Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dancer + Racquetball Court, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2014

As more and more teachers learned about my collaboration with their students, more wanted to be included in the work. This young woman was one such instructor, and approached us through one of her students. We talked over the phone and arranged to meet before sunrise the next morning, bringing along the student responsible for sharing our work with the school.

Unfortunately the clouds were against us, but we still managed to work with higher sensitivity film in the beginning and even the usual as the clouds disappeared for the rest of the morning. The water on the floor of the racquetball court gave us a beautiful texture missing from our previous visits.
This young woman was both kind and generous with her talent, cooperating with us the entire time without hesitation. When asked to step in front of the lens, she would do so ready to perform as if she was on the stage.

My hope for her is that we have a better morning this summer, that the clouds cooperate and that we produce images worthy of her spirit.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180mm combination onto Kodak TMY 400 ISO film.

Friday, January 30, 2015

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

I met this young woman as she was performing with a group in my friend's hotel. The style of dance was flamenco, but the musicians mixed traditional sounds with more contemporary, popular songs as well. The very next morning the entire group and I headed to the beach for a photographic and recording session… and had a heck of a time!

There was however something about her, and another dancer. I approached the leader of the group for permission to photograph them on another day, then approached them with his permission granted. They accepted gladly and we arranged for another morning especially for two.

They were both ready well before sunrise, an hour actually. We drove out to the beach and both brought with them a few outfits for the event. They worked beautifully together, helped each other get ready and showed nothing that resembled competition during the entire morning.

While I thought they would hesitate to get into the water, even onto the sand, they loved every minute of it and without hesitation did so. In this image she threw herself down, was perfectly poised as the waves gently struck her now and then.

All of us went back to their homes, and transferred all of the images for their families to see. To be able to hang out with the families as they enjoyed the images made just an hour or so before was truly magical.

I look forward to her surprise this summer as she receives an album filled with images very much like the one shown here!

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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

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

Sitting here in this frozen city made me want to post something a bit warmer. What is almost unimaginable for me is that these images were made just last year, in a place worlds apart from here. Yet these images were made in the same time zone, less than four hours flight from this very spot!

Almost every other morning last summer we visited the beach with everyone from ballerinas to models to friends from years ago. We found it to be a place where we could work without hassle from the police, without restrictions from security guards. 

Here the people were free to create, to pose for the lens and to tell their stories without prying eyes… that is until families arrived a little after 8 or so in the morning. We would arrive before sunrise, set up our cameras and talk a bit before the first rays of sun hit our skin.

On this day she gifted us with her presence. We talked in advance regarding our approach, and she came prepared with clothing to contrast with her skin tone. In the beginning she was a bit shy, then she let go of herself once she felt comfortable enough with the lenst. These images are from the second half of our session. 

Wearing shorts and sitting down in the water alongside her was magical, felt like one with her. The beach has come to represent endless possibilities to me, just as it does to the Cubans.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Friend's Father-in-Law, 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 in Cuba, and to furthering this work as only this incredible land has allowed me to do.

According to Wikipedia:
The town of Guanabacoa is found situated in the province of La Havana, some five kilometers to the southeast of La Havana (city) and south of the city of Regla. It rests on a small hill bordered by rivers.
Guanabacoa was also the home of a small community of Florida Indians, mostly Apalachees and Yamasees, who, along with Spanish forces, were evacuated from Florida in 1764, following the conclusion of the Seven Years' War

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Young Girl + Building, Matanzas, Cuba, Summer of 2014

After talking with the vendor on the side of the street, we drove to his small town in search of faces. When we arrived to the center of town, more produce carts lined the street, along with a group of children playing soccer in front of this building.

We were a little nervous, so I thought the best thing was to make a picture of the building, let people see me out in the open and allow the conversations to begin. Alejandro let me into the trunk, I took what I needed and walked across the field to the building above. The children's curiosity got the best of them and they watched with enthusiasm as small pieces of garbage were removed by this stranger in preparation.

A few exposures were made, then I thanked them for their permission and walked back to Alejandro. We talked for a little bit and then decided to hit the road to the city almost two hours away. We backed the car onto the street and started to move forward when this young girl walked across the street in front of us with the most defiant attitude. In response to our attention, she looked right back at us and produced the most incredibly confident expression.

We drove a few dozen meters away until Alejandro noticed my desire to go back. He knew me well enough to know that we needed to find this young girl, and so turned the car around and drove back to the field. She disappeared up the path adjacent to it, and we parked our car trying to come up with a plan. This was a new place for us, out in rural Cuba and out of our comfort zone.

We decided to talk to some of the older men, and got the attention of a kindred spirit, an older gentleman with kind eyes. As we were talking we saw the little girl walking on top of a two-story building, like she had really nowhere to go. We asked the older man about her, and he said that she lived with her father only, and that he would leave her to the community during the day while he worked as a laborer.

So here was this little girl, left to her own ingenuity, going from one neighbor to another until her father came home in the evening. This made me want to photograph her even more so. We knew that without her father it would be nearly impossible, but pushed forward and walked to her neighbors' houses to have the conversation. It turned out that they were so warm to us, and advised that her father would be thrilled to have her photograph made by us.

The look on her face as we had this conversation about her was priceless. She was so pleased that her neighbors allowed us to collaborate, and prepared herself immediately. We had less than thirty minutes of sun left, and moved quickly. Four rolls of medium format film were exposed on her behalf, and she moved from one expression to another like she had done this dozens of times before.

The image above is from the first roll. I so look forward to our next visit, to sharing these images with her and her neighbors, and to further gaining their trust for yet another round of portraits.

Monday, January 26, 2015

La Jefe, Matanzas, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Here she stands for her portrait, the boss of the men working in the field. We needed her permission to photograph the workers, and she had such a presence about her… both authoritative and gentle. She was perhaps shocked to see such a photographer asking, yet was also more than receptive.

Her smile spoke volumes to me then, and even more so now. Nobody rushed us, we walked around the burnt field to photograph the men individually, one at a time with their permission as well of course.

One funny moment happened as we initially walked towards them. As I stepped out of the car and walked to the group on the field, I was so excited to speak with them that I walked without much notice to the ground beneath me.

Then in one instance my right foot and let fell into a hole almost one meter deep. Everyone, and especially Alejandro, were instantly concerned and ran over to help me get up since my camera and tripod were in both hands. Once they realized that I was fine, adrenaline being my best friend, all laughed making my job much easier truly.

So here she is, the woman responsible for the portraits made on that day. I look forward to catching up with her as Alejandro will help me to do, and to hand her this portrait.

Vendor + Stand, Matanzas, Cuba, Summer of 2014

As we were driving back from Matanzas the road was empty, and we had very few options to do much of anything but drive straight back to La Habana. Earlier on our way to Matanzas plenty of opportunities presented themselves. Now however we were out of luck.

I then asked Alejandro to take the next right down a narrow road, and this was when our luck changed. To our right less than one minute from the main road this man was selling vegetables and fruits. I thought we could do two things at once, buy from him and also connect for the sake of the photography.

We ended up doing both, but before he put the plantains in our car we made this portrait with them hanging beautifully to his right. These were the very plantains that we ate for the next week.

After this image he pointed us in the right direction, and we found the most incredibly sublime girl just a few minutes later as she was crossing the street. Her story was told earlier in this timeline, but it will suffice to write that she will be followed just like the others in La Habana. We will return to her small village, both for her and for her neighbors… and it was this man that made it all possible.

The second image shows the two of us in front of Alejandro's car, only a few minutes after we met the vendor on the side of the road.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Guajiro + Tools, Matanzas, Cuba, Summer of 2014

In between photographing dancers on the beach and cars in the streets, Alejandro would take me to the countryside in search of the rural life. The results, often slow to develop, were deeply satisfying and made me regret that we waited for the last two weeks to do so.

This man was working with others to the side of the road, clearing the brush and small trees from a local farm. We asked the manager for permission, and she gave it to us without resistance. She even allowed us to make her portrait with a smile.

As I finished this man's portrait, he began to sharpen his blade, giving me a chance to make that image as well. The pace of photography in rural Cuba is different, more casual, and moves me to do much more this summer on the island. We hope to find him and his friends, and hand them these images.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ballerina + José Martí, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Last summer this young dancer and I decided to make images in the usual places, as well as some unusual spaces. We tried a few years ago but were met with serious resistance from the authorities. Almost every formal spot we were denied access, with the authorities citing our professional equipment as one reason.

So this time around hand-held cameras were taken along, so as to ease tensions. When we first arrived to this most famous location, one of the most important on the island, we were met with the same reasons as before. They thought the camera was professional, and too large. They also had a problem with the tripod.

We talked for a bit the day before this image, so as to make sure all was clear for the dancer. The last thing we needed was to show up at 7:00 and be denied access. Seeing a small crack, we decided to show the officials our cameras up close. We then realized that they thought the cameras recorded video. When we explained that they were traditional film cameras, and that we'd use them hand held within the memorial space, they allowed us to do so for the next morning.

When we arrived however early in the morning the chain link was up, and we had to wait a bit before heading up. Once we did, there was a level of apprehension within me in light of my past experiences (including a lengthy one with the commissioner in charge of this location). She however was as natural as could possibly be, and took her place without hesitation.

A few tourists were already in place, but they allowed us about twenty minutes without interruption, now and then taking pictures of each other in front of the memorial while we loaded film. They were more than understanding, and shared smiles of approval for the most part.

I remember that one conversation with the commissioner years ago, when she denied us access to photograph a Cuban dancer in front of the memorial yet thought nothing about tourists making snapshots of their daughters in front of a memorial about which they know almost nothing about from personal experience.

In my humble opinion, José Martí would have been proud to see such brilliance in front of him, to witness a daughter of the island in such a way over a hundred years after he was killed in battle against Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Ríos.

According to Wikipedia:

The José Martí Memorial (Spanish: Monumento a José Martí) is a memorial to José Martí, a national hero of Cuba, located on the northern side of the Plaza de la Revolución in the Vedado area of Havana. It consists of a star-shaped tower, a statue of Martí surrounded by six columns, and gardens.

The 109 m (358 ft) tower, designed by a team of architects led by Enrique Luis Varela, is in the form of a five-pointed star, encased in grey Cuban marble from the Isla de la Juventud. The design was eventually selected from various entries put forward from a series of competitions beginning in 1939. Entries included a version of the tower topped with a statue of Martí, and a monument similar to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with a statue of Martí seated within. The fourth competition held in 1943 resulted in the selection of a design by the architect Aquiles Maza and the sculptor Juan José Sicre. In order to proceed with construction of the monument, the Monserrat Hermitage, which occupied the proposed site, had to be demolished. Various impediments to the acquisition of the Hermitage by the state led to delays in the demolition and the start of building work, so by 1952 – when Fulgencio Batista seized power in a coup – work on the construction had still not begun.

Eager to garner popular support after seizing power, Batista committed to pushing ahead with the construction of a monument to Martí; but rather than proceeding with the competition winner, he selected the design that had come third in the competition, created by a group of architects headed by Enrique Luis Varela, Batista's Minister of Works and his personal friend. The selection of this design caused something of a public outcry, and as a result the design was modified to remove the statue from the top of the tower, and to instead feature Juan José Sicre's statue of Marti at the foot of the tower. Construction of the tower began in 1953 on the 100th anniversary of José Martí's birth. The right to compensation for local inhabitants forced to move to make way for construction caused further problems; their case was taken up by a young Fidel Castro. The monument was finally completed in 1958 during the final days of the Batista dictatorship.

The selected design includes an enclosed observation deck on the top floor, the highest point in Havana, accessible by elevator which gives commanding views over the city in all directions. Housed on the ground floor of the tower which overlooks the city, the memorial features two rooms of correspondence, writings and items from the life of José Martí and displays relating his life story. A third room illustrates the history of the Plaza de la Revolucion, and a fourth room is used for displays of contemporary art. The centre of the tower houses the elevator and features walls decorated with quotes from Martí. Among other items on display is a replica of the sword of Simón Bolívar presented to Fidel Castro by Hugo Chávez during his visit to Cuba in 2002.

Outside, facing over the plaza and towards the mural of Che Guevara on the Ministry of the Interior on the opposite side of the square, is an 18 m (59 ft) white marble statue of Martí carved in situ by Sicre and surrounded by six half-height marble columns. The platform where the statue is located is used as a podium when rallies take place in the Plaza de la Revolución.

Arab Girl + Migrant, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2005

She is a young girl living behind a service station in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. This is her first and only portrait, since her family has moved on without a trace. Like many of the families living as migrants in this area, they have moved from Syria in search of work and continue to move for the same reason.

I remember her well, and the circumstance behind this portrait. The refection in her eyes confirms the place of our collaboration, and the people standing around watching this image being made. On this day I visit a tent to inquire about a group of children. The adult tells me that the children are working in the fields but that there are more children nearby.

We talk for a little bit and get noticed by these very children. They run across an uneven, dry field and make their way to us. They have heard of me and know that I am the photographer. The girl above is one of them. All of the children appear as her, with disheveled hair and skin abused by the sun. When my hands run across their hair, the feeling is of coarse wool.

We talk for a little bit and the adults consent to the photography. The front of a storage facility is perfect, with indirect light coming from behind me to the right. The children line up and wait for their photography. I am alone but the children are very cooperative. She stands in front of me and behind her is a window without glass. In the distance and to her right is a window of the same size.

It is the late afternoon and the sun is behind her. A handful of negatives are exposed, and she moves to the side to allow others to be photographed. This is the last time my eyes have witnessed her face, her incredibly poignant features. Next year I will return to the same place and ask about her, hoping to make her portrait once again.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 501CM/120 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Student + Teacher, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

A tender moment between student and instructor was exposed during their performance this morning. Most are familiar with one of these two dancers, and would be surprised to learn that she was beyond shy this time around in front of someone she admires immensely. It was incredible for me to see as well, since she is anything but shy in front of the lens normally.

I was able to see an entirely different side to her, and was deeply moved by her honesty. She was like a little girl for once, giggling with joy at the thought of being photographed with her teacher, embracing the poses suggested with enthusiasm. At times she would move so slowly, as if she was enjoying every millisecond of it all.

When her teacher first displayed interest in being photographed, the pride that this young girl showed on her face was beyond measure. The teacher learned about my work through her student, and through her student she communicated this interest to us.

Tonight I am scanning the images from this session, and am reliving it all over again. This is the magic of photography, the gift of it.

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dancer + Flamenco, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, July 29, 2014

On a visit to my friend Eduardo at his hotel, a group was performing for the tourists in the lobby. Three dancers moved to the music created by three musicians, while some non-relevant program played above them on the television. The space for their performance was tiny, and they did their best to keep the mood pleasant.

My eyes then noticed this young girl getting ready to dance. She looked little more than fifteen years old, and carried herself with such grace and composure. She was wearing this same dress, red and black. All my mind could think about was this dress against the green wall of the racquetball court near the beach.

Eduardo saw my reaction, we talked for a minute and then he walked directly over to the group's leader to present my proposal: would they be interested in heading to the beach for a recording session, as well as some photography?

They came over to look at my work, both the photographs as well as the video. Immediately we hit it off and scheduled a morning to pick up the entire group in two cars. Fast forward to that morning, they were ready as promised and we arrived at the court well before sunrise.

We set up the video camera on a tripod, and the manual camera so as to minimize the noise while they performed. The heat of the morning caught up with us quickly, and the young women found themselves struggling just to finish each number… but did so courageously.

Alejandro was in charge of the small camera, and he triggered the shutter an astounding 3,000 times in two hours. All in all we had a great morning, were blessed without a single sound for the recording, and left the group on the beach to enjoy the water for the morning.

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

After seeing this image on Google+, a dear colleague left these words for us to read:

"Dancers, musicians, photographers. I truly believe that each one of these can experience a certain euphoria while engaging in their particular art. That time when the mind is truly clear of all clutter, concern and fear. Nothing left but pure enjoyment of his or her expression. It is evident that this dancer is there, not thinking of anything else in her world, simply living for this moment in time."

He then shared more of his generosity by purchasing this print to further the education of girls in Haryana and Rajasthan, India. With one print purchase an entire classroom is funded for one month, and girls can continue on their path to the realization of their dreams.

This man's name is Mike Fetterer, and I am proud to consider him my colleague and friend.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Child + Sex Trade, Nirvanavan Foundation, Alwar, Rajasthan, November 26, 2013

Most seeing portraits of the young girls in in my work from India think that they are boys, due to their short hair. This just so happens to be one of my favorite features, and makes for incredibly powerful portraits.

This specific one was made with Nirvana and his wonderful team at Nirvanavan Foundation. This was the fifth roll made on November 26 of 2013, while the team guided me through the villages in which they work. The foundation has set up schools for the children of the Nat and Kanjar Communities, in which traditional prostitution unfortunately thrives.

These very girls see on a daily basis the tragedy of the sex trade, watch their older sisters being sold by the men in their own families. Without the foundation this would be the only possibility for them as well. Nirvana and his team are doing the best that they can to present an alternative, and do so every single day without exception.

I admire and respect the path that they have chosen to walk, and hope to be there in the very near future alongside these incredible people.

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Young Man + Rooftop, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Every once in a while the face of a man really gets to me, and his face was no exception. A few times on my way up the stairs to visit two of the families, he was sitting in his apartment watching television. For some reason it was difficult to approach him for photography, the reason being me rather than anyone else.

Then one day as we were photographing the girls on the rooftop, I nonchalantly mentioned photographing this young man to one of the girls' mothers. She responded with a smile and sent one of the boys to go ask for us. The boy came up with a positive answer, and shortly after this incredible man appeared… three years after my eyes first spotted him.

He then stepped in front of the lens, and taught the young girls standing by a lesson. One of the young girls was a modeling student at my friend's school, but had nothing on his talent. I said almost nothing to him, except the number of images on a roll. When ready, he moved from one expression to another without input from anyone. He was a natural, so powerful!

I look forward to handing him these images, and many more this summer.

Note: These frames were exposed with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film, with natural light only.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Young Girl + Shoes, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer 2014

She is familiar face to many of us, here having some fun on the beach in clothes loaned to us by a Cuban designer. This was her first time being photographed in such a way, and she spent the prior evening preparing her hair for the event.

Hers could have been that one portrait in the street, with her clear eyes and wild hair next to an old American car parked in front of a dilapidated building. While I certainly have sincere appreciation for such imagery, concentrating on the individual rather than the environment has always hit me more so.

She had always wanted to be a model and here she was on the beach, in clothing prepared in person for her by a well-known designer. She was living out one of her dreams, albeit for one afternoon, yet living out one of her dreams in front of the lens. The feeling of being able to document this moment cannot be described effectively through words alone. Her smile will surely do more justice.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

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

A day in the darkroom made me want to post something a bit brighter. What is almost unimaginable for me is that this image was made six months ago, in a place worlds apart from here. Yet it was made in the same time zone, less than four hours flight from this very spot!

This was her first time with me, after meeting at my friend's school for modeling. She and a few others displayed serious interest in the idea of doing something different, and she sat less than a few feet away with the most serious, curious gaze as we spoke. She loved the idea of the abstract, and producing work outside of her usual circles. She was at the time of this session the most popular model in Havana, evidenced once she slipped this dress on and stepped in front of the lens. 

Wearing shorts and sitting down in the water alongside her was magical, felt like one with her. The beach has come to represent endless possibilities to me, just as it does to the Cubans.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2, mounted adjacent to and exposing at the very moment with a Hasselblad analog system.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Man + Cart, Artemisa, Cuba, Summer of 2014

This man passed to my left as we were photographing three models from this town, as Alejandro warned me to move aside. Gladly film was loaded and four exposures were made as he moved down the path. One minute a young woman is in front of the lens, the very next her neighbor is passing us by on a cart. This is the beauty of the island, so very authentic.

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dancer + Name in Sand, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

One day after we finished with the photography on the beach, we went ahead and jumped into the water for some fun. The girls spent their time building sand castles and collecting shells. I picked up the camera and took to documenting their activities.

The girls were scribbling their names on the sand when one of them decided to write my name as well. She did so with the sweetest of smiles, and unlike countless others, spelled my name perfectly. To have this moment on film is priceless, so glad the new camera was along for the ride! 

This is the young spirit responsible for writing my name in the sand, a most exquisite, young girl!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Magnificent One + Sugar Cane Field, Guanabacoa, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Essentially perfect she is, without need for further description. The reality however is that few outside of the island know her, yet she blesses us with her gift through these images. In this series she moves from one expression to another in a matter of seconds in an effortless manner. This is her sixth year with me, and in six months she will once again appear in front of my camera to perform.
Last summer she would have come with us every single day given the chance, and at least 100 rolls of film were dedicated to her alone over my two month stay. From the beaches of Santa Maria del Mar to my friend's farm, we worked together to produce a series of images most remarkable due to her talent, mind and heart.
Note: These exposures were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dancer + Friend, Three Images Over Six Years, Cuba, 2006 - 2014

Over a span of six years we have collaborated. She was nine years old then, photographed as she stood in front of her school of dance. She was the second to allow me her portrait that morning, in front of a hundred or so friends and parents as they waited to enter the building for their classes.

My time with her has taught me that she is a beautifully complex, young woman. With her friends she is outgoing, with us she is less so… yet in a most gentle manner. She accepts to be photographed every single time, and asks about the other girls from that first day. She loves the color black, and paints her fingernails so for us sometimes.

A few years after her first photograph she wondered if we would still photograph her once finished with dance. The expression on her face made me want to photograph her even more so. She is now perhaps sixteen years old, and I wonder how she feels about this project. This summer I will ask her this question, and can only hope for the best. My gut instinct is that she will smile like in that first photograph, and make any doubts disappear for good.

Note: These images were made with a Hasselblad V System, onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Young Girl + Four Years Later, San Miguel del Padron, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

She is now fourteen years old, and four years into our collaboration. Unlike most her age, she looks forward to her quinceañera in a very different way. She wants nothing to do with the fancy dresses and the almost-nude images common to this event photographically. She would love a book of her portraits since we began, representing the five years up to and including her fifteenth year.

She loves the monochrome image, never asks for color. She has very few friends and would rather spend time with her mother and grandmother. Never to be caught hanging out in the streets, she plays with the computer at home and listens to her music all of the time. The entire neighborhood knows about our visits, and looks at us as we pull up to her house. They know that a photographer comes specifically for this mysterious girl in their midst, and acknowledge us with respect.

Up until this year, I never knew this last part, thought our work was unknown to the neighborhood since we did our work far away as per her family. This past summer her mother told me that everyone was aware, thus the looks of curiosity as we roll down the street to and from her home. It made me feel quite good actually, that our collaboration is seen in such a positive manner.

Her neighborhood is one of the toughest in Havana, and most of my Cuban friends are surprised that we work with families living there. They themselves have very little to do with it, yet to me the people in this neighborhood are like the people in all other neighborhoods… with a rainbow of reactions to the photography. We give them the benefit of the doubt and receive the same in return.

I wonder how she will be this summer, as she turns fifteen and perhaps sees the photography differently. She has already changed so much and while I will be very happy regardless of how she reacts to being photographed, I will sincerely miss her should she choose to move on. I have learned to accept such with others, but know that in her case the acceptance will be much more difficult to attain. We shall see!

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

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Student + Schools for Girls, Humana People to People India, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November of 2014

As the new year begins girls in Haryana and Rajasthan are enjoying a second term under the guidance of Humana People to People India. This young girl is one bright example, and attends classes along with her friends under the guidance of a teacher from her own village.

In a social experiment, we are looking for six groups of six people in order to fund these six schools. The idea is for six to respond to this call, and for each to find five friends to fund a single school. The monthly installment for each person would be $20, and the schools would be funded for as long as the group is willing to continue.
People have always asked me: 'What can I do?'

I hope that this social experiment provides answers to those interested in this work. In return each person would receive a silver gelatin print (traditional darkroom method) of a student from the schools. A win-win for all!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Model + Dirt Road, Artemisa, Cuba, Summer of 2014

This is what happens when the documentary approach intertwines with the fashion aspiration of the person being documented. This young woman and her friends live in Artemisa, Cuba. They used to attend a school for models hosted by our dear friend from the capital. Since the school has closed they have remained in contact with us and have shown a genuine desire to continue with our collaboration.

We found the path below an hour or so before we met with the group. Because Artemisa was the scene for the July 26th celebrations this year, our access to locations within the city was even more limited. The young women were surprised when we shared this location with them, but were so happy to have such privacy and serenity during the photography.

They brought three changes of clothes each, and two changed while one was in front of the lens. This young woman's twin was also photographed on the same day, and the twins were a singing duo on the island as well. Toward the end of the afternoon they played their music for us while we put our equipment away. To be with such wonderful people, in the countryside, listening to pop music while putting our stuff away into our mid-century cars was an experience to remember.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Man + Baby, Rooftop, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

A portrait of youth is perhaps appropriate as the new year begins. This image was made as we were photographing a pair of familiar faces on the rooftop of their home. This young man was standing nearby and accepted my invitation to be photographed. All of a sudden he was carrying this baby and it all seemed so natural. They posed for four exposures, then he was photographed on his own.
Such is photography in Cuba, as people in general embrace the idea and even more importantly present their own creative thoughts. This makes long-term collaborations from chance meetings possible, as was the case with this image.
One day when visiting a young woman already involved in our work, a young girl was walking down the stairs and thanked me for stepping aside. I was taken back and asked about her to my friend's mother. She smiled and immediately knew which girl from the building she was, because of the physical description but even more so because of her manners.
A day or so later we received the good news that she had talked to her parents and that they agreed to allow us her portrait. This is the background to the image seen here, and the little girl's portrait will be shared soon.