rooms and went to sleep quickly before the candles lost their flames.

The next day we woke up for our sixteen hour journey to the coast, a journey the driver thought would take perhaps ten hours. As the manager of the motel saw us get into the compact car, he smiled a bit and expressed his uncertainty at the car's ability to get us to the coast in one piece. We thought he was joking but ended up experiencing the worst road of our trip for the next dozen or so hours.

Along the way this portrait was made, and was worth every single bump, every single bit of grain entering my system through my nostrils and mouth. Looking back today I just laugh at the experience and my reactions to it.

For more images like the one above, please visit the newly designed website below.

Halim Ina Photography

Friday, October 19, 2012

Markeya Carlita, The Film Images, El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, Los Angeles, California, September 16, 2012

These are a sampling of the film images from my session with Markeya Carlita at El Mirage Lake, just outside of Los Angeles. This was my third time at this location in less than one week and, with great thanks to the officials on the property, we were able to find a secluded spot far away from the recreational activities for which this lake bed is known.

We parked on private property just outside of the lake bed, with the generous owner giving us his permission to do so. I set the equipment up, while Markeya and her dear good friend went about arranging the various outfits for the session. She brought a suitcase holding an incredible amount of clothing, everything from heels to jackets to dresses to various accessories, all to the specifications agreed upon before this meeting.

The sky was clear and the sun just perfect. We worked slowly, beginning with the more abstract positions, then moved onto the closer, more intimate portraits. Markeya never did stop, she moved from one creative position to another at the sound of the shutter being released. She did so without complaining, but rather saw this an opportunity to create a magical body of images.

In between changes, we admired the silence of the place... and the magnificence of the lake surface. It seemed that someone must have come beforehand and swept it for the session. The small tumble weed from a few days earlier was still there, and reminded me that perhaps we have found the perfect studio for my time in Los Angeles.

Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Young Ballerina, Pan American Stadium, Statues of Athletes, La Habana, Cuba, July 28, 2012

I remember the moment when I first met this young ballerina. It was four years ago and in the midst of perhaps four dozen people in the square of a famous ballet school. I happened to pass by the school while looking for a space to photograph someone else.

In my midst all of a sudden were perhaps two dozen ballerinas. All of them of course were dressed in ballet outfits with various designs, dark and simple. Their hair was perfectly in place, and they were waiting for their classes to begin. Most of the girls were grouped in smaller circles chatting with their friends, while the parents did the same with each other.

Long story short, I found the courage to talk to a few of the parents and gain their trust. In a very public space they then allowed me to arrange their daughters against a white wall and photograph them for a few minutes each. A dozen girls agreed to be photographed, including the young ballerina in the above image. I think that many more would have agreed, but they soon disappeared inside the school to attend classes.

Over the next four years the original ballerinas were discovered once again and multiple sessions undertaken to document their stories. The young girl in the above image is one such person, and this past July was my fourth summer with her and her family since that very first one. Every year has brought me closer to her, and she has opened up more and more with each session.

In July we collaborated over six times, including the very last afternoon of my visit to the island. On this day we were handing out the photographs to all of the families, including hers. We still had a few families to visit when she asked if we were going to work with her later in the afternoon. Alejandro and I looked at each other and told her that we would if we were finished delivering the photographs and if the sun was shining.

I still had perhaps twenty rolls of film and was hungry to expose them in Cuba, rather than bringing unexposed film back to the States. So when we finished with delivering the photographs and looked up to see sunny skies, we called her immediately and made our way to the Pan American Stadium for our final session. She was incredible, moving from one location to another, allowing me to photograph her hair in its natural state.

Working with this young spirit is incredibly uplifting, she is consistently happy and immensely creative. While some models have a hard time coming up with ideas, this young pre-teenager's concepts are only as limited as my ability to document them. She allows the hair to cover her face, to blow with the wind without submitting to the reflex of fixing it.

In one instance I was changing rolls of film when I watched my camera/tripod tumble over and hit the concrete with a terrible sound. The lens struck the surface straight on, denting the filter. Any other time I would have lost my mind, since only two lenses are with me during my trips. This afternoon it only affected me for a second, the filter was changed and we continued with the photography. The camera body had a vibration while transporting the film to its next frame, but my only thought was with the images yet to be made.

Nothing else mattered except this young girl in front of me, performing like no other for the sake of our collaboration. We worked until the sun set, and managed to finish the last roll of film. It would be impossible to describe a more perfect ending to this past summer in Cuba. 

For more images, and history behind them, please visit my website:

Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Leandro, El Estadio Panamericano, La Habana, Cuba, July 26, 2012

After several months out of the darkroom, the past few days have reignited my desire to print the images. Since the Cuban negatives happened to be sitting in order on my table, it made all the sense in the world to start with them. This and the fact that I'm unable to wait much longer!

Before printing I made one promise to myself, print everyone's negatives first before going back to print multiple negatives of the same person, unless two negatives of the same person happened to look great from the same roll, for ease of printing of course.

The above image is of Leandro, and was made in front of the stadium built for the Pan American Games held on 1991 in Cuba, just outside of La Habana. On my way to Alamar to photograph a couple of dancers a few years ago, the white walls of this magnificent structure caught my eyes. Since that time many of our people have followed us here happily, since it allows them to have their portraits made without the entire neighborhood watching.

On this beautiful morning, Leandro and Camila performed a special piece for us, something that they had been working on just recently and had yet to show in public. I felt honored then and even more so now to have been the recipient of their hard work, their most expressive movements.

Asked to wear darker clothing, neither one disappointed me. This they shared happened to be their preference as well. My dear friend Alejandro picked me up before six in the morning, and we headed to  Leandro's place where they were both waiting for us, on time and ready to perform. This beautiful man was humble, sensitive to our needs, courteous and most of all professional. He had only known us for twenty or so minutes and yet was able to share with us his most intimate visions.

I look forward to handing the prints to him and Camila next summer, and to doing this all over again.

Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eleanor, The Film Images, Downtown Los Angeles, California, September 16, 2012

Many will begin their viewing of these images with an opinion, few will be as open as Eleanor. Documenting this young spirit was effortless, since she brought her stories to the collaboration. Even before we met on this beautiful morning she presented her ideas to me. When one idea was complicated by a third party, she moved onto a second just as important vision.

When my schedule needed to change at the last minute, she changed her schedule around and made this collaboration possible. I am fortunate enough to have met many significant people in my life, and Eleanor is one such person. My years as a photographer will hopefully include Eleanor once again, and a chance once again to document her stories.

For more information regarding Eleanor and her various projects, please follow the link below.

Rooftop Revolutionaries

Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Kylee, The Film Images, El Mirage Lake, Los Angeles, California, September 14, 2012

Scanned just yesterday from the film are images from my collaboration with this most wonderful woman. While the location is certainly essential for these images, it is her insistence that my photographic desires be attended to that makes these images so timeless.

She listened to my wardrobe wishes, and of course provided her input. Instead of just looking through her existing pieces, which of course would have been more than acceptable, she went out of her way to research new wardrobe, and make a purchase or two specifically for our session.

Instead of stopping halfway along our path around the dry lake bed, she allowed me to drive all the way around for the perfect spot. She changed between pieces, stood for hours in the hot sun in the desert, and allowed her hair to be wet and her skin to be covered with mud.

I admire this young spirit, and look forward to further collaborations.

For more of her work, the following link is provided:


Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

La Cantante, La Habana, Cuba, Summer, 2008

Here she stands one block away from her home, against a white wall and facing a wall drenched with sunlight. When we arrive a white truck is blocking the beautiful sunlight and a young man willingly moves the truck for us. She is dressed in her ballet outfit and has allowed her hair to fall naturally, rather than in the formal manner.

I photographed her two years or so ago on the famous walkway lining the Cuban capital as she walked with her family. She was willing then and is more than willing now. People stand to her left watching us work, but to her they are invisible. She looks straight into the lens and presents herself without limitations. When asked she raises her head, and shows me the meaning of love. In one portrait I might explain to those asking me: why do you continue to visit the island?

Then in a five minute clip as in the previous post, such questions would be laid to rest.

This young girl always puts her best foot forward, never accepts anything but her best effort. Just when I think she has sung her best version, she asks me to record yet another... and I do so beyond willingly. In temperatures that almost melt my camera along with humidity that forces me to wipe my forehead a few times during each performance, she sings effortlessly.

While people walk by on the street looking at us, she does the same. She never settles for anything but a most genuine expression, for this is her. Her mother is an incredible force, very much like the daughter. She tirelessly promotes her daughter and always provides pointers during our recordings, actually singing her pointers rather than just telling her daughter to do this and to do that. She leads by example.

In the background, and anything but the background, is her father. There are very few on the island with such character, with such humility. His words almost always bring tears to my eyes, because he always puts others before himself. His talents are clearly present, yet he plays almost inaudibly while his daughter performs, accompanying rather than leading. This man I admire very much, he is everything to his daughter and she is his purpose.

Halim Ina Photography