Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ballerina + Beach, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Looking back at this past year, the feeling is that of appreciation and gratitude. From the dancers of Cuba to the students in those incredible schools of Humana People to People India, what they have given to me can never be equaled from my end. They do so without asking, and such is the purest gift shown to me over the past year.

This young girl is one such example, performing on the beach as if she was performing on a grand stage without hesitation. After we finished I asked her to sit on the sand and express herself through seated positions. Her friends were standing behind her, as was Alejandro.

Although the waves would hit her now and then, she performed seemingly without effort. While we have only known each other through a handful of collaborations, she and her friends come along with their grandmothers even when we ask to pick them up an hour before sunrise.

At least the past two years we have remained at the beach after the photography to allow the girls to play in the sand, to swim in the water and try to jump the waves as they come to shore. I look forward to more of this, and wish everyone a Happy New Year on her behalf and all of those I have met on my travels.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/50 FLE combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ballerina + Beach, Triple Image, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Lost in scanning negatives this evening once again, yet another day with the magnificent one below. How many photographers can be blessed with such a gift in front of their camera? 

Within a span of seconds she produces three priceless images one after the other on this roll of film, and this after a full session out of the water. During my time with her this summer she offered to come along with us almost every day, whether we were photographing her or someone else. She just wanted to be a part of it all, and accepted any vision we had for her while at the same time expressing a vision of her own.

She is truly sublime, perfect without trying to be.

Note: These exposures were made with a Fuji GA645Zi onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ballerina + Beach, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

The scans for Cuba began today, immediately going to the new format negatives with excitement. The young girl in this image was the reason for this new approach, photography while in the water along with her. A 'new' analog camera was purchased using the same medium format film as the more formal system, along with shorts and sandals for my first swim in the waters of the island.

Aside from my decision to visit Cuba, this seemingly innocuous change to my work made such a difference. Rather than photographing for an hour and then heading back to the city, the mornings now included playing alongside these beautiful spirits for hours after the camera was put down.

Standing in the water next to them, a hundred feet from the shore, with nothing but warm water around us, made my time with them that much more precious. The images made represent a new excitement in the work, and even now take me back immediately to those incredible waters.

Note: This image was made with a Fuji GA645Zi onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dancer + Wind, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2013

A few minutes ago my phone rang with an 'unknown' number, and a message was left for me to hear. One would be hard pressed to conceive of a sweeter gift on this Christmas Eve!

The voice was that of her mother, wishing me and my family 'Feliz Navidad' all the way from Cuba. Almost four months have passed since my time with them this summer, and the feelings came rushing back immediately upon hearing the message.

I hurried and dialed their number, and guess who answered?

Yes, the exquisite spirit in this image!

We spoke for around 15 minutes, the entire time with me imagining her standing at the table with the phone next to her ear.

She told me about the other girls from the ballet school, classmates as well as instructors… how all of them sent their greetings and love my way through her, and how they were also waiting for next summer to arrive as well.

She then told me that when we see each other next summer, she will be speaking English with me, that she was well on her way with her lessons. I then asked her, which lesson are you studying right now? She paused and, with a chuckle, told me that she was on lesson 10.

We talked for a few minutes as I expressed my admiration and love for her. As she listened, I once again imagined her next to that table with the same smile my eyes witnessed as the same words were expressed to her the very night we bid each other farewell four months ago.

Who would have ever imagined that a spontaneous portrait over six years ago would have led to such a moment tonight? This is what happens when we put ourselves out there with honest intent, and such is the reward.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Student + Shawl, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, Fall of 2007

When I saw her face eight years ago, I knew this was the place for me. In the middle of a field next to her village we made this image, as she floated effortlessly above all that is earthly.

This image was made possible through my collaboration with Humana People to People India. The simplicity of it however masks the complexities in making such a portrait, the difficulty of her young life. She wakes up before sunrise to her never-ending tasks, and goes to sleep only after everyone else has already done so.

Before the foundation she lacked access to school. What sadness for anyone to imagine? what tragedy for anyone to realize?

Through the foundation, she attended classes for three hours a day, in between her chores. She learned the alphabet and the numbers along with other girls from her village, recited them out loud for all to hear.

In order for this portrait to have been made, she had to step in front of the lens with countless eyes on her. She had to overcome the lessons passed on from generation to generation in her world, the idea that the feminine was of less value than the masculine.

I remember having a conversation with a young man near her village one day. He was telling me how the men and women worked equally in the villages, and went on in great detail. As he was talking, I was looking at his mother preparing our meal tirelessly, his older sister washing the clothes with her bare hands and his younger sister coming back from a long walk carrying water almost a fourth of her weight on her head… all this while he sat on the bench across from me in his pressed clothes and neatly trimmed hair.

This is what the young girl has to endure day to day. Yet in this portrait all gloves are off, nobody will dictate such lessons to her. Less than ten meters away stand those with other plans for her, while she glances at the horizon past them at the possibilities. Whatever happens in her future, at this very moment and in this image she displays an enlightenment others only dream of achieving.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Elder + Countryside, Guanabacoa, Cuba, Summer of 2014

The day was spent in the darkroom printing amongst a few negatives this beautiful man's portrait. We drove to Alejandro's neighborhood to visit his son, and ended up meeting his son's father-in-law as we started on our way to photograph the village. When I asked to photograph him, both Alejandro and this exquisite man had some fun with it. He allowed us immediately, and then went on his way to tend to his land.

This past summer was different, in light of the two months on the island. We had more time to talk with the families, to accept their invitations to birthday parties and to indulge ourselves with just driving away from the big city. In the countryside life was very different, allowing us to breathe a bit while taking in the changes. In six months I look forward to yet another summer inCuba, and to furthering this work as only this incredible land has allowed me to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Dancers + Racquetball Court, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

One day after I met these two beautiful children, we made these images near the beach at the racquetball courts. She and her family are on my mind as the relationship between Cuba and the States seems to be changing. 

What will happen to their way of life; how will the world around them be transformed? Will it be possible to meet a family like them in the future on the island, and collaborate with immediate trust the very next morning?

These images were made possible through a simple conversation the day before, started with an exchange regarding fruit for sale. After talking for less than an hour, we agreed on meeting the next morning one hour before sunrise and heading out to the racquetball courts near the beach. The courts would serve as the perfect stage for their performance, and then the children could run to the beach for a morning in the water.

While this family lives less than two blocks away from the sea, they rarely get the chance to visit the beaches of their own island. The cost of transportation alone prevents them from doing such. So to see them playing in the water after a serious session of photography brought me a deep sense of joy, to be able to give back a tenth of what they had given to me.

These are digital samples of the film images, and I cannot wait to print their analog equivalents soon in the darkroom.

Note: These images were made with a Sony RX100M2, edited for size and contrast only. They were made at Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba this past summer.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Syrian Boy - Refugee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2001

The beginning of my photographic journey included this young Syrian boy living in Lebanon, surviving with his family as migrant workers. They lived a five minute drive from my family's house, but existed in a very different world. In tents they slept, without the most basic of 'conveniences' while they worked in the fields under the hot sun for less than $2 a day.

I look back at these images and try to remember the moment the shutter was released. I remember which side of the dirt path this was made, and the tent perhaps. In those days indirect light was used to make these portraits, and the interiors of rooms as backdrops.

I wonder where he is now, has he gone back to Syria and returned since then?

Note: His portrait was made with a Hasselblad 501 CM/120 mm lens combination.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ballerinas - Water, Santa Maria del Mar, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2013

Last year I felt the urge to join the dancers in the water, but was held back photographically. The minute I returned to the States I purchased a vintage medium format point-and-shoot camera, quite different than the more static equipment used for these sessions. I went back and forth, wondering if I had made the right decision.

Then came the time this past summer to join them in the water, to feel the warmth of the ocean and to be within a meter of them while holding a camera by hand. This was also the first time I wore shorts and a t-shirt on the island, and I felt the freedom of it all immediately.

Reading reviews and making decisions mentally is one thing, holding the camera in my hand while hearing the girls laughing in front of me is an entirely different matter altogether. These images would have been impossible before, yet felt so natural this past summer. Now I can't imagine being so far away from them, and look forward to printing these in the darkroom much sooner than later. 

These young girls, one a veteran and the other a rookie, worked together like they had known each other for years… when the fact is that they had just met. The older one, familiar to many of you, wanted to work with two younger dancers and be their mentor photographically. She was that and much more, increasing the range of this work and bringing even more fun to it all.

I cannot wait to show them these images, and to do it all over again next summer!

Note: These are rough scans through the negative sleeves, exposed by a Fuji GA645Wi.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Four Years Later, Pan American Stadium, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Today was spent beginning the scans of the film from this summer in Cuba. A good quarter of it was scanned, and this is but one example from the first 100 rolls. She is well known to those familiar with my work, and is fourteen years young in this portrait. This is her fourth year with me, and I hope to photograph her again next year in order to present her with a book of photographs for her very important 15th birthday.