Saturday, February 24, 2018

Survivor + HIV/AIDS, Near Kisumu, Kenya, 2006

One day the good people of MACODEF take me to a small house where about thirty women and a few men have gathered in anticipation of our visit. They come from different households and backgrounds but share one variable, living with HIV/AIDS.

While we usually arrive and set up the equipment shortly thereafter, this time we sit down and listen to the stories of each person, one at a time. Here are thirty or so adults, with their children around them, telling a complete stranger the story of how they contracted the virus, of how they remember their spouses as the sources of this transmission and of how their children live with the thought of losing their remaining parent.

Some of the stories are translated, some are left to be heard without translation.

There is a feeling of victory, of jubilation. These women see their tribulations as opportunities rather than obstacles. They have formed a group and through this unity have forged a way forward.

We step outside and make their portraits, first with their children and then on their own. My mind cannot imagine the tribulations each has endured, for their lives without such an unimaginable hardship is beyond my ability to comprehend.

The nearest hospital is beyond their reach and the medicine needed is as distant. Yet they find the strength to take care of themselves and their families, to gather in this group and share their stories in public… in an environment less than friendly for such stories.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad V System.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Model + Car, Havana, Cuba, 2017

Here is yet another image from my time with Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega and her wonderful models. We were finished with our afternoon session and walked to this parking lot to end it all on film. The models were gracious enough to allow me 30 minutes, and Gysleda was as usual more than helpful. 

We found this old classic and decided to include it rather than the more polished cars nearby. It seemed out of place in this parking lot, which caters to tourists mostly. It however was perfect for us!

Four or so took their places in front of the car, and some took it upon themselves to climb up as well with the owners permission of course. People looked on but that did little to affect the models as they moved from one pose to another. We exposed a few rolls of film and headed back to the school as the sun set.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Anyel + Gysleda + EGOS, Havana, Cuba, Summer of 2017

Last summer was a difficult one in Cuba, but one bright spot was my collaboration with Gysleda and her wonderful school for modeling EGOS. While in the past it has been an incredible source of creativity, this past summer our collaborative efforts went even further.

One such example of such creativity is a young woman named Anyel. She has taken part in EGOS for a few years now, as well as in my photography. Her ability to transform in front of the lens is exceptional, and she presents herself with genuine humility. When asked to be photographed she embraces the opportunity.

On a few occasions last summer Gysleda asked me to photograph a group of models in the streets of Havana. We would meet at the school and then head out into the streets. Walking around with a dozen beautiful spirits was quite the experience, as it was the first time I saw tourists put their phones down and actually look at Cubans.

So we walked around looking for good light, and interesting backgrounds. When we found both we'd stop and all would gather around. Gysleda certainly had the vision regarding presentation and guided each model accordingly. Anyel needed very little guidance and was more than aware of herself in such a public space. She knew to look slightly up to allow the light to gently illuminate her exquisite features, a true delight with whom to work.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ballerina + Oldsmobile, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2017

This past year she truly came into her own. This was the first time when she was photographed on her own, without her brother and sister. At such a young age she is incredibly professional and is studying at the prestigious National School of Ballet. Her future is bright.

For our session on this morning we picked her family up in front of their home in Havana. They were as usual ready an hour before sunrise and in front of their apartment. We drove out to Guanabacoa in search of a different setting for her immeasurable talents.

We drove past this spot to the railroad tracks but were greeted by an uncooperative man who had taken it upon himself to disrupt our session. This young girl is mature beyond her age, and just smiled with confidence as we collected ourselves and returned to the scene in this image.

This is where we began our session for the morning. The Oldsmobile was our car for the summer, and truly dependable it was. She loved being photographed in front of this classic and held her own doing so. This was our fourth year together and for me our best. In five months we will reunite and hopefully exceed the images we made last summer.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Carolina + Lunara, El Mirage, Los Angeles, California, 2016

Two years ago I had the honor of being included in a collaboration between two incredible talents, Carolina as a model and Lunara as a designer of wearable art. We met in Los Angeles and then headed to the most magical El Mirage for our session.

Rarely have I had a designer with me, yet it felt natural. We were all on the same page and the clouds turned the sky into a beautiful canvas for our images. Initially I thought that time would be lost getting ready between outfits. Yet once again my thoughts were proven wrong when Lunara did more than her part to move the session along.

Then there was Carolina who took it upon herself to bring the designs to life. She did so without instruction and brought a high level of energy to the session. She constantly moved and never presented the same combination of expression and position to the lens.

Working with these two talents was quite the experience and I do hope that one day we could reunite at El Mirage!

Note: This frame was exposed with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm lens.

Lunara Love's designs could be found here:

Here is an excerpt from her 'about' section:

"I am from West Siberia, Russia. The city where I grew up is not far from the biggest Siberian forest Taiga and beautiful Mountains of Altai which is where my influences have came from. Those places are famous for mystical, wild nature and Shamanic roots. Eight years ago I moved to NY, and it has been my home base since. I have traveled to the West coast a lot, and I have attended Burning Man for six years which has played a big role in my artistic expression. I have also attended a lot of beautiful Gatherings all over the world, and it has been my inspiration to create a line of Lunara Design hair accessories - danceable hair art."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Nica + I, Villa Sandino, Nicaragua, 2017

The more days spent in my birthplace the more it feels like home. Case in point is this portrait made as we found our way back from the east of the country. We happened upon this young girl's neighborhood and decided to approach her community for photographs. Like everyone else so far they agreed to be photographed and in just a few minutes she was comfortable enough to allow this portrait in front of her home.

To tell the truth she and her sister felt comfortable enough with us to hold our hands as we walked around looking for others to photograph. Once we let the neighbors know we were there, a few children walked our way and a session was started a hundred or so meters from her home.

She was quite the bundle of energy making her difficult to photograph, yet that same energy hopefully turned into some amazing portraits on film. She and her family live in a simple wooden structure, as basic as any home in Nicaragua. Yet it is hard to tell from her portraits alone. We bid her family farewell and promised that we'd pass by their neighborhood on my next visit to Nicaragua.

Note: This portrait was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Young Ballerina + Horse, Guanabacoa, Cuba, Summer of 2017

Here she stands in the middle of a field reserved for horses and boys playing soccer. Early in the morning the horses are brought out to eat grass, while the boys come out later to play. The young Cuban ballerinas love to have their photographs made here as well, and we usually end up doing so after using other areas in this beautiful neighborhood.

I have had the honor of photographing her for the past two years and look forward to doing better this summer. Her parents come along to watch their daughter perform, and are beyond proud of her progress. The truth of the matter is that this young girl has never been shy. She has always presented herself without reservation to the camera, always.

In fact she would rather be photographed on her own rather than with anyone else. This is a source of sweet tension between her and her parents, for they want her to learn from others. Nonetheless she does perfectly on her own and I am proud of her for choosing to do so.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Jasmine + El Mirage, Los Angeles, California, 2016

Two years ago my session with Jasmine occurred in the most spontaneous of ways. We had communicated through email earlier but had yet to set up a date to collaborate. Then the day before my drive from northern to Southern California we decided to meet at El Mirage the next afternoon.

We had never met before nor had we reviewed the outfits. The anticipation on my way down almost drove me crazy. When we met she was as sweet as in the messages, and was more than prepared for our session. The sun was just perfect but the wind had picked up a bit. Nonetheless Jasmine performed flawlessly for the lens and for each frame she gave it her all.

She embraced the wind and used it to her advantage. Her hair was just perfect and her movements in line with the wind. Even more amazing she withstood the dust that was in both of our faces. The images we made on that day will remain long after we are gone, and are a testament to her spirit on that beautiful afternoon.

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

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Cami + Abandoned Structure, Near Los Angeles, California, 2017

This past year was a truly remarkable one thanks in part to this exquisite dancer, and her incredible heart. She responded to my casting call for dancers two years ago, and never let the communication go as we went back and forth. She was totally engaged in the concept, giving her 100% throughout the process.

Even before we met she shared the clothing options, all dark and timeless according to my preferences. This was our second session outside of Los Angeles, and was just as exciting as the first. The night before was a sleepless one for me.

Watching Cami move from one expression to another was like sitting down for a performance. There were times when it was necessary to remind myself that my job was to document the performance, while still enjoying it. To have been granted the opportunity was both an honor and a privilege; and my hope is that the images are a testament to her physical talents and spiritual kindness. 

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