Sunday, May 5, 2013

Amanda + Four Years, La Habana, Cuba, 2008 - 2012

Four years stand in between these two images, yet perhaps she's lived a lifetime. We met in front of her dance studio and have since become family. My visits to the island always include her and her best friend. She lives on the top floor of a four story building, while her best friend lives on the floor level of an identical building just a minute's walk away.

They live in a small town just outside of the capital called Alamar. The beach is within walking distance of their apartments, and can be seen clearly from her balcony. Including her first image at the dance studio, all of our sessions have been within a hundred meters or so of the sea. She was the second dancer to allow me to photograph her almost five years ago now, and had the most luminous smile. 

I remember walking into this grand square and seeing all of these beautiful girls dressed in black, my absolute favorite color for photography. They happened to be ballerinas waiting for classes to begin. After a few minutes to gather my courage and twenty or so minutes speaking to a few parents, a makeshift studio was arranged against a white column and we began making portraits. Perhaps a dozen or so girls were photographed, and seventeen exposures were made of her alone.

The most beautiful light was coming from across the square, the sun was striking the white walls of an enormous building. The tones on her skin were magical, and she knew it. Her hair was perfect, and her outfit timeless.

Since that first session we have had countless more over three more visits to the island. With every year she has grown more beautiful and luminous, and has never lost interest in our work. While as a teenager she is more reserved with her affection towards the work, her mother tells me when Amanda is out of the room that she adores the images and always looks forward to the photography.

The range of her expressions has increased immensely, and taken on a more complex presentation. In one image she reminds me of that first expression, then she perhaps reflects on experiences since then and displays a most introspective countenance such as in the second image. While this may seem challenging to some, to me it is a chance to learn more about her on her emotional turf rather than the other way around.

I remember as we were finishing this last session, she seemed to be experiencing a difficult time. With my limited Spanish I walked up to her and asked of her one more roll for me, for an old friend. She shared with me the most gentle smile, and let us continue for a bit more. The result of this level of communication is the image to the right in the above set.

Amanda is admired and respected by me immensely, and I look forward to possibly improving on these portraits in eight or so weeks. She has a young brother now, and her family is growing. I wonder how she will react to me and my work this year, but can only hope for more of her kindness.
Halim Ina Photography

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