Thursday, May 31, 2018

Nathy + Window, 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 six weeks I hope to repeat this session on another glorious afternoon in Cuba!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100 III.

Me ha llevado más de una docena de años comenzar a ver debajo de la superficie de la isla, y en esos doce años las familias me han otorgado los honores más profundos: acceso a sus seres más preciados, sus hijos. Si bien disfruto pasear por las calles y hacer retratos al azar, son estas relaciones de por vida lo que alimenta mi impulso de regresar año tras año.

Un solo retrato de un obrero en las calles de La Habana no tiene precio, pero hacer que estos niños me llamen mientras estoy en la isla para una sesión está más allá de mi capacidad para describirlo. En los últimos años, el número de turistas con cámaras en la isla se ha disparado.

El año pasado, una pregunta me siguió: ¿ha desaparecido en la ciudad el sentimiento entre el fotógrafo y el sujeto en las calles? Hace años, cuando caminaba con mi cámara en un trípode, la reacción era mucho menos escéptica y mucho más inquisitiva. Los últimos años han demostrado lo contrario para mí, mientras que mis relaciones con las familias han demostrado ser las mejores inversiones.

Tal relación es la razón detrás del retrato de esta joven bailarína. Esta tarde, su padre llamó para decirme que el clima se veía bien, y que podríamos tener la oportunidad de una sesión de la tarde. Por supuesto, teníamos nuestras cámaras con nosotros y nos dirigimos a su casa. Los padres querían algo diferente, así que salimos al campo.

Era un vecindario familiar, pero decidimos cruzar al otro lado de las vías del tren en busca de casas. Nos encontramos con este y su propietario nos dio permiso de inmediato. Así que configuramos nuestras cámaras y comenzamos en este lugar primero. Pudimos usar el exterior y el interior de la casa, creando algunas imágenes memorables.

Ella fue simplemente magnífica, y nos mostró cuánto había cambiado en los últimos años. Tal sesión en la luz del sol directa habría sido muy difícil para ella entonces, pero este año ella se deleitó en la luz del sol. Ella y su familia siempre tendrán mi admiración.

Es un honor sincero que me den esta oportunidad, ¡y en seis semanas espero repetir esta sesión en otra tarde gloriosa en Cuba!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mother + Daughter, Rama, Nicaragua, December of 2017

45 years after we lost our home to an earthquake I returned to my birthplace of Nicaragua. The experience of walking in the footsteps of my parents cannot be described fully, for my mind still needs to process the events of last December.

One thing is for sure, the people of Nicaragua treated me like a prince, like one of their own. Thanks to my cousins Victor and Carlos, it felt just like home. Their homes were my homes, their hospitality was as generous as any in my travels. Certainly this was a reflection of our culture, of their respect for my parents... but it was so much more, and I may begin to understand more so when we meet once again this December.

Then there were those we met on the road, such as this family on our way to the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We never did reach the coast, but this neighborhood of Rama was as perfect as we could have imagined. The people were so generous with their kindness, and allowed us to have a morning session which resulted in this portrait.

These beautiful people work hard day in and day out, and their lives are anything but easy. Their entire neighborhood was built on the outskirts of the town without planning nor distribution of basic services from the municipal government. Yet they endure and do their best for the sake of their children.

I look forward to returning in December and going deeper into my family's history, as well as the relationships formed during my first visit in over 4 decades.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 503 CW/100 mm C lens combination.

Wednesday, May 23, 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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Young Woman, Rama, Nicaragua, December of 2017

This young woman's portrait was made as we attempted to cross the country in search of the eastern coastline. It seemed like nobody knew the way, it was clear to me that few had made their way from one coast to the other.

When my parents lived in Nicaragua they had never ventured that far, and my cousins living in the country now have never attempted it. Some told us that there was a road, while some told us that the only way was by plane.

So one day we just decided to head east and see for ourselves. The landscape was as beautiful as any seen through my travels, pristine and lush with lakes and volcanoes. This was in contrast to the hardships people faced in the countryside. There are the cities, and then there are the villages.

After half a day of driving, we ended up in the port city of Rama. We looked at the map and it told us that we could continue for a few hours and find our way to the eastern coast. So we followed the map on the phone, all the while my friend kept telling me that it was impossible.

After thirty minutes of driving through the outskirts of the city we ended up at the end of the road, a narrow crossing over a river. Just past the river was a small village consisting mainly of wooden homes. We finally realized that the map was suggesting that we head to the coastline on a canoe down that river.

On the bright side the village was sublime, and the people walking by us welcomed us to visit. So we did and ended up speaking with this young woman's family and friends. It was too late to do any photography, so we promised to return the next morning. We did return and had the most incredible of mornings with the photography.

The home we used was incredibly beautiful, and the children gathering around us were so sweet. The adults of course accompanied the children and supported us fully, even though just the day before we were only strangers to each other.

Johana and I have since become friends and speak often via messenger. She is continuing her education at the capital, and doing her best in order to provide for herself and her family. I admire her sincerely, and am thankful for being accepted in such a way by her community.

I look forward to seeing her and her community later this year, and doing even better for them.

Note: This was made with a Hasselblad V system, 503 CW and a 100 mm lens combination.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Students + I, Outside of Alwar, Rajasthan, India, 2018

As the bags are unpacked this evening from the trip back home, memories of the past two months are already coming to mind. This triple selfie was made at the end of an hour of photography at a village just a few kilometers away. The session was spontaneous, and all let their hair down for the photography... a rare event in rural India for me. One was a former student, and one is presently a student at the model Advaita Garden school just outside of Alwar, Rajasthan. Nirvanavan Foundation is doing an incredible job in this area, and has been doing so for almost two decades now. It is time to gather further support and funding for the schools, and much more!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dancers + Friends, León, Nicaragua, December of 2017

In a very short time the dearest of friends were made in the city of my father's young adulthood. A simple visit to a ballet school in León resulted in us being embraced like family, in the most beautiful group of dancers most willing to create art.

Antonella and Jose two such beautiful people. Without reservation they offered themselves to the camera on several occasions, with the latter also coming along to help us with the younger dancers one afternoon. We had less than a week together yet were able to create memorable images nonetheless.

For some reason this past December the weather was different. Usually Nicaragua is sunny between December and February, However it was cloudy on so many afternoons, including the afternoon when we made this image. Luckily we had some stretches of sunshine, giving us such an exposure.

This year I will be prepared to honor the school, its students and certainly the professor as well. The trust has been placed in me, and in December the effort will be put forth to make the best images possible. 

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 503 CW/180 mm combination, scanned through the negative sleeve for a preview of the work!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ballerinas + Countryside, León, Nicaragua, December of 2017

Almost 45 years to the day, and almost 70 years after my father set foot in this city, this collaboration was born with a bit of happenstance. We had finished our work with a local NGO and were on our way out of the city when we saw a street advertisement for a ballet performance. We asked around and made our way to the school.

Inside the school was a handsome man directing a few workers on a project. Without much preparation we approached him and talked about the possibility of a collaboration with his students. He spoke in a most humble manner, and agreed immediately while inviting us to the performance. We changed our plans immediately and made our way to the theatre early in order to get the video camera ready.

So there we were, in the city of my father's young adulthood, watching a ballet performance and hoping for my photography to take hold in that beautiful city. The very next day we visited the school and made arrangements to work with the dancers.

This frame was exposed during our first session with the older students. We had found this beautiful spot just outside of the city, and asked the owners of the land for their permission. They gave it without hesitation and we made our way here with a handful of dancers. The trees all around us produced a beautiful combination of shadows and highlights, and the dancers presented their art within this mix.

My hope is that this year will allow us to dedicate much more time to the school, and these most gentle of people.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 503CW and 60 mm C lens.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Moment Between Friends, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018

The classroom had just been painted the previous day, and the smell of paint still permeated the warm, morning air. The colors looked absolutely glorious and set the mood for our morning session. Just outside of the classroom sat perhaps forty students learning the Koran, and their voices carried into this beautiful space.

Mukesh and I split the duties, a digital camera in his hands and the film camera in mine. We were fortunate to have two identical rooms, connected by an open doorway. All the girls gathered with Mukesh to make the more spontaneous images, while one girl at a time would come into my room to produce the portraits on film.

This proved to be an incredible combination, for the girls loved to be in front of the digital camera. They loved to be creative, to make photographs with their friends, to express themselves in a different way.

Once my film work ended, it was also time for me to make digital images. It was at that moment when these two young girls walked in front of the camera. Suddenly they broke out into a series of smiles, laughter, movements and pure joy. At least two dozen exposures were made and all the while they allowed me to do so.

This was a rare moment in a most conservative setting. While I have always thought the girls in this community act like girls the world over... perhaps behind the walls of their homes, I have rarely seen such abandon out in the open. These girls knew so, and allowed me to witness their unfiltered joy!

A week or so later it was time to hand these photographs to the girls. The young girl to the right was in the school to receive the photographs, and I asked her to sit next to me while Mukesh was handing photographs to the other students.

Knowing that she would be shy to receive the photographs out in the open, I handed them to her quietly. However, I handed them to her one at a time while smiling ever so slightly. Her reaction was incredible. She did almost shy away, but she remained in place, smiled and took one photograph at a time from my hands while truly looking at each image. She made such an impression on me, one that will remain in my memory for life I do hope.

These are the new colors of the new school, this is the joy in the students as Nirvanavan Foundation proceeds to establish the school thanks to the generous circle of people here on FB. I share this and hope we can continue our support for next year!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Young Student + New School, Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018

Yesterday we returned from three weeks in Uttar Pradesh, and the most incredible visit to her beautiful village. Thanks to so many generous people here on FB and through our exhibits, a new school has begun within her traditional madrasa. Nirvana and his dedicated team at Nirvanavan Foundation have taken it upon themselves to begin this project and see to it that the efforts succeed.

It is for her and her friends after all that this work is dedicated. In addition to their traditional Koranic studies they will now have the Uttar Pradesh curriculum. For the first time in their young lives they will study what some in their area take for granted, a quality education. While some in her village are sent to private schools, the majority depend on the local government school which is at its best mediocre. In addition, most families will refrain from sending their girls above a certain age... thus the school within the madrasa has evolved.

She and her friends are beyond happy to have such a school now, and with an all-female teaching staff as well. The classrooms are beautiful, freshly painted and supplied with proper electricity and fans. Their art is on the walls, with much more art to follow. In may at perhaps more than 40 additional girls will join the school, making it a considerable presence in the village.

I hope that her expressions says it all!

Note: This portrait was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tree on the Outskirts of Alwar, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2018

This is the scene which awaits anyone visiting Nirvanavan Foundation just outside of Alwar, Rajasthan. There are over a dozen of these magnificent creations between the foundation and the adjacent villages. The next two days will be spent here prior to heading back out into the field on Tuesday. It is an honor to collaborate with Nirvana Bodhisattva, and these incredible trees! 


Friday, May 4, 2018

Young Student + My Favorite Window, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation are working hard to establish a school in this young girl's village. Thanks to the support of brothers Imdadullah and Mushad, the community has placed their trust in this collaboration. In a little more than one week I will be in this room, a room with a most beautiful view.

This young girl lives in this very village and attends religious classes in this building, sessions provided by one of our most generous hosts. His family built this school for the sake of the children in their village, and collected the funds necessary from the villagers in order to provide the children a safe place in which to study their holy book.

Thanks to a generous two dozen friends from this very circle, the school has begun along with two sewing centers as well. The excitement is building and I for one cannot wait to see the progress myself. It has taken five years to come to this point!

She is one of the younger students in the school, and while the older students run quickly to the camera when it is pulled out of the bag, she is just as curious in her own way. What amazes me is that this is her first time in front of a camera, and in the midst of such a conservative society she is able to express herself without reservation.

It is on her behalf that my work is presented here and elsewhere. My hope is that more see the value of this movement and come forward to join us.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Sewing Center in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018

Having just returned from this very place, the new sewing center and school in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh. The walls have now been plastered and painted, while the bathroom will be finished over the next two weeks. These young girls were attending the madrasa for religious classes before the foundation, and now they are attending religious classes alongside the formal Uttar Pradesh curriculum. The sewing classes have also begun and the girls are really excited.

Nirvanavan Foundation is working hard to ensure the establishment of both, while we are on our end beginning the process of the fair trade certification and connection to possible parties interested in such a connection. We are hoping to connect these villages to the world marketplace, along with the local.

Any and all those interested in this beautiful project may reach me through the comment section below!