Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Young Girl + Head Shot, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

On the island when one thinks they have found the most beautiful person to photograph, they find someone just as beautiful right next door. This was what happened with this exquisite face, when we visited her cousin's home one afternoon. She was sitting on her porch as we walked to the back of the house where her cousin lived. She had the calmest expression and made her curiosity clear to us.

We asked her cousin's family about her, they just smiled and agreed to ask. She accepted wholeheartedly and we made an attempt that same week late one afternoon. In the afternoons sometimes we would get a break from the clouds and this one day we did. We called the families and asked if we could stop by for a short session.

When we arrived the feeling was mixed photographically, as the clouds increased and spaces between the clouds decreased. We hung out with the families and just enjoyed the conversations between us. When we realized that we would have a chance, the girls got ready and we walked down the street for the open spot. In front of their neighbors and in direct sunlight they posed for the first time in their lives before a formal camera. 

This young girl performed flawlessly, like she had done it dozens of times before this afternoon. Her features were perfect, even more so with the glorious sunlight. She never wavered, stood her ground and stared through the lens with such intensity. She will never know how much she impressed me that afternoon, but she is certainly keenly aware of her strength and beauty.

In four months I will see her again, and this time we will reserve a special session just for her and her cousin. This is the least that she deserves.


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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Model + Sugar Cane Fields, Artemisa, Matanzas, Cuba, 2014

One afternoon we decided to visit Artemisa, Cuba. Last year we did the same and photographed four aspiring models living in this small city. We had their prints in hand and contacted them to set up a time to meet. We made the hour and a half drive from the capital and arrived early enough to have some ice cream a block or so away. This province was chosen to formally host the July 26 celebrations for this year, while of course all of the provinces did so less formally.

When we walked to the spot of the meeting one of the young women was already waiting with her mother. It seemed odd to me at that very moment that the daughter was dressed in all white, then again perhaps she had other clothes in her bag. After ten or so minutes nobody seemed to be in a hurry to collaborate, and so the question was put forth: are we making photographs today?

The young woman was surprised, as was her mother. It was at this moment when I knew that we failed to communicate effectively our plan for the day. The look on Alejandro's face is as clear today as it was two months ago. Once again the lesson of assumption was learned, and once again we had to pick up the pieces and put a plan together for the afternoon.

Soon the second model arrived and she was as surprised as the first. We talked for a bit and hoped that they would be interested in more than collecting their photographs. The twins were yet to arrive, and so we decided to give them a call and discuss our plan before they arrive. We were still early, but by the pace of the conversation being had at that moment the sun would set before plans were realized. It was at this time that I made it clear to all that we needed to decide quickly, and that we had already located a suitable place for our photography prior to our meeting.

As we were making progress the mother of the first model decided to put forth her thoughts, which were at best unhelpful. She thought another location might be better, without having seen our choice. She spoke in Spanish thinking that perhaps none of it would be understood by me, while Alejandro knew better but kept his mouth shut.

Fortunately the others were very interested in the photography and went home to gather their clothes for the session. We then offered to put the images from last year on their flash drives, and did so while we waited for them. We even offered to do so for the troublesome mother, but she declined to leave her flash drive behind knowing that she would never come back for it.

Thirty or so minutes later the young women and their parents returned and we drove to our location little more than five minutes away. It was a dirt path perpendicular to the main road, with sugar cane fields on both sides. The young women used the cars to change and we worked for the next hour or so exposing frames for them with their chosen outfits. Farmers in the meantime rode by us as we worked, in carts and on bicycles. The scene was deeply moving, and I was in two worlds at the same time… that of fashion and that of documentation.

As we were finished the twins put their music on for us, and we enjoyed their voices as they had recorded an album earlier in the year. We returned to the city and put the pictures from the afternoon's session on their flash drives as well with smiles all around.


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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Young Girl + Modeling Outfit, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Along with the film images, most recently digital images have been made to provide the people with prints immediately. This has also allowed me to view the processed film prior to my return home.

This image of a familiar Cuban spirit is one such example. We borrowed a few  outfits from a fashion designer, and handed one to her for the sake of fun. She loved the thought of modeling a well-known designer's clothing, quite a change from our documentary portraits four years earlier.

She took the time the prior evening to have her hair done with the neighborhood hair stylist, a friend of the family. When we picked her up in the morning, we sensed her excitement even thought she was very quiet.

Seeing this photograph might be a bit deceptive however, for this young girl lives in one of the most strained neighborhoods in the city. Tourists would never set foot there, and we drive as slow as possible to try and avoid the endless potholes up to her home.

The neighborhood hasn't seen basic improvements in decades, and her family does what is within their means to make her life as joyful as possible. Her parents are wonderful people, and love her dearly, allowing her to collaborate with us as long as she wants to do so. Luckily enough, she continues to say yes!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Schools for Girls Benefit, Humana People to People India, Ten Thousand Villages, International Women's Day, 2015

Hope to see familiar and unfamiliar faces there, and to raise funding for the schools while looking through the incredible inventory from around the world at Ten Thousand Villages! Anyone interested in this work and too far to attend can be as involved as they wish to be, and send me a note through the link below.


Monday, February 16, 2015

In the Water, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

A sweet memory from last summer to get me past the bitterness of the winter.

When doubt about my path appears, seeing this image alone would soothe my worriers. Certain choices have been made in my life, this is very clear to me. The result has been nothing but pure joy, even with some of the disappointments which come now and then through the process of photography.

If this beautiful spirit allows me to document her for years to come, this in itself is enough.


Note: Image was made with a Sony RX100M2, edited for size and color only.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Guajiro + Blade, Countryside, Cuba, 2014

As we went further into the countryside we found more and more chances to mingle with the farmers and the workers. Having such a chance here would  be near impossible, with everyone so busy and focused on their routine.

Now of course these men are also focused on their routine, but on the island it just seems different. For example, when we chanced upon this charcoal farm and drove up to the workers, they looked at us with curiosity and open minds. Here was this stranger walking around the property with his camera, and rather than asking me to leave, they asked about the work and were even open to being photographed in between their tasks.

So when it came time to photograph this exquisite man, the sun was high and we chose to make more abstract images. He accepted this vision without hesitation, and helped me create images reminiscent of the images made during the Soviet era, placing the worker on a pedestal photographically speaking.

In one image, he raised his hand with blade to the sky and made me pause while exposing the negative.

Cuba is an incredible place, where ballerinas and campesinos are on equal footing in my work. I cannot wait to return in four months, and go much further into the countryside. In the mornings we will take ballerinas to the beach, have a meal with the families and then head out for an afternoon of photography with the guajiros!


Note: These images were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Young Girl + Temple, Delhi, India, November of 2013

One day when nobody wanted to walk with me, I decided to walk by myself to the closest slum in Delhi. The team at the foundation had worked so hard for me over the past two weeks, perhaps it was right for me to go at it alone this morning. So I took off and headed by foot to the slum about a mile away.

It was a bit daunting when I arrived, as the more mainstream residents from across the street looked on. However, the people living in the slum were much more open to my presence even though we lacked a common language. Within a few minutes I was walking into the center of the slum on my own, and being greeted with at least acceptance.

In the center was the tiny square, where residents enjoyed talking with tea from the local shop. They offered tea without asking, and we sat down, conversing with facial expressions only.

I thanked them and began walking through the alleys to see this small girl, wearing the most incredible sweater. I asked if we could walk to the outskirts of the slum for open light, and they agreed. It just so happened that this was also the spot for the slum's garbage, and we went about setting everything up in the midst of it all. People walked by but said nothing, a few remained to watch us make this portrait.

She was incredibly valiant under the circumstances, with people all about and the smell of the debris around us. After this portrait we returned to the center of the slum, and walked around a little bit more. The second image is the result of this walk, a picture of a temple for the residents. 

I once again thanked everyone for their time, the tea and understanding… then went back to the foundation's headquarter for the rest of the morning. When I told my good friend about my early morning, he was deeply surprised but just smiled rather than giving me a lecture regarding the danger of it all. He would have done the same he said, if he had the confidence to do so.


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

Man + Necklace, Mursi Community, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, 2010

The Mursi Community of the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia is a formidable, photographic subject. While the number of tourists visiting their extremely remote villages is surprisingly high, they continue to live like they have for generations.

Of course they have adapted, and present themselves to the cameras quite well. What used to be reserved for customs and festivals is now put on display in exchange for payment. They live however without tap water, electricity, government schools nor hospitals. The men are supremely beautiful, and seem to have been carved from the earth around them.

I remember having photographed the women earlier in the day, and asking to photograph the men later. Suddenly the men decided to renegotiate the financial agreement, wanting more than the women to be photographed. For me it was the principle of it, and the translator went back and forth with the men trying to come up with a solution.

Then I asked the translator to speak for me directly, and he went on to do so, explaining that what mattered to me was that everyone be reimbursed the same for a photograph. Whether they were children, male or female, this was the most important aspect of our negotiation for me. They paused for a minute and then agreed to be photographed for the same fee as the women.

I was deeply honored by their decision to allow such to happen, and impressed with their calm demeanor throughout. So far they fascinate me more than any other tribe in Africa, and will be photographed by me for decades to come should those decades be given to me on this globe.


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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Boy + Home, Dadhikar, Rajasthan, India, November of 2013

This young boy lives under the shadow of a tourist destination, where people from far away stay in luxurious rooms for well over $140 per night. This in a state where the average daily wage is less than $2 according to The Hindu. While tourists bathe in shiny bathtubs and enjoy their evenings under exquisite lighting, his family has never experienced tap water nor electricity in their humble home.

On this morning my dear friend Gaurab and I walked to the village from Advaita Garden with our cameras. We walked slowly and made our way to this serene courtyard, just past the entrance to the fort. A few children happened to be outside, and thanks to translation by Gaurab, they agreed to be photographed in front of their home. We made environmental portraits and then closer headshots with the sky as the backdrop.

The children were so curious, and kind. They allowed us to photograph them in peace, giving each other the time needed in front of the camera.

To date I have visited this specific area dozens of times, and have never had an inkling to visit the fort. For me this boy's home and his community are the true treasures of this region, for they live their lives without pretense. They have always welcomed me with open arms, never judged me nor my work and have always demonstrated true understanding of my intentions.

I am grateful to Nirvana and Gaurab for giving me the opportunity to have photographed this young boy during my last visit. I look forward even more so to next month's visit, and to yet another set of images from under the shadow of the fort.


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

Young Woman + Ragpicker Community, Humana People to People India, Gurgaon, India, November of 2013

Next month I will visit this young woman and her community once again, and hope to document their story even more so. They live on the outskirts of society, in shacks along the side of the road. Their daily routine includes walking through mountains of rubbish, sorting the plastic from the metal from the glass and so on.

They are barely visible to those around them, struggle for their daily existence yet live in one of the richest cities in Asia. Visible from a distance are the high-rises which dot the landscape, evidence of a wealth truly alien to them. They belong to a section of society which is assigned this role, and know little about other options.

Around them they see huge billboards of Bollywood stars, for whom they have a deep sense of admiration. While to an outsider the contrast in skin tones is striking, it does little to diminish this relationship even though they endure unimaginable conditions, and live a life in severe contrast to those on the billboards.

They exist in a society which prizes a foreign language over their own, making it almost impossible for them to advance. As such the vicious cycle of landlessness continues. Without access to the most basic of human rights, they are forced to live hand to mouth.

Yet she allows me to make her portrait with such serenity. Her beauty inspires me more so than those being advertised in the skies, for it is pure and unadulterated. She is supreme, and resolute. In her composure I see our future, and hope that I for one can live up to my responsibilities in lessening the inequalities for those in her place.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ballerina, Universidad de la Habana, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2014

On this day, decades after the inception of the revolution, in place of speeches this young dancer chooses to perform without words. In this historic spot many words have been spoken, yet she speaks louder with her movements, with her compositions.

We were allowed to do so with a hand-held camera, since anything else would have resulted in our dismissal from this historic site. We of course asked the previous day, just to make sure that when we arrived with this young dancer in the morning we would be permitted to do so.

This was our third location in the morning, as we moved between historic spaces before the tourists arrived with their cameras. We were lucky enough to have missed most of them, and those who did show up were kind enough to allow us our work.

This image is dedicated to my dear friend Michael, whose Cuban photographs have inspired me to do more on the island.


Note: This image was made with a Fuji GA645Wi onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

TEDx Talk, How Photography Led to Schools for Girls, Cleveland State University, October of 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Enacting social change through photography.
For the past two decades, photography has been Halim Ina's passion and true purpose. A formally trained dentist in the specialty of prosthodontics, Ina's passion for photography has guided him to visit over a dozen countries, photographing tens of thousands of people with over 160,000 negatives exposed. This past summer, two local exhibitions of these images helped raise awareness and then fully support six schools for girls in India.
About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

Friday, February 6, 2015

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

Earlier this evening I spent two hours listening to the musical stylings of my dear brother Mazi, the man without whom Cuba would have never been. His taste in music is without parallel, and the museum has certainly rarely experienced such sonic truth.

The crowd was glamorous, yet something was missing. People walked about with refined features, in perfectly assembled fabrics, yet nothing reminded me of what has been shown to me as real through my work. Very few people smiled outside the presence of their few friends, and most did their best to divert their eyes from direct contact with those unknown to them.

The place felt as cold and hard as the weather and floor respectively.

So I left early and came home to recover my sense of what is real in this world, and stumbled across this image of the incomparable one. Without hesitation she presents herself honestly to the world, asks for nothing in return and helps me to create images worthy of any museum. She throws herself down onto the sand, lets the water soak her outfit… all in the spirit of adding beauty to a world sorely lacking such at times.

I have known her for seven years now, and have fallen in love with her and her sisters on the island. Unlike countless at the museum this evening, she bears her soul for the world to see and fears nothing in doing so. While the water can erode the hardest of surfaces, and sand can get into the tiniest of crevices, neither stands a chance against her determination and true humanity.

I remember this image like it was made yesterday, and hope that the decades to come never take this memory away from my mind. She pleaded once again to come with us on this morning, even though we were photographing two older models for the morning. We of course were delighted to have her in our company, and the models included her in the session naturally and selflessly.

The sun was a bit strong by the time we started this roll, so she was asked to produce abstract movements without showing her face to the lens. This is one example from that roll, with the other images just as worthy of being presented. Her head and hands were in the direction of the rising sun, paying homage to what makes this work at all possible. 

I can now go to sleep tonight with balance restored to my sense of the world, and owe everything to her and those like her in my work.


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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Guajiro + Machete, Countryside, Cuba, Summer of 2014

When we decided to leave Havana for the countryside, we were taking a serious chance. In the city the faces were everywhere, and represented the entire island. Working in the countryside meant that we would need to drive greater distances in between photographs, while being guaranteed nothing.

We decided to take that chance and ran across this man and his comrades clearing a field. It was a matter of a simple question and then we were immediately allowed to photograph as they worked. The spontaneity of the countryside meant that my work would take on an entirely new approach, and one which has me very excited to return.
This meant wide angle lenses rather than the portrait ones, lower angles rather than face to face, inclusion of the environment rather than exclusion and so on. It's never too late to adapt it seems! 


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

Monday, February 2, 2015

Friend, San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Every time I look at this man's portrait confusion sets in. Every time we met in person the surroundings seemed surreal to me. Just when I thought I was in India, someone spoke Spanish and brought me back to reality. When we sat in his home, the walls were covered with Hebrew script yet reggaeton blasted us from the adjacent apartments.

I met this man when Alejandro and I were looking for new faces in the countryside. We decided to spend much of our time outside of the city, looking for another perspective. It was then when I saw this man crossing the street on his bicycle. I was dismayed, but Alejandro missed seeing him. 

It took us a few minutes but we spotted him as he was selling a sweet bread made by his family. We talked for a few minutes and immediately felt the most incredible energy in his presence. Peaceful is perhaps the best adjective to describe that feeling, yet it was much more.

He allowed us to make a quick portrait and then invited us to go back to his home where he would meet us later. He trusted us that much. So we went to his home as directed by this good man and waited for him to return. His daughter and wife let us in without question, and went on to describe their way of living to us. I was completely fascinated, sat mostly silent taking it all in.

This portrait was from our second session, the more formal one. We met at his home once again, and walked with his family about two blocks to an open space. The neighbors were almost as curious as we were, even though they were used to seeing them on a daily basis. The older folks in general looked out way almost disapprovingly, while the younger generation mostly made up of young girls looked on in a more gentle manner.

When we returned to the apartment we were treated to a documentary featuring their family, and their unique faith. It was made by a visiting Indian filmmaker, studying film at the university next to their town. It just so happened that she also ran across this man on the street and was moved so much as to make a short film about his family and faith as well.


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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Young Student, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, 2014

In this post I share one young girl's story. She attends classes in a school reopened just last year in collaboration with Humana People to People India, thanks to the generosity of those attending our benefits two summers ago.
"I am Aachi Gurjar. I am 13 years old. We are nine members in my family. My Father name is Mr. Ram Karan. My mother name is Kalli Devi. We are five sisters and two brothers. My father and mother are working as a labor in Kheda village of Virat Nagar. My family is very poor."
"Due to poverty, my elder sister and brother cannot read because during school time, we are working at our home to earn money. So due to poverty my family is not able to get education. One-day, Krishna Didi told to my father about a new school. However, my father and mother said that I did not have time as I take the goats for grazing. Then Krishna - our teacher said to my father and mother that our school time start from 12 in a noon. She can come easily. Then my father agreed and enrolled me in the study center."
"Now I am coming daily to the study center, and I am feeling very happy to start a new life. Now I am not only Anchi, but also a student in this school. I and my family are very much happy. My teacher is nice, and she loves us. Here I am learning Hindi alphabet and math also. We participated in the Baal Sabha on Saturdays. At the end, I wish to continue my study. I would like to thanks to this school to give me the opportunity for study."

Worker + Tools, Countryside, Cuba, Summer of 2014

On our way back to the city Alejandro took me through a small town where we ran across this gentleman as he was working to clear the weeds from the sidewalk. We pulled over across the street and worked our way over to have a conversation. The entire time we spoke with this gentle man he had this smile, even though he had worked under the intense sun all morning.

This was his job, and he performed it daily even though he was well into his ninth decade. He was interested in our work and accepted being photographed. So we hurried to set up the camera, and began making these images. It was during the image of the tools in the air that a man came up to us and inquired as to our intent. 

This happens so often that I have gained an unfortunate habit, to acknowledge the person asking questions while focusing on the person being photographed at the same time. In this case Alejandro spoke my name and told me that this was the gentleman's son. Talk about putting the foot in the mouth!

While the son was suspicious, he did listen to our story and allowed us to continue while his father kept this same smile all along. Soon he will have these images, and his son will hopefully see that our intent was indeed true.


Note: These images were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.