Monday, June 30, 2014

Refugee + Camp, Uttar Pradesh, India, December of 2013

This young girl's portrait was made in the midst of a most chaotic scene just an hour or so over the border of Uttar Pradesh, India. We drove to these camps to document the faces affected by the most recent acts of sectarian violence in this region. Tens of thousands of people were displaced, forced to live in camps with barely the minimum to survive. In the middle of one of these camps we set up and attracted  over one hundred children almost immediately. 

The boys were photographed first in order to calm things down, then it was time for the girls. They sat down behind us and to our right. We started with those possessing less pronounced facial features, so as to minimize shadows under the eyes and so forth. My friend and translator was kind enough to explain our process to the girls, and without exception all of them remained until their portraits were made, and even afterward at the periphery watching their friends being photographed. 

It was during this process that this young girl walked up without being asked. She was about to be escorted back when I asked my friend to allow me her portrait. People were pretty surprised that she would interest me, but it was obvious at the time that her portrait needed to be made. I recognized the texture of her hair from my experiences with the Bedouin of Lebanon, but was taken back by the layer of dust on her face… an almost reddish appearance highlighted by bright yellow areas such as the one on the tip of her nose. She was flawless and remains etched in my memory.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Student + Me, Girls Bridge School, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, 2013

Less than seven days remaining until Cuba, today was spent printing images of the girls from India to show the girls in Cuba. Through the same camera lenses all of their spirits have passed and it is only fitting that they meet each other through the image. In this image a new face stands next to me and it is this enthusiasm that drives this work, the love within her reaction that allows it to flourish. She now attends classes in one of the Humana People to People India schools for girls reopened since last year. Through our local efforts this has been made possible.

We were walking around looking for some of the students when we walked by her home. She was at the end of the dirt path leading to her house, just ten or so meters to my right in this image. Her smile welcomed us into her family's space and her brother without a single note of hesitation allowed me to photograph her almost immediately. We had a nice hour of photography, then some incredible tea before heading back to the school. To my great surprise she was one of the girls chosen to attend the new school for girls in the village. When any doubts pass through me regarding this project, I only need to look at her face and feel her expression to know that this is right, that this is true.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Young Woman + Floor Drawings, Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November of 2013

On the other side of the world this image was made. Spontaneously we decided one afternoon to accept our driver's invitation to visit his home. He was and is of course more than a driver to me, he is my brother in Rajasthan. When we did visit his house this face was the face that greeted us. We were looking at the house across the street when she walked up to us with this incredibly curious face. She was so strong, like a beautiful spirit living in the wild and now being seen for the first time. At least this was my perception of her, and the next day the countless facets to her person began showing themselves to me… and teaching me that the cover says very little about the book. The drawings on the floor of her courtyard were done by the very hands under her chin, priceless.

After seeing her image on Google+, a dear friend shared the following with us:

'Masha'Allah, such a beautiful thread she is, weaving in and out of the landscape like she is a part of it, then she becomes part of it with hands in dirt, making her internal, intangible feelings come to life as art. Love it!'

Marcus Lowe

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mother + Child, School for Girls, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November of 2013

In one of the newly reopened schools sits a young woman and her son. Hearing that we were making portraits of the students, other villagers stopped by hoping to have their pictures made. This is one such example.

Now in their sixth month, the schools are thriving. My friends have visited each one of them and have shared stories of inspiration with me. Having lost their positions four years ago, the very same teachers from four years ago have taken up the challenge and recruited dropout girls and others without access to education.

Humana People to People India has provided them with a detailed curriculum, study materials, field trips, a support system and so much more. Girls having never left their village now have a chance to attend a cultural event, see girls just like them from other villages and even go to the state capital of Jaipur. I am proud to be a part of this effort, and will revisit the villages in ten months or so.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Man + Hands, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2013

As we walk the streets of Havana, we see from time to time someone willing to be photographed. A simple glance of approval is usually enough for us to stop for a chat, and to ask for the portrait to be made.

This man's presence was quite sublime, spoke only with his expressions and gestures. He allowed us to expose a few frames, even placed his hands in various positions for our cameras. I know very little about him other than location, but will do better this year while also handing him these and more images.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Woman + Hands, La Habana Vieja, Cuba, Summer of 2013

As we walked back down the street to find the other girls from our photography last year, this woman approached me and asked for her portrait to be made. The girls walking with me told me that she was an eccentric, and perhaps also prone to drinking. Hand language was used to tell me so, rather than the spoken word. Rarely in the mood to refuse a portrait, I accepted her proposal and we unpacked the reflector and set up the camera. As it turned out, she was incredibly expressive and we exposed four or so frames in the process.

We bid her farewell and then walked to find the other girls. This neighborhood happens to be, according to my Cuban friends, a most distressed one. My friends have always been surprised at my access to these girls, and see my free-walking from house to house as quite remarkable. To me however it seems natural, to ask about a young girl with a photograph in my hand and to follow the lead to the house in which she lives. My experience has shown me that almost all respond in a positive manner, ask questions initially to better understand the work and then provide access to their family once understanding is achieved.
I look forward to visiting this neighborhood in less than three weeks, and to share the photographs from last year with all of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Refugee + Camp, Uttar Pradesh, India, November 23, 2013

On November 23 of last year her portrait was made in a small camp just inside Uttar Pradesh, India. She was then living within a collection of tents just outside of the village proper, driven out of her home months ago by unimaginable violence between two communities. The people of the neighboring village have been kind enough to provide temporary housing as well as the land for them to build more permanent structures. Our host family for the evening before was actually the driving force behind this generosity, and their home was a mere 100 meters or so from her humble tent. 

We arrived early in the morning thinking that the children would be sleeping, but were surprised when almost all of them quickly gathered when hearing of the photography. The presence of our host family enabled us to make portraits of the girls first, quite a feat in light of the fact that this was a most conservative Muslim community. A few men stepped forward to help with the work, and one was exceptionally talented at styling the girls prior to their appearance in front of the lens. 

This young woman's presence is made that much more exceptional in that she was only moment's before unaware of this event. She presents herself here for us to witness the power of her spirit, unfiltered and unadorned. My memory of her is as clear today as it was six or so months ago. By my reaction she was aware of her effect on me, and knew the immensity of her power… yet was sublime in her approach. Her features are of course without equal, few could match her physical beauty regardless of fame or money. In spite of what she has been forced to witness, or perhaps because of such, her expression is one of understanding and kindness. I will always remember this about her, and am grateful for having spent one minute in her presence.

Note: This portrait was made with a Sony RX100M2, edited for size and contrast only.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Young Girl + Ballerina, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2013

t is supremely simple to make a headshot to match what publications have to offer when the subject is true, honest and timeless. Everything came together with very little effort to make this set. Massive teams of designers were missing, as were those applying artificial coloring to her skin. One afternoon she was playing make-believe with my host's daughter and the very next afternoon she was doing the same in front of the lens. We worked on the rooftop of the building, while the girls took breaks from the hot sun to change between outfits. Their mothers sat under the shade of a water tank, and were deeply impressed at how natural their daughters were in front of the camera.

These portraits were made in Havana, Cuba during last summer's visit to the island.They will soon have these pictures, as well as dozens more as gratitude for allowing me to document them.

Note: These portraits were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film with only sunlight and a white wall behind the subject.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hands + Kitchen, Refugee Camp, Uttar Pradesh, India, December of 2013

These are the hands that make such beautiful and purposeful structures; these are the hands responsible for feeding the children of these camps. We walked through this camp with the permission of the families, and were kindly allowed to make such images in order to help document their present state as a community. Late last year these people were driven from their villages through sectarian violence, with many seeing violence most of us would be unable to imagine. They have been given land by the surrounding villages and have started the construction of simple mud brick homes.

Witnessing such generosity makes it that much more difficult to conceive of the opposite responsible for its need. The children for the most part carried beautiful smiles, although it was also quite evident to see a deep sense of pain on just as many faces. I hope to return to these camps next year and to see fragile tents replaced by safer homes, worry with hope.

Note: These images were made with a Sony RX100M2, edited for size and contrast only.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Model + Lake Erie, Mentor Headlands, Ohio, Summer of 2014

This past week I had a chance to try a new camera for the upcoming trip toCuba, and was fortunate enough to have had this wonderful spirit as a volunteer. We met at Mentor Headlands before sunrise and worked for two hours or so. We started with a ballet theme and then moved onto more abstract thoughts. It seems that I have found the perfect place for photography right here in northeast Ohio!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Refugee + Camp, Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, India, December of 2013

One of the camps we visited at the end of last year, here shown from a distance. The boys were photographed in the back of the camp against the tall, natural background. The people living here were victims of the most recent sectarian violence in Uttar Pradesh, India. Over 100,000 people were living in these conditions, spread among 25 camps. They live without electricity, without lights and without a water supply. The camps are located in the middle of nowhere, without access to education, medicine nor governmental assistance. As a matter of face, we were the first to visit the camps with the aim to document visually the conditions at the time.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Model + Hair Up, Modeling School, Artemisa, Cuba, Summer of 2013

Last summer we visited a small school for modeling a few hours outside of Havana, Cuba. This small town turned out to contain a most enthusiastic group of young women, completely interested in this project. On two of our visits we had nothing but clouds above us, giving us little option regarding lighting. 

One spontaneous day we were in between morning and evening sessions, and had wonderful weather above us. We called their instructor and she advised that blue skies were also above her in Artemisa. So we made the hour and a half drive, using the reflector rather than direct sunlight for our photography. My dear friend Alejandro was kind enough to hold the reflector the entire time, and the young women changed between outfits with professionalism and drive.

I look forward to engaging them once again, and in direct sunlight. We shall see!

Note: This portrait was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180mm combination with a reflector, onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Model + Smile, Pan American Stadium, Havana, Cuba, Summer of 2013

Tonight is being spent printing her images and those of her friends. We started this afternoon by meeting at the Professor's apartment, and made to trips to the Pan American Stadium since there were too many of us for one ride in Alejandro's 1954 Chevy. Since the sun had disappeared behind a thick layer of clouds, I held the reflector for Eduardo and he made images with his digital camera. It was refreshing for me to assist rather than photograph for once on the island.

As we were taking our last images, the sun suddenly appeared and without saying a single word Eduardo and I ran for our film gear. In between loading our cameras we shared our thoughts with the women and they quickly arranged themselves to be photographed against the white wall. This spirit happened to be Eduardo's favorite, and we worked together to make her images while trying to diminish Eduardo's clear leaning to her features. The latter was useless, but we hopefully managed to make beautiful pictures for her. Soon we will find out if she will be pleased.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Friend + Beach, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2013

During last year's visit to Cuba my plan was to photograph only the one known to me. Then one day two of her friends happened to be hanging outside of her building and showed interest in the photography. One was on the fence and told me that perhaps her boyfriend would disapprove. My answer to her was somewhat like this: while I wish you nothing but success with your boyfriend, at least the images we will make today will last a lifetime. She ran inside, gathered her things and off we went.

This was one of her friends, and I look forward to documenting all three of them once again this summer.