Friday, January 4, 2013

La Maestra, Escuela de Modelaje, La Habana, 26 de Julio, 2012

Three years ago I met this incredible woman through a mutual contact, one of her students. We were invited by this student, one of the subjects from my work the previous year, to attend the last day of lessons and a presentation for the parents of the students.

We arrived at the school and sat down in between the parents. The main room was arranged for a fashion show, and soon we would see our model as well as the rest from this school. The wonderful woman above allowed us to make images during the show, and we did so without the use of flash. Although we worked from a distance and without much notice, the parents were curious about our presence.

The young women and girls walked beautifully, and displayed the knowledge passed on by their incredible teacher. It was obvious to me that these students were quite proud of their performance, and deeply appreciative of attending this school. The respect shown to the teacher from the students was clearly visible, and admired by me very much.

After the show was over, we walked to the courtyard where all of the students and parents were gathered. My friend was engaged in conversations with a few of the parents and they showed serious interest in our work. We showed a few albums to them, and the level of interest increased even more. My friend asked me if we would arrange a session later in the week... and my answer to him was immediate: why not now!

The courtyard was the perfect place, with one tall white wall reflecting the sun beautifully like a giant soft box. We set up our cameras and began photographing each student, one by one, for perhaps less than one minute. We managed to photograph all of the students within one hour, and then made arrangements to return on another day for a more complete session.

We were shown incredible respect by all, and most of all by the teacher. She spoke with me like a dear old friend would speak with me, with kindness and understanding. She seemed familiar with my work, perhaps with my mindset. We returned a few days later with images from both sessions and presented such to her. She thought we were only showing them to her, until we insisted that she keep the images for her school and for the students. She was just incredible.

This past summer we visited once again the school, and made arrangements on several occasions to photograph in private a few other students. Our access to the students and to the parents was unlimited, and we managed to arrange four sessions altogether. The last of the sessions included the teacher and two of her students. We picked them up at the teacher's home, then drove out to the Pan American Stadium once again for the afternoon.

Watching her work and then the students move was enlightening. While the students did beautifully, it was obvious to all present that true talent existed only in one at that moment. Even though she had perhaps decades of experience compared to my limited time with fashion/modeling, she allowed me to suggest certain spaces and themes. We worked at the entrance to the stadium, on the grand stairs... then moved to a small white supply building for that famous white wall facing west.

We worked for almost two hours and then headed back into town. Rather than being dropped off first, she chose to drive with us while we dropped off her students... almost an hour and a half of driving due to the distance between their homes. She was so patient and never complained. Her voice was soft and sublime, always speaking with a smile.

I look forward to years of collaborations with her, and cannot imagine what we will accomplish.
Halim Ina Photography

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