Monday, January 21, 2013

Monica, Daughter + Mother, Pan American Stadium, La Habana, Cuba, July 24, 2012

My friend told me about a young woman interested in being photographed and we decided to visit her at an event. She happened to be showing her modified car at a show in a suburb of the city, and we arrived in our own classic, although nobody gave us a second look. I remember feeling a bit funny when Alejandro parked his 1957 Chevy next to the pristine vehicles in the parking lot. While their cars were for show, Alejandro actually used his car as a taxi and a daily driver.

We walked up to her and introduced ourselves. She was very pleasant and introduced us to her husband as well, the owner of a well-to-do restaurant in the center of the city. It was at this time that the young woman above came over to greet us. She was a friend as well, and worked with the couple to whom we were just introduced. Her English was as perfect as her Spanish, and she was kind enough to use both to help me understand more so.

When she saw my work in the book, she was deeply touched... more so than most in my experience. She looked at each portrait with intent, continuously telling the others to see for themselves. She was impressed with the portfolio... but I was impressed with her reaction even more so. We offered to include her in our work and she jumped at the chance. We decided to meet the next day, pick them up at their respective homes, and head over to our favorite spot, the Pan American Stadium just outside of the city.

We arrived the next day near her home and waited for her on a corner. I stepped outside of the car to wait, and get an idea of her situation. She came walking down the street with a bagful of clothes. She was more than prepared, and all of her clothing was as requested by us, dark and timeless.

Our session was in the afternoon, and the sun appeared brightly for us. It was still early so we waited a little bit under the shade of a tree. The young women changed into their first pieces, and we began on the steps of the stadium. To say that Monica was a natural would be an understatement. She was a stranger the day before and now was giving of herself like a person intimately familiar with my work. She moved from one expression to another, but also paused just enough to allow me time to photograph.

She never complained about the sun, the temperature or the time needed. I worked with film and with the digital camera as well in order to give them a book of photographs later in the week. Monica would change to two more outfits by the end of our session, and allow me to make close portraits of her as well at another location perhaps 100 meters away. We worked for two hours and then headed back home, dropping Monica off at the same corner from which we found her.

Many adjectives come to mind when thinking of Monica, but the two most dominant are gentle and loving. She was drawn to the people in my portfolio and now has become one with them. I look forward to seeing her this July, and hope to further our collaboration.
Halim Ina Photography

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