Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Girl, Student, Humana People to People, Chota Village, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2008

On the seventh roll of film and with the seventh exposure her portrait was made in the courtyard of her teacher. It was cloudy earlier but the sun appeared just in time for a short session. A wall to her right was low enough to allow the light in but tall enough for the sake of privacy. She has been included in my work since the first year and has come to know me quite well. She was once shy but has now gained a level of confidence displayed in the image above.

I have always enjoyed working in her village, it's both peaceful and engaging. The teacher welcomes us as family and has prepared many meals for us, always a bit hot for me but nonetheless very tasty. As long as plenty of water is available, I continue to eat and they continue to laugh. In my last recent correspondences with the good people of Humana People to People India, I have been informed that the same teacher would like to continue with this work and that classes will be held in this same courtyard.

When photographing the girls, the only sound is the sound of joy heard through their voices. Although the commotion can at times overwhelm me, it is both natural and expected under the circumstances. My only concern usually is to include all of the girls before the light becomes less than ideal. At a lower angle girls with deep facial features are selected... and when the sun reaches a higher angle shallower features are selected thus preventing deeper shadows under the eyes and chin.

This past weekend the future of her school was secured for at least one year, and now any funds generated from this point forward will go towards securing the following year. Humana People to People India, while promoting the education of girls in this village, does much more. In this same house they have facilitated the installation of a solar station. Families from the village will come to collect solar lanterns just before sunset in order to use at home, in exchange for a nominal fee supporting the family hosting the station. The next morning they return the lanterns to be recharged. It really is an incredibly powerful scene, one that has moved me on several occasions.

In addition to the solar stations, the foundation works with farmers to discuss pertinent, new technologies and provides a forum for a collective discussion. In another program women collectively apply their financial strengths to provide loans between the group and individuals within the group in order to promote small businesses.

The image made above, rather than existing in a vacuum, is part of a larger movement and one for which I will continue to show my support.

Halim Ina Photography

Monday, April 29, 2013

Girl, Student, Temple, Humana People to People, Khera Village, Rajasthan, India, November 16, 2009

Early this morning we decide to make images to the side of the classroom, which also happens to be to the side of the local temple. The villagers were kind enough to allow us this space to work and the girls, one by one, stood for their portraits. Some were more at ease in front of the lens and some were less so, but all were themselves. Directly behind me is the local water well, and behind me to the right by perhaps 50 meters is a path that takes us to the teacher's home, in which I have been treated with deep love and respect on numerous occasions.

In this village Humana People to People India intends to reopen a Girls Bridge School staffed by the same, wonderful teacher. They have spoken to her and her family, and they have both agreed on continuing with this good work. The village itself is surrounded by open fields and quite distant from the main road. The sound of girls reciting the alphabet can be heard from a distance, and I have had the honor of recording such lessons in the past.

This past weekend a benefit was held at Artistic Muse Gallery to highlight the schools and their purpose in these villages. With the generous support of countless people, sufficient funds were raised to support three of the five schools outlined in my conversation with Humana People to People India. This, along with the funds raised earlier this year, means that we can now concentrate on raising funding/awareness for next year's goal.

This year's visit to the villages promises to be deeply inspirational and enlightening.

Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Woman, Banjara Community, Rajasthan, India, November 10, 2009

On the very first roll and with the very first exposure her portrait was made on this day. Nirvana and the good team of Nirvanavan Foundation were my guides along with a young man from this community who also happened to work at the hotel. He advised us that he could take us early in the morning and help us with the photography.

She lived in the very first group of homes that we visited, and all were quite receptive to our presence. We talked for a little over fifteen minutes and then set up for the session with this white wall as our background, in line with my formal portraits. The sun had yet to rise and gently touched her face, leaving very little regarding a shadow.

Only the women were present, along with the children. Due to our friend's presence it seemed much easier to work, and we included the women in the photography. She was one such woman and was brave enough to stand first for her portrait. I worked both in color and black/white, exchanging backs on the camera as the textures/colors changed in front of me.

They were just waking up and so the mood was quite serene and quiet. The location of the homes, a distance from the main road, helped make it even more peaceful. We worked for perhaps one hour or so and then moved onto the next set of homes.

The excitement was increased in that we never knew about the people on the other side of the hill, or at the end of the path. Only our guide knew and we followed. The biggest challenge was certainly speaking to the older men and gaining their trust. Almost every single young girl wanted to be photographed, and of course the boys without question.

Humana People to People India works with these communities under their Academies for Working Children. As with many migrants, work happens to be what is available for the men, and fending for sustenance for the children. Many work in dangerous situations on the streets, ranging from garbage collection to hustling in the local town to working as maids in the nearby homes.

They are seen as undesirable, if seen at all. I however am in love with them, in love with their way of life, in love with their level of independence and in love with their features. I will return later this year to photograph them, and hope that they remember me.

Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Student + Bangles, Humana People to People India, Chota Village, Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008

This was the tenth exposure on the twentieth roll of film for the day. We had visited this village on numerous occasions over the past three years and were once again making portraits of the girls attending classes in collaboration with Humana People to People India.

They had become familiar with me in this village and were less formal as a result. They would tease me a bit when my face turned red during a meal, or advised me that they were married even though most were yet to become teenagers. The stark reality was that most of them were married, and yet they remained resilient and optimistic.

The young girl above had become relaxed enough to take a position for her portrait, showing off her bangles in the process. She was smiling at her classmates and sisters standing less than five or so meters away. Standing on a chair to elevate her from the earth, she gave me perhaps five minutes to make this image as well as a few others.

Her hair was short and her limbs were most sinuous, in line with the rest of the girls in this rural land. One however would never think so when they saw these girls do the chores of most adults, carry water for long distances and perform continuous physical acts of labor throughout the long day. While slight in physical stature, these beautiful girls are as strong mentally as any from my travel experiences.

She might be returning from gathering water and instantly smile when she sees us, then go inside and get ready for the photography. Once done she will help her mother arrange our meal and then sit against a wall in her courtyard watching us enjoy her family's generosity. Then she will gather the dishes for washing and help her mother get dinner ready for her family.

During this specific meal a guest from the States happened to be with us, herself doing important work in southern India. She was touched deeply by the children and their excitement. While being served our meal she pointed out to me that perhaps we should refrain from eating because all of the children were seated against that same wall watching us being served. She thought that perhaps we should share our meal with them, that it was inappropriate for us to eat while they were without food.

It might have been easy to  be offended by her reactions, for it seemed reasonable to assume that I would have had the sensitivity to the very beautiful spirits I had come thousands of miles away to document. Although I wanted to set her straight in an altogether different manner, I placed myself in her sandals and shared my experiences regarding this matter with her.

Years earlier it was made clear to me by the good team of Humana People to People India that guests are to eat first, while the family waited for the guest to finish before entertaining their own meal. On every single occasion this proved to be the reality. The families would serve us and wait in the corridors of their home in case we needed anything, coming back from time to time to check on the water or perhaps the food. To do anything else but eat with gratitude would be considered inappropriate in itself.

We finished our meal and shared our appreciation for their kindness. A few meters away and a day or so later the above portrait was made. It is her village in which we hope to reopen a school and have a benefit in six days to help make this a reality for her and forty or so other girls.

Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Passage of Time, Young Girl, Havana, Cuba, 2005 - 2012

Almost eight years differentiate these two images, but perhaps much more than that in terms of her life experiences. She lives on the island of Cuba and has seen more in her young life than many. She lives with her extended family in a home converted from a corner store decades ago. The home lacks windows and is beyond hot in the summer, complicated by the metal walls that were once the vertically sliding doors of the store.

In the first image she posed for me in front of her home, as we found her playing with her friends a few minutes prior. We of course asked her mother and were given permission to photograph her without preparation. The sun was about to set, so what one sees here is the sun just above her own building striking her face. Twenty or so minutes later the sun disappeared, but our friendship was formed.

The latter image was made this past July, on top of my friend's home. The choice of location was made in order to give her more privacy, since she has now become a bit older. Her mother prepared her with a dark outfit, and we photographed for perhaps an hour or so under the grueling sun. In the middle of the summer one of the variables is the heat, but this young spirit perseveres always.

She is the star of her neighborhood which happens to be one of the most visited by tourists in the capital. It is a community of artists, the walls are a testament to their artistic skills. Gatherings are constant, and music is always in the air. Her family is in charge of the street along with others, and she walks freely and with confidence along with her siblings and cousins. 

She is quite the performer. Many have photographed her, and she has met more than her share of tourists, and remains quite unimpressed by it all. 

Few in my experience have her range of emotion, at times extremely happy and then at a moment's notice quite sad. It is perhaps this that makes her images so striking and moves me to return year after year to her home. My friend's apartment is less than a two minute walk from her home, and I usually find myself walking over at night to just hang out with the family. 

I hope that she remains curious about the work and allows me to photograph her this summer also. I have a feeling that much has changed and that perhaps it's her time to grow out of the project. Time will tell, my fingers will be crossed.

Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Ballerina, Pan American Stadium, La Habana, Cuba, Afternoon of July 9, 2012

Long gone are the days when she was a passive participant in the process. She has in her collaborations last year claimed her rightful place within my work and become a profoundly creative spirit. She needs little direction and stakes her claim to the images with every pose, with every movement. Working with her is more than effortless, it rejuvenates my desire to go on with the work on the island with every click of the shutter.

Certainly I am prone to exaggeration... but in her case the paragraph above is an understatement.

Anything requested for the sake of the work she complies. She comes prepared with the help of her mother for each session, with her hair perfectly in place and her outfit neatly worn. When asked to let her hair down, she is a lioness in front of the lens. Around the Pan American Stadium she would run, looking for new places. In doing so she expanded my view and helped create a deeply moving book.

Even on this overcast day she came filled with energy. I was of course disappointed for her, but she took it upon herself to help me work with the light available. Looking back at this afternoon session, it is easy for me to feel her heart and her kindness. The mood of these images is sublime, void of shadows.

Sure, she knows the fixed positions taught to her in ballet class. She will at certain times show them to me. Then there are those times when she moves to her own beat, and lets the fabric attached to her flow with the wind just as freely.

I adore her and she is quite aware of this fact, since I have told her on numerous occasions. We have had meals together, spent endless hours at her family's home, celebrated her birthday for several years now since it happens to coincide usually with my visits in the summer. As long as she wants to be photographed I will want to photograph her.

She is without equal, very much like her sisters on the island.

Halim Ina Photography

Friday, April 5, 2013

Student + Straw + Stool, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

Here she sits in an open courtyard and under the shade of a large tree. We lost the ability to use direct sunlight, and decided to pursue photography with indirect light. She and her friends were patient enough with us as we fooled around a bit with the reflector, and the location of the session. Her friends were standing to my right, perhaps five or so meters away. Behind me were maybe two dozen people from a distance watching the proceedings underway.

Earlier in the morning we lost much time waiting for the teacher at her home, although she was advised of our need to begin early. All was however made up to us we thought with a nice round of hot tea. Sometimes I forget that this is all voluntary and that much is asked of the people helping with the photography, not to mention to subjects of the photography themselves.

As we arrived at the school it was evident to me that the teacher was less than enthusiastic about the photography. She went through with the motions but was quite aggressive with the girls, lacking a smile and pushing them when their time came to sit for their portraits. So much so that I needed to stop the work and advise that she needed to change her demeanor for the sake of the girls at least. Needless to say she was less than pleased with my reaction, and moved in the opposite direction emotionally.

Clearly the girls were very uncomfortable with something, and when the teacher was asked to dismiss herself, their mood changed for the better. All of a sudden they showed themselves as excited about the photography, and really wanted it to continue. We decided to forget about the issues beforehand and looked for a place to go on with the work. This is how we ended up at the location above, and with that expression.

I so miss these beautiful spirits and wish to return to do better for them. This I hope will happen later this year, along with the reopening of five schools for girls. Two benefits will be held this summer to this end, and out of respect for the young girl above and her friends.

Halim Ina Photography