Saturday, September 30, 2017

Xtina + Forest, Last Weekend, Ohio, 2017

We met through her sublime teacher Anna, when we were raising funds for Nirvana and the schools in Rajasthan. One day the entire class visited the Cleveland Museum of Art and asked me to come along. It was an honor of course, and a treat. During our visit one fresh face come along, fresh because she was absent when we photographed the class on my previous visit.

She had a way about her, and my reaction told Anna that we needed to set up a session just for her. So we did soon after that museum trip. She was truly a natural, years ahead of her age at that time. Xtina has since become an accomplished photographer herself, dedicating herself to the medium of film as well.

While there are countless remarkable features about Xtina, one which has impressed me deeply is her continued communication with me. We have maintained contact ever since those first days, and such contact culminated in our collaboration just this past weekend. Walking through the forest with such a creative, open mind inspired me even more so. While we only had an hour or so to create, the few rolls which were exposed will hopefully yield images such as this digital sample.

She is a sister to the girls in my work from Cuba, India, Lebanon and beyond... and truly understands their lives, their dreams. Xtina and her family do more than hope, they act on behalf of the girls in India... and for such they have my sincerest gratitude.

My hope is that the weather gives us a chance to do this again, and within the next few weeks!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Last Day in Cuba, Santa Maria del Mar, September 2, 2017

Everyone thought it was crazy to have a session the morning of my flight, especially in light of the session's complexity. We made plans to document three young models and in the stylings of Yudel R. Contreras Garcia. This meant that our trusted driver had to leave his home at 5:00 in the morning to arrive at the first home by 5:30, then visit two other homes before heading out to the racquetball courts.

It was just too beautiful of a session to miss and to experience alone, so with humility we invited three wonderful photographers to come along, Alejandro and Ernesto and Eduardo. All three had connections with these young women, from a neighbor to a cousin to a photographer who had documented them previously with me.

We were of course fortunate to have in front of us the most talented models on the island, from Anays to Anny to Yaniris. We arrived twenty minutes ahead of sunrise and had enough time to arrange the pieces by Yudel along with each model's make-up. Four photographers were present along with three models, and made for an interesting session to write the least.

At first two of the photographers were a bit timid, perhaps due to the level of professionalism that these models possessed. Their shyness disappeared pretty quickly however, as the photography began. We had three dresses by Yudel, and the young women worked flawlessly together to be photographed in all three dresses. Time flew by while models and photographers used all aspects of the space, while respecting each other's creativity.

The entire time we couldn't believe how much fun everyone was having, it was perhaps the best going away present that anyone could have given me. I am indebted to these beautiful women, and to the friends who were able to help make this happen!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Best Friends + Window, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

They attend religious classes in a local madrasa, for two hours before and after elementary school in their village. They begin as early as six in the morning and get home a little after five in the afternoon. They have taken part in my photography for the past four years, and on their behalf two dozen people from this very circle have come together.

While it has taken much time to move forward, funds for two years have been raised and the first quarter is on its way. Soon these two girls will be attending additional classes in their madrasa which include Hindi, English, Math and Art. The families of these children trust the madrasa and the family responsible for it, thus making it an idea place to combine the two systems of education.

We hope to establish this school as a center of learning in the region, and then duplicate it in the neighboring villages which are in just as much need. We are also planning on opening sewing centers in four of these villages, planting the seed of goodwill for future schools.

In my time photographing girls in India, it is rare to see two girls in such close contact. It is a sincere honor to be trusted enough to allow such portraiture. The elder girl near the window was actually removed from the school by her parents due to her age, but had come back to be photographed almost every time we stopped by during our three weeks there.

They give without asking for anything in return, for their love is total and absolute. They have taught me lessons beyond value, and have shown me that the path we are on is a good one. Upon my visit early next year my hope is to report on the beginning of the school, and to document the sewing classes in action. We thank all of you for coming together and having trust in myself, and in Nirvana... we will do our best to honor your collective commitment.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3, thanks to my dear brother Mukesh.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Alejandra + Local Taxi, Countryside, Cuba, 2017

While Havana is an incredible place for photography, everyone and their mother is walking around with cameras these days... literally. So whenever we had a chance to drive out to the countryside we did so with joy... and our families loved it even more!

On this day we drove out with Alejandra and another model from EGOS, the modeling school run by the incomparable Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega. On our way out we realized that it was cloudy, but continued heading into the countryside regardless. We thought at least we'd make digital images for the young women, while having a bit of fun as well.

As we pulled over at this spot to use the road, the sun began to break its way through the clouds. We were fortunate, and took advantage of the light when it appeared. Alejandra was relaxed even though cars came by now and then. She came with a few pieces of clothes and was willing to change as we moved from one location to another.

Because it was cloudy, we were able to photograph for almost four hours this morning. This meant that all were pretty hungry by the time the work ended. To our surprise the young women and their chaperon allowed us to order pan con lechón for all of us, the iconic Cuban sandwich, from the side of the road... and each ate two, along with locally-made soda!

It was a wonderful morning, and I look forward to next year!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Young Student + Rooftop of School, Shamli District, India, 2017

The faces in this village amazed me every single year, as this young student stepped up for her portrait. There was something about them which was impossible for me to explain. My hope is that the camera has done a better job at communicating this variable to the viewers.

The day before we photographed the older students, yet this day was for her and her younger friends. When we walked down from the rooftop to gather the girls from their class, we were greeted with the most excited students. They just couldn't wait to be called, and jumped up without asking permission from their teacher. Thank goodness we had done so earlier, as the teacher watched the students run up the stairs.

Being photographed inside was something they loved. This allowed them a sense of privacy rarely experienced by them. Here they were, with their best friends and free to do as they wished in front of the lens. Thus the smiles began to show themselves more freely.

Having reviewed the film from these days in Uttar Pradesh, it is my firm belief that this form of photography will take precedence next year in India and beyond. The combination of gentle light and their freedom to express was something to behold, even more so six months later on medium format film base.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

EGOS + Gysleda, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2017

She is as powerful as any in my work, and as elegant at the same time. There are few who possess her presence in front of the lens, and even less who have her humility. We have known each other for almost a decade now, yet she treats my visits to her school EGOS like the first.

When asked to be photographed, she accepts with the energy of those being photographed for the first time. The only task for me is to make sure there is enough film in the bag, and to release the shutter at the right moments. It is an honor and a privilege to be one of the school's photographers, and I do hope that next year will allow us to collaborate even more so.

For this session we visited our familiar spot once again. This is our studio on the island, for it allows us to work without disturbance both from the public and from the authorities. The car is parked next to the space, and all can change clothing in the privacy of the car.

Photographing her is like a dance, there is a rhythm to her movements. She listens to the shutter being released and then moves to her next thought. It is just a matter of knowing when to move along with her, and this is a lesson which keeps being taught to me every time we collaborate. Perhaps in ten more years I will catch up to her, and truly transfer to film her immeasurable talents.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Local Girl + Village Near Advaita Garden, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, 2017

This past trip to India was a revelation photographically, bringing me closer to the children than in previous years. Thanks to my dear brothers Mukesh and Tejpal, we walked through the villages near Advaita Garden with camera in hand. 

Without such guidance, it is nearly impossible to walk through rural India and make meaningful portraits. We met this young girl when we searched for her cousin one day, a girl with incredibly clear eyes. It turned out that this young girl was a natural in front of the camera.

On this day she walked over to us as her cousin walked away to collect water for the family. Her hair was as seen in this photograph, and she was about to pull it back when we asked her to leave it alone. She was pleasantly surprised at the request, smiling along the way to this wall. We tried to find a spot with subdued sunlight, and chose this space. She positioned herself so that the sunlight touched her face as we released the shutter.

I look forward to printing this negative in the darkroom soon!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/100 mm combination onto Ilford Delta film.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Students + Flower, Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

Having returned from a summer in Cuba, I look forward to presenting our work in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to those of us involved and interested. Under the guidance of Nirvana and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation, we are proceeding with an interfaith collaboration in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh. 

This is made possible thanks to the hard work of Imdadullah and his community in the region, and to the generosity of two dozen people from this very circle. By the time of my visit early next year, our hope is that we have established the new school in these girls' village, as well as three sewing centers in the area.

The funds have been raised, and the first quarter has been presented... awaiting transfer in October to the foundation. Once such is done the materials can be produced, and the new school may begin. These two young girls will soon have a formal curriculum in between their religious studies, in this very space.

The need is great, and there are literally dozens of villages in the region deserving of such a collaboration. We hope that this school can be a model for such a movement, truly.


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Three Friends + Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

At times when it seems this work will fall short, my mind drifts far away to this village and thinks of these students. They are and have always been the inspiration behind the work. It is for them that so many of you have come together, and it is for them that Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation move forward in this region.

These are the younger students from the village, yet have had almost four years of experience with the photography. Earlier this year we discovered photography in this room and my work was reborn. They have given so much to me, and thanks to all of you the work is going to give back so much to them.

As in the previous posts, I am honored to notify all of you that 50% of the funding is on its way and the remaining 50% has already been raised.

Congratulations to all of you, to all of the girls in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Young Ballerina + Countryside, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2017

It has taken me over a dozen years to begin to see below the surface on the island, and in those dozen years the families have bestowed upon me the deepest of honors: access to their most precious, their children. While I do enjoy walking the streets and making the random portraits, it is these lifelong relationships which fuel my drive to return year after year.

A single portrait of a laborer in the streets of Havana is priceless, but to have these children call me while on the island for a session is beyond my capacity to describe. Over the last few years, the number of tourists with cameras on the island has exploded.

This past year, one question kept creeping up on me: has the sentiment between photographer and subject on the streets disappeared in the city? Years ago, when I walked around with my camera on a tripod, the reaction was much less skeptical and much more inquisitive. The past few years have proven the reverse for me, while my relationships with the families has proven to be the best of investments.

Such a relationship is the reason behind this young dancer's portrait. On this afternoon her father called to tell me that the weather looked good, and we might have a chance at an afternoon session. We of course had our cameras with us, and made our way to their home. The parents wanted something different, and so we drove out to the countryside.

It was a familiar neighborhood, but we decided to cross to the other side of the railroad tracks in search of homes. We ran across this one and its owner granted us permission immediately. So we set up our cameras and began at this location first. We were able to use the outside, as well as the inside of the home, making for some memorable images.

She was just magnificent, and showed us how much she had changed over the past few years. Such a session in direct sunlight would have been very difficult for her then, but this year she reveled in the sunlight. She and her family will always have my admiration.

It is my sincerest honor to be given this opportunity, and in a few weeks when the film is processed my hope is that we have done justice on her behalf.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Students + Rooftop, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

For those of us involved with this new school, and for those interested in joining, these two students share their smiles. Thanks to the guidance of Nirvana and the hard work of his team at Nirvanavan Foundation, much of the groundwork has already been accomplished and we are poised to join Imdadullah and his community in Shamli District.

While the education of the students is of primary importance, we have arranged to establish sewing centers in four villages as well. This will provide an alternative to the parents who may feel uncomfortable sending their girls to secondary schools far away from their villages, as is the case in this region.

The school in which these two stand will also be painted beautifully this year, as a gesture of goodwill to a community which has given so much. The children are truly selfless and give of themselves without hesitation. Their elders have been so kind, and have taught me many lessons over the past four years.

Early next year I will join these very girls in this room, and share the love from this very circle with them... thank you all!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Young Students + Window Light, Shamli District, UP, India, 2017

Once again a portrait of two students is being shared with those of us involved in their new school. Thanks to Nirvana and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation the possibility of this school was born, and thanks to those tagged within this post that possibility has turned into a reality.

My photographic work began in this district thanks to Asrar, who had taken me there to document the thousands of refugees from the recent Muzaffarnagar riots. This was one village which we visited, and I fell in love with the area. While the children were of course beautiful and the environment surrounding the homes took my breath away, it was the generous nature of the supporting families which impressed me most.

So last year Nirvana provided me with incredible insight, making it clear to me that something needed to be done. The local elders did the same, asking for our help in the education of their grandchildren. This was the impetus in bringing the new school to your attention, and thanks to your generosity the first donation has already been sent, while the second donation is only a few weeks from being sent as well. This will allow us to remain on schedule, and all can rest assured that the first two years' worth of budget has already been put aside.

Congratulations to all, and thank you in advance for allowing me to tag you!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Congregation of Sheep, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2017

Earlier this year we did something different, we explored the western landscape of Rajasthan without much of a plan. With the help of my dear friend Mukesh, and the guidance of Nirvana, it turned out to be a great experience.

We talked as we drove, stopped whenever we wanted and took the camera out when the scene showed itself to us. In this instance, we witnessed some sheep gathered without movement. It was a striking scene, and as we walked closer to the animals they remained together without movement.

This region is within 25 kilometers of Pakistan, and was filled with pure silence. Traffic was non-existent, and sand was everywhere. The Muslim community treated us well, but informed us that none of the villages in the region would allow photography. They had gotten together years ago and agreed upon this, mostly due to the fact that the area is filled with tourists and, while they worked with these tourists as guides, they wished to preserve their privacy at home. 

So we photographed sand dunes, and sheep, and had a great time doing so!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Turn + Smile, Rajasthan, India, 2017

For those of us who have come forth on behalf of 240 children in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, this image of one student is being presented. My hope is that her joy is clear to all of us, that even though she is turned, we can see the extreme happiness in her expression. This is the magic of an education, the power of hope. Thanks to all of you the new school will begin later this year in Uttar Pradesh, as well as four new sewing classes both in Rajasthan and in Uttar Pradesh.

With the guidance of Nirvana Bodhisattva and Imdadullah Nadvi Nadvi, your donations will be put to good use. Last month the first quarter of the budget was sent, and next month the first half of the budget will be met. Now that I am back from the summer in Cuba images will be posted, and stories shared. All of you can rest assured that the progress will be noted for all of us to witness.

A sincere thank you for all of us, to all of you!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens combination.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Model + Shadow, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2017

This year promises to be an incredible one at EGOS, a school for models run by the magnificent Gysleda. This young man is one such example of the beauty and power on the island, and helped us produce beautiful images this past week. 

While he has exquisite attributes, it is his humility which stands on its own. He was both soft and strong, and worked so well with the other model during the session. When asked to remove his shirt, he did so without hesitation... and when asked to pour water on his beautiful hair, he also embraced the request. This image is the result of his cooperation, and spirit of course. 


Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Anays + The Blue Chair, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2017

This past week the work has begun on the island, and with the most magnificent Anays Diz Pe. For this image we returned to a small village just outside of the city, and to the home with my favorite chair. While of course her dance images are without compare, she decided to display her sense of fashion and style for this session.

Her talents have now grown to include being a dance professor in two schools, while strolling the catwalk in a most prestigious modeling school. My schedule looks empty in comparison to hers, yet she still finds time for us to collaborate. If she could be photographed every single day she would do so, for she was born to be photographed.

On this morning we were fortunate enough to have sunshine, and plenty of it. We collaborated for perhaps one hour before the sun turned a bit hot for me. Anays could have gone forward for much longer, but perhaps it was best to save our time, and film, for our session this Sunday at the beach.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3, after hitting the ground from 5 or so feet high.