Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Article, Onfilmphoto, October 28, 2015

I am honored to have been selected for an article on this esteemed page, and hope that the stories reach an even larger audience soon. Here is an excerpt thanks to the incredibly poignant questions presented by the good team at

Any message for other film photographers? Or maybe a tip you would like to share?
With humility, I would like to share these images and hope 
that they inspire this community as the images have inspired me. Over the past two decades photography has helped me develop bonds with the most incredible people, who by now have become my extended family. They look forward to my visits almost as much as I look forward to my sessions with them. I have learned that returning to the communities makes all the difference in the world, especially when coupled with photographs in hand. There is nothing like photographing children in the streets of a city, then returning to that neighborhood to photograph their younger siblings and even their own children. The love produced with such a history is beyond my ability to describe on this page, always makes me pause.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Young Student + Mehndi, Rajasthan, India, 2009 - 2015

Six years ago I photographed her in her family's field, holding her brother in her arms. The sun had almost set but we had enough light to make this image, as well as more of her family.

Fast forward six years to the image of her applying her art to my arm. There are very few in my work with such intensity, who can express themselves with such honest power. When a smile graces her exquisite face the scene lights up, and all notice.

This past year we discussed the possibility of her inclusion in our program as a sewing instructor. While she loved the idea, we needed to talk with her parents to achieve their blessing. The entire time she sat behind the sewing machine listening to the conversation with absolute attention. Every time the leader of the program mentioned her name, and the idea, her smile gave her away… and was magnificent to watch.

These two images show how much she has changed, yet how she has retained her purity. The images were made within a dozen meters of each other, six years apart. Even at such a young age, her intensity is unmistakable!

Note: She also happened to be a student in one of the schools for girls, and how is the sewing teacher for her village.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Young Migrant + Company Wall, Jaipur Slum, Rajasthan, India

One afternoon this past April we arrived to Jaipur from the Muzaffarnagar region of Uttar Pradesh, and landed in a familiar neighborhood near to our wonderful hostSombeer Singh Summy. We went straight to our favorite family and asked to photograph their daughters with only thirty minutes of sunshine remaining. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the father agreed although he had only met us for a few minutes over three weeks ago.

We walked over to the cement factory's wall and set up our camera. We photographed three of the five daughters before the sun was too soft for my film camera, and then went on to photograph some other children for fun with the digital camera. This portrait is of the most mischievous ones from the bunch, finally put in front of the lens for all to behold without his usual antics to protect him!

He was marvelous, and truly enjoyed his time in the spotlight!

The wall behind him belongs to the concrete factory just across from their homes. The entire neighborhood is basically illegal in its construction, and almost all live a hand to mouth existence. They have across from them a factory that does nothing but produce concrete for the buildings being constructed all around them, while they will never see their interiors.

The dust produced as trucks come and go is almost unbreathable, yet these children play directly in front of this wall. When one truck passed we had to stop our photography because the dust alone prevented any of us from seeing well enough to work. This is their daily existence, just incredible.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100II.

Models + Friends, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2015

They work as models together, and are the best of friends. He has a quality about him which makes all working alongside feel beyond comfortable. She is able to produce expressions of innocence and seduction almost at the same time. We worked only once with them this past summer, but next summer I plan to do much more… and all of it in the ocean.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100II.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Friend + Barn, Northeast Ohio, Fall of 2015

Three or so years ago my dear friend Praxa Aneubus invited me to take part in a local fashion show. The time came when we needed a projector, and of course Praxa's creativity was rewarded with a complimentary, professional projector… donated to us by this young model's mother.

When the fashion show took place, the donor kept her promise and stopped by with her daughter, the young girl in this portrait made a little over two weeks. Immediately I noticed that she was taken by the images on the screen, and had a sincere presence about her. Her expressions showed a deep interest and curiosity, moving me to promise that one day we would also make her portrait.

Soon after we became friends on Facebook, and a few weeks ago we talked about having our own session. The years between that promise and our conversation did little to diminish her curiosity, and she was more than engaged in the details. We talked about wardrobe, hair and theme… and her positive attitude confirmed my memories of our first meeting.

So two weeks ago we met at a local park before sunrise. We looked around and decided that the tree line would get in the way of the sunrise. I was amazed at her mother's reaction, when she immediately offered to drive us to a better spot… a local church. It was perfect, and we began at a nearby field before heading for this beautiful background.

There are those who have a hard time with the sun, with the idea of a first session… and then there is this beautiful spirit who was a natural in front of the lens. The way she tilted her head and curled her fingers impressed me immensely, and I look forward to our next session. Through this portrait she stands next to the girls she so admired in my portfolio three years ago.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Model + Friend, Vasquez Rocks, Los Angeles, California, 2012

The thought behind my work with the models in Los Angeles came from a very simple idea, to place the faces of the well known alongside the faces of the less known. For many of the girls in my portfolio, they will never be seen outside of their villages, they will rarely step onto the world stage.

For the wonderful models living in Los Angeles, many have had their share of magazine covers and film appearances. Yet when approached to be a part of this work, the more famous they were the more willing they were also. They wanted to be seen alongside the girls in my work, they viewed the girls as their own sisters and wanted them to know how they felt about them. 

The young woman depicted in this image was one such model. On that day we planned to meet in Los Angeles but were thwarted by the clouds. Without hesitation she agreed to meet us at this rock formation and brought with her a wonderful array of clothing. Her movements were effortless and her demeanor truly genuine.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Master Tailor + Studio, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, Fall of 2009

It took months to finally wear the pants and shirts that this man made for me with such care. They hung in my closet all the while like articles from a distant past, a connection to the ancestors before him. This wonderful man is descendant from a long line of distinguished tailors, with one of his ancestors depicted in the painting behind him.

His family made clothing for everyone from royalty to the local, general population. Their work has been published in books, and remnants of those times still hung in the shop. He took great pride when he pulled them down from the hangers with a long stick to show me. The stitching was impeccable, the designs timeless. These were the very pieces that his father and grandfather had made.

When it came time to measure me for the proposed job, he smiled and told me that he had already measured me. He rattled the numbers to his son and my friend, Niranjan. Then he went ahead and made my measurements just in case, and the numbers coincided perfectly. The entire time I placed a recorder nearby to remember the moment when this most elegant of men did for me what few will ever experience.

We made his portrait in front of the very desk on which he would make my shirts and pants, the very desk on which his ancestors had worked. He stood with his tools nearby and allowed me to make twelve exposures. After which we had tea and biscuits.

Then Niranjan and I walked downstairs and into the street to find the fabric for the clothing. We walked a block or so to the store his father had sent us. The service provided was incredible in that they would pull any fabric down for us to see, without hurrying us at all. We selected four colors for the pants and the same number for the shirts.

My time with Nirvanavan Foundation was nearing its end in a day or so, so we made plans to meet after my work with Humana People to People India ended in order to make the exchange. When I did meet Niranjan for my clothes, they were prepared so beautifully in boxes, folded neatly and with the utmost respect. I remember placing them into my luggage and hoping that nothing terrible would happen to them during transport.

For the first time on my way back from my travels something more important than my camera equipment sat in the luggage. Today I wear this clothing with more ease, yet every time I need to take them to the local dry cleaner my heart skips a beat. I do look forward to another visit to India and to another fitting by the Master, an honor always to be remembered.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Young Refugee Girl, Uttar Pradesh, India, Fall of 2013

After this image both batteries were exhausted and we were unable to make more. We tried to charge the camera using the camp's electrical system, a car battery, and I felt a jolt through the camera body and into the palm of my left hand. The children were thankful for what we were able to do however, since we photographed all with the film camera prior to having fun in this little spot.

My time in the refugee camps was made possible through my dear friend, Asrar Ahmad. He traveled with me on several occasions, leaving his family behind in Delhi to work with the refugees. He slept away from his family in unfamiliar territory, and got up at the break of dawn just to arrive at the camps as the sunrise approached for the best light. I appreciate everything that he did on behalf of these beautiful people and hope that my images do justice to our efforts. We will soon see.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ballerina + Countryside, La Habana, Cuba, Summer of 2015

This past summer introduced us to a few new girls, this young ballerina being one of them. We were waiting for one of our dancers to finish classes one late morning when we noticed this young girl with her father. They arrived on a bicycle, and he was one of the few fathers in the crowd… most being the dancers' mothers.

There was something about her eyes, how she looked at the scene around her, that prompted me to include her in this project. So we talked about our approach, and just when we decided to talk with her father they were gone. 

So we continued to wait for them and were treated to a surprise when they returned on that bicycle. We talked for a few minutes and agreed to revisit the conversation when her mother was also present.

A few days passed and we thought that we'd never connect until one day we were approached by another young girl and her mother. They happened to know me, and walked over with the very girl we were trying to contact. This was an incredible surprise to me, and we went back and forth trying to understand how we knew each other.

The previous summer I had met a man while walking in the city. When he found out that my photography included ballerinas, he called his neighbor to come over with her daughter. The mother and daughter who then walked through his door were the very two standing in front of us a year later. Trust was almost instantaneous and numbers were exchanged.

This image represents my second session with this dancer. We chose to photograph her in the countryside, to give her a better chance with regards to the sunlight. With trees all around us, she was quite comfortable being photographed in direct sunlight, and performed flawlessly.

When we ended the session, her mother came up with the great idea of using the house nearby as a backdrop. We asked the family and they agreed immediately, resulting in this image.

Note: This portrait was made with a Sony RX100M2 using available light only.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Young Girl + Tent, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2010

Her portrait is the last image for tonight, as she is the younger sister of the girl running down that path. Every year she seems to know the timing of my arrival. As she told her father one day, 'Halim always comes during Ramadan.'

Her father is a most open-minded person, and has stood up for me on several occasions including during a rift between me and his own brother. When this rift happened, he brought me and his brother in front of the town elders to hear our stories, listened to both of us and then decided that his brother's treatment of me was both wrong and inappropriate… telling his brother than he needed to mind his own affairs and leave me alone to photograph the children.

This is where she gets her strength, and divine spirit. She is the gentlest of little girls, always greeting me with love and kindness. I have missed photographing her for the past five years, and feel a deep sense of sadness. The violence in the region means that her life is beyond my idea of complex, and to place her and her family in danger with my visit would be foolish.

Hopefully change will come much sooner than later, and we can once again sit down for tea under the clear blue Lebanese sky!

Note: This image was made with a Canon G10.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Two Students + Teacher + Photographer, Rajasthan, India, Spring of 2015

One month after Cuba and four months to India this image comes to mind, taken from a video made earlier this year. The scene happens to be the room in which our classes are held. The young girl closest to me is the teacher's daughter, and the other lives across the path from this room.

They offered previously to paint my arm and this was the moment it happened. We were finished with the photography, and I put the small camera down to record their art. Every single second was cherished, and their features studied as they placed their creativity onto my skin.

In portraiture there is a physical distance between photographer and subject, the complete opposite of the moment in this image. This is our chance to exchange laughs, to put aside the societal norms and just enjoy each other in the purest sense of the verb.

I will see these two exquisite spirits in less than four months, and hope to be painted once again! Now this school is under the leadership of my dear friend Nirvana Bodhisattva and his good team at Nirvanavan Foundation.

PS The wonderful woman to the left in the image is the teacher!

Note: This image is a still from the short video made with a Sony RX100M2.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Young Student + Temple, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2015

Earlier this year I visited our three schools in Rajasthan, India. This was their second year running, and the girls were beyond excited to see me. They had always known me as the photographer, but now were aware of our efforts on this side of the ocean to support their schools. To be treated like a prince is deeply humbling for me, but embraced fully coming from these beautiful girls. They are at the center of my world, along with their sisters from Africa and the Americas.

It was a delight to be provided a chair during my visits, to be brought sweets on a plate and the most incredible tea in the world, while being fanned by the teacher and her sister. Normally this would make me feel very uneasy, others paying such attention to me. However the source of their attention was pure love and affection, and as such every single gesture was enjoyed fully.

This young girl is the youngest of five, and endures along with her sisters without their mother who had passed away sometime ago. Her older sisters had been photographed by me, and now she attends the same school provided by the foundation in her village… now maintained beautifully by Nirvana Bodhisattva and his wonderful foundation.

She stands for her portrait in front of the local temple, one of five in this very location, adjacent to her classroom. She is incredibly smart, and recites lessons without looking at the posters on the walls. During my entire time this past year in India, this was her only outfit… as she perhaps chose her favorite with which she attended school.

In less than four weeks a benefit will be held at a friend's gallery in NYC in collaboration with Nirvanavan Foundation. We hope to raise awareness and funding once again, and will continue to work on her behalf.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ballerina + Trip to the Countryside, Cuba, Summer of 2015

On this afternoon we got a glimpse of the sun and decided to call two dancers for a spontaneous session. Of course we had plenty of clouds as well, but we hoped for the best.

What makes these families even more incredible is their sincere trust in and understanding of our work. They of course are plenty busy in their lives, but always seem to make time available for us and our genuine intentions regarding their daughters.

So on this day one girl was at work with her mother and the second was at a birthday party in the neighborhood. When we called them, they insisted on helping us make this happen… and especially the dancers themselves. We accepted of course with open arms and made our way to their homes to pick them up.

The clouds kept increasing in numbers and density, but we kept our fingers crossed. After the girls were ready we headed out to the countryside, just about 40 minutes from the city. We took a turn from the main road and happened to find this incredible house. Thankfully the two men present allowed us immediately to use their home for our photography.

The girls took to the stage so naturally, using everything from the chairs to the columns for their performances. They took turns in front of the lens, and even let their hair down for this session. This happened to be this young dancer's second time with us, and she really impressed us with her calm demeanor and grace. She went from one position to the next effortlessly, and always with confidence in her expressions.

The sun came and went, but we did our best and walked away with a few promising rolls exposed. I look forward to heading to NYC next week with these rolls, and the film from this year's trip to India as well!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2.