Monday, September 6, 2021

Young Student + Flowers, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2020


Just about now Indian time we would be visiting this girl's school in the district of Shamli. This is the first year since 2012 without a visit to India, and I'm already missing her and her friends. This portrait is from last year, right before the quarantine was put in place by the government. It's a view of a world without the worries that came with the pandemic only a week or so later.

This small village has a school which we wish to support. Last year, as a gesture of goodwill, we had the school plastered and painted. This pleased the children to no end, for how they sat in a building resembling more or so a school. The color behind her is the one picked by the painter, almost perfectly matching the tones of her skin. 

Usually after the film photography the girls get to be photographed more spontaneously, because we have more time to do so. They go around and find flowers, change scarves, pose with each other and let their creative thoughts flow. This pot of flowers may have been used by a dozen girls, but each girl makes it her own. 

This is an exercise in expression for these girls, because they are rarely allowed to be so free. Sometimes they catch themselves smiling and immediately put their hands over their mouths in response. They learn slowly that their expressions are welcome, and slowly allow themselves to let go.

Soon we hope that the pandemic eases its grip on their part of the world and we can move forward with finding support for her small school. She and her friends deserve nothing less.


The Hands of a Farmer, Cuba, 2018

The work in the darkroom continues, concentrating on the countryside of Cuba. I wonder how many fields these hands have worked, how many meals they have provided to the man's family. Every line has significance, as well as every deformity. A single image cannot do justice to decades of hard work, this I understand. 

Claudia + EGOS, Halim Ina, Paseo de Prado, La Habana, Cuba


Even though the photography with Professor Gysleda and her students in the streets is mainly done with the digital camera, the Hasselblad is on a tripod and waiting for the right moment. On this day it was cloudy for most of the afternoon, even raining heavily. At the end of our walk we were on Paseo de Prado when the sun came up, and I set the Hasselblad down immediately. Everyone knew what that meant. We had enough time for maybe a few minutes of sun, so two of the models were photographed... including the wonderful Claudia. The two rolls exposed were enough to make that afternoon worth it film-wise!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Young Student + Classroom, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018


It's nearly impossible to describe the gentle nature of the girls in rural India, their noble humility. She is a student in the school run by the headmaster in the previous post, and this is the classroom right behind the two men. Even after 16 years of visits to India, I am continuously amazed as to how they could connect with me, with my camera. 

Sometimes I think that this is impossible, then time and time again the girls prove me wrong. Even when called from their lessons to sit down on a bench, they can compose themselves instantly and stand with such elegance. What goes on in their minds is a mystery to me, but what I sense is pure happiness and love.

This may be the first time that they are put first, in a society which treats them with indifference. They are of course right about my approach, and they know it. That is what I see in this girl's gaze, in her peaceful expression.

Negative + Couple, Countryside, Cuba, 2018

En el cuarto oscuro con los retratos del campo cubano... frente a mi cafetería preferida, mejor comida y servicio que los mejores hoteles de la ciudad.

Daughter of Farmer, Countryside, Cuba, 2017


As the cliche goes, there's a story behind every photograph and this one is a great example. A year earlier we were driving in the countryside looking for people when we saw a tree with a light bulb hanging from one of its branches. Once we stopped we also noticed a small bench. It was right across the street from this young woman's house, and her mother came out when she noticed us.

She was very sweet and was just wondering as to why we had stopped. We learned that she was responsible for the spot, making it so that she can sit peacefully in the evenings on the side of the road. She learned that I was a photographer and told me that her daughter really wanted to be a model. We were invited over to the house and ended up meeting her daughter, this young woman in the picture.

We exchanged information and tried our hardest to make it happen in the last week of my summer but weren't able to do so in 2017. When I went back to Cuba in 2018 I never forgot the promise to make a session happen. We called her family and drove the hour to her home for a talk. She was so happy to see us and we made plans for the next week.

When we arrived her boyfriend and mother were helping her get ready. Seeing the family sitting together to help her realize one of her wishes was heartwarming. What was even better was that in between our visits she became pregnant, and was very much looking forward to modeling for herself and her future baby. It was a great afternoon, an experience to remember thanks to this portrait.

Note: Medium-format negative printed onto 11x14 fiber paper and toned in selenium today.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Farmer + Hands, Campo, Cuba, 2018


There's something special about heading into the Cuban countryside. Normally we start well before sunrise and hope to find such a man in time for the perfect light. Sometimes we get lucky early, and get a chance to make a portrait after a conversation. He was great, made photographs leaning up against the Oldsmobile, some with and without his hat. His hands caught my attention, and I asked him to lift them for this image.

Note: Medium-format negative printed onto 11x14 fiber paper and toned in selenium today.

Rachel + Yudel, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 2016


Earlier last month Rachel reached out to me regarding these images, as it seemed she was missing them. It happened to be our last session in 2016, in one our favorite places outside of the city. Many of my friends from Cuba have had their images made here, and some with that beautiful, blue chair in the background. It feels great when a dear friend gets a hold of me years after a session, tells me that the photography had an effect on all those involved.

Thanks to Yudel R. Contreras Garcia for the beautiful, hand-made outfits... and to Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega for making all of this possible!

El mes pasado, Rachel me contactó con respecto a estas imágenes, ya que parecía que no las tenía. Resultó ser nuestra última sesión en 2016, en uno de nuestros lugares favoritos fuera de la ciudad. Muchos de mis amigos de Cuba se han hecho sus imágenes aquí, y algunos con esa hermosa silla azul de fondo. Se siente muy bien cuando un querido amigo me contacta años después de una sesión, me dice que la fotografía tuvo un efecto en todos.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Anays + El Mar, Santa Maria Del Mar, Cuba, 2018


Incredible how it's been almost three years since we walked into the water for this image. While this year looks like one without travel, it's a blessing to have the time to finally print my life's work. 

Anays and her family have treated me like a brother since we first met in 2008, and this portrait was made exactly 10 years later. My hope is that they are safe, and I look forward to the day when we can return to these waters.

Thank you Caridad for making all of this possible, and thank you Idiovel for getting us there!

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Es increíble cómo han pasado casi tres años desde que entramos al agua para esta imagen. Si bien este año parece uno sin viajes, es una bendición tener tiempo para finalmente imprimir el trabajo de mi vida.

Anays y su familia me han tratado como a un hermano desde que nos conocimos en 2008, y este retrato se hizo exactamente 10 años después. Mi esperanza es que estén sanos y espero con ansias el día en que podamos regresar a estas aguas.

¡Gracias Caridad por hacer posible todo esto y gracias Idiovel por llevarnos allí!

Note: Negative exposed with a Fuji GA645i, printed in the darkroom onto Ilford 11x14 fiber paper, toned in selenium for permanence.

Grandfather + Window, La Habana, Cuba, 2018


This is the grandfather of the young girl in the previous post. He allowed me to make his portrait against the window of the neighboring house. The family moved from the east to the capital in order to improve their lives, even though the majority of those in the city see them as squatters from the countryside. They welcomed us with open arms and were as elegant as any in the country. My respect for this man is immense, and I hope to see him next summer.

Note: Negative exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM/100mm combination, printed in the darkroom onto Ilford 11x14 fiber paper, toned in selenium for permanence.

Portrait in a Chair, La Habana, Cuba, 2018


Algunos dirían que esta forma de fotografía no es documental, que mover una silla o tener una conversación sobre vestuario y peinado es ocultar la verdad. Algunos dicen que esto es artificial, mostrando algo diferente a la realidad.

Les digo que todo el mundo tiene sueños y que su realidad está fuera de su control. ¿Por qué no hablar con ella y entender cómo le gustaría que la fotografiaran? ¿Por qué deberíamos imponer las nociones del mundo de su país y su sociedad? ¿Qué pasa con sus pensamientos y sueños?

Esta joven viene del campo y vive en un pequeño grupo de casas de madera. La gente de la ciudad llama a estas comunidades 'llegan y ponen', viniendo a la ciudad desde los pueblos y construyendo casas improvisadas ilegalmente.

Sin embargo, son como migrantes en todas partes, buscando una vida mejor para sus familias. Conocimos a su comunidad mientras Idiovel me conducía por el campo y terminamos conduciendo hasta su pequeño pueblo. De alguna manera terminamos frente a la casa de sus abuelos y nos invitaron amablemente a entrar.

Durante las próximas semanas regresamos muchas veces, tuvimos múltiples sesiones de fotografía con la comunidad, grabamos un video musical para su primo (una aspirante a artista) e hicimos este retrato muy especial de una joven sin paralelo en su belleza y fuerza.

Note: Negative exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM/100mm combination, printed in the darkroom onto Ilford 11x14 fiber paper, toned in selenium for permanence.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Full Moon + Quarantine, Rajasthan, India, 2020



This image of the full moon during the lockdown last year marked the lowest point of my stay in the country. Having this print almost a year later gives me both pause and perspective. While I may have felt isolated like the moon in that dark space, the reality was that I had the support of the kind hosts as well as the prayers of my family back home. Far from alone I was, thanks to Nami and his kind family.

Note: negative exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM/180mm combination, printed in the darkroom onto Ilford 11x14 fiber paper, toned in selenium for permanence.

Dancer + Freeway Exit, 16 x 20 Enlarged Proof, Bauta, Cuba, 2015


This was the third print from today in the darkroom, a 16x20 enlarged proof of a young ballerina in Bauta, Cuba. During that summer we drove further away from Havana looking for opportunities, and found a great connection in this beautiful town. 

We were driving through the town when I wondered out loud to Alejandro about the possibility of a dance school. He doubted if this town had such a school. As he was speaking, this young girl was dressed in her dance outfit with two adults on the sidewalk. We stopped immediately and were informed that there was a school, and that it offered private lessons to serious students.

They pointed out the school to us and we headed that way. The teacher was very nice and told us to come back later, after he had spoken with the parents. When we did return this young girl and another were waiting in the park along with their parents. This is what makes photography so incredible, meeting people one minute and then creating the next. 

The spot in the images is the exit off of the highway for the town. It looked so beautiful and we offered it to the parents as our set. They accepted and we had a great afternoon with the two families. At first she had doubts about her abilities, but she was perfect once the photography started. It's great to see her movements on one print, makes me feel that the enlarged proofs for Cuba are perfect!

 

Dancer + Beach, Santa Maria Del Mar, Cuba, 2018


Her spontaneous gesture best represents to me the hope of better times ahead. This young dancer has inspired my work in Cuba since we first met in 2016. She and her family are always in my thoughts, and I hope that the dire situation in Cuba has had little effect on their lives. I look forward to a better future which hopefully includes a reunion next year.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Roy's Motel + Cafe, Route 66, California, 2019


This print was made in the darkroom in honor of my dear friend David. The negative was exposed late 2019 while driving on Route 66 on the weekends. I was working in Los Angeles and took advantage of the weekends to explore the landscapes of Southern California.

I was driving on Route 66 on this day when I saw a toilet sitting outside. I pulled over to photograph the scene, and that negative was also printed today. I was photographing the toilet when a man also stopped to make a photograph of another sign. We were about 10 miles away from the sign in this print, and I knew nothing of Roy's Motel Cafe. The man then told me that in an hour the sign was going to be turned on for the first time since the motel closed in 2005. 

We drove as fast as we could to Roy's and set up our cameras as the sun set behind the sign. This image was made the minute the lights were turned on.

Claudia, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2014


Hace más de diez años conocí a esta joven por casualidad, mientras visitábamos la casa de su familia para hablar con su prima sobre fotografía. De alguna manera se enteró de que estábamos allí y entró corriendo. Ella no dijo nada, pero sus ojos hablaban perfectamente. Ella aceptó ser incluida y desde entonces nunca ha abandonado mi trabajo.

Ahora ella misma es una artista y crea imágenes similares en contenido a su retrato cercano. Me enorgullece verla crecer como artista y sabía que tendría éxito independientemente de sus opciones profesionales. Ella es un camaleón como modelo, tal como muestran estas dos imágenes. Tiene una presencia genuina frente a la cámara que todo fotógrafo puede apreciar.

¡Esperamos que 2021 sea amable con ella y le traiga mucho éxito!

Young Nica + Field, Miramar, Nicaragua, 2020


Going back to Nicaragua for me was like going back in time to a different life. My parents made a life for themselves in this beautiful land, and giving us the opportunity for a better future. An earthquake in 1972 destroyed all of that, but did not destroy our memories of it all. The people of this country embraced me like a brother and have allowed my photography to take root in the land of my birth. I will always be grateful to them now, and to their hospitality at the time of my parents' generation in this land.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Preparation, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2019


Being trusted to fix the fabric means the world to me, and reminds me of my obligations to this community. Moments like this allow me to show these young students my dedication to them, a rare privilege for those outside of this region. 

One look into her blue eyes makes it clear that the work is both important and necessary. The fact that this work is needed in more villages than one can possibly count only makes it more urgent. Anyone moved by this is more than welcome to join.

Blue Eyes + Green Field, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2019


Her eyes are blue and as clear as the sky. This portrait of her was made behind the religious school she attends, with my friend Imdadullah's home in the background. This is his village and portraits of the children are only possible because of him. Over the past few years this has been the village in which I stay, thanks to Imdad's beautiful family and home. Every time we arrange a session with the children I ask for her by name, and someone goes running to call her. Sometimes she comes, sometimes she's missing. Regardless, just having this single portrait of her is everything to me.

Karla Pozo + EGOS, La Habana, Cuba, 2018


Esta fue una de esas grandes tardes con Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega y sus alumnos de EGOS. Acabábamos de terminar nuestra fotografía digital cuando llegamos a esta esquina. Acababa de llover y la luz era hermosa. Los estudiantes habían caminado toda la tarde y dos tuvieron la amabilidad de dejarme fotografiarlas aquí.

Una de las dos modelos fue Karla, alguien que me ha permitido fotografiarla muchas veces antes de esta tarde. Como habíamos colaborado antes, sabía qué hacer sin instrucción. Fue una pose magnífica, ¡y estoy muy contento de tener la luz!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Best Friends + Home for Mentally/Physically Challenged, Kisumu, Kenya, 2007


Over thirteen years ago her portrait was made during a visit to eastern Kenya. Thanks to the kindness of a foundation called Maragoli Community Development Foundation, we visited many schools as well as homes for children with special needs. On this day we visited a school on the outskirts of the city and photographed its students against the backdrop of a school wall. This was the only dress that they owned, and had put them on as we arrived. Their hardships are unimaginable and this is an improvement over experiences with their own families, with some chained to trees for much of the time. Now they are in great hands with a passionate team.

Note: printed in the darkroom just today onto fiber paper, tones in selenium for permanence.

Young Student + Madrasa, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2020


Earlier last year due to the pandemic, my return from India was delayed by 6 weeks. The entire time all 600 or so rolls of film were tucked away in the suitcase. My concern was that as the temperatures increased damage would be done to the film. I did the best that I could by keeping the door of the room closed during the day, and open at night. My host family allowed me to use the cooler as well. 

All the while I had the digital images to review, including this portrait. This young girl and her sister have been photographed by me over the past five or so years. I would look through the files and just hope that the film equivalents were safe. Taking walks twice a day helped, and the birds on the wires kept me company.

Now I look back and have even more appreciation for my host family. All of the film was processed successfully and her portrait on film is just as exquisite.

Boy with Severe Burns, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2020


One afternoon we were invited by the headmaster of this school to visit his home. We accepted of course and visited his home while we were waiting for the sun to set a little more. He wanted us to meet his family, especially his son who had recently suffered a serious burn. 

We were met by a young boy who, despite the immense pain, managed to have the courage to sit down with us. His father told us the story behind the accident while his son sat quietly at his side. While we did our best to keep strong faces, it was very difficult for me to watch this young boy work through his pain. 

After tea we drove back to school with the headmaster and his son. After we were done with the girls' photography, the father gave us permission to make his son's portrait. The young boy walked up and withstood his pain in order to make this portrait. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Shanu + Book Bag, Rajasthan, India, 2020


She is always so serious when in front of a camera, even when receiving a new book bag in front of her classmates. All of the sewing students attended and presented each student with a new uniform as well, hand-made by them. This is an incredible house, home to both the sewing instructor and the elementary school teacher... both sisters. I have visited this home since before this classroom was built, even before the second floor was made. The young woman next to me, now the teacher, used to be a student in the girls' school back then. One look at the smiles of the sewing students tells me that the sewing center needs to open soon, and open soon it will once the virus eases its grip on the world. 

Laura + Dry Lake Bed, Southern California, 2019


Last week Laura asked me to scan one of her color images, and I was glad that she did. We exposed one color roll towards the end of our session when almost all of the tones matched, with the exception of the sky which was the exact opposite in color. The location was magical and Laura sacrificed tremendously to make it happen. To have this image as proof of our time together on that dry lake is the gift of photography!

Young Student + Board, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, 2006


This portrait dates back to my first trip to India, and my first experiences with Humana People to People India. My time in the villages with Humana opened my eyes to an entirely different world, and introduced me to the work of community development from the ground up. It was a privilege to be able to visit more than a dozen schools in the Virat Nagar region of Rajasthan, and to this day this place means the world to me. While the schools are now closed, the foundation and I have maintained contact to this day. In addition, I have visited many of these villages over the past few years and we have begun three sewing centers in three of these villages, with one elementary school as well. My goal is to revisit all of these villages once again and present a plan to revisit the work started more than 20 years ago. One look into her face tells me the incredible value of education, and convinces me of the need to do what we can to make such more possible for the girls of this region.

Note: this frame was just scanned this evening... seen for the very first time since her portrait was made in 2016!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Massai + Me, Kisumu, Kenya, 2007


While making sure all film rolls have been scanned, this frame ran across the screen. It dates back to 2007 and my time with the Masai of eastern Kenya. A dear friend Nga Nga made it all possible, and allowed me to meet an very kind community. I am glad that Nga Nga used my camera to make this image, and look forward to my return to their community one day in the future. After we finished our session in the countryside, this group of men decided to walk back to town rather than take a bus... a walk of around 10 kilometers in the hot sun. What inspirations! 

Massai + Sky, Kisumu, Kenya, 2007


Last month was spent scanning all of the color film from the past 20 years. For some reason, I scanned the monochrome only, and neglected the color film all these years. This young man belongs to the Masai Community and was photographed during my time in Eastern Kenya. Thanks to my brother Nga Nga this work was possible, and I will forever be in debt to this great man.

Young Student + Classroom in Construction, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2020


If at all in doubt, one look at her portrait and all falls into place. She attends a small, religious school in the state of Uttar Pradesh. For her portrait she was standing near a window in a newly constructed classroom. The confidence she shows is remarkable for her age, and for a young girl having her portrait made by someone so different from the men in her village.

Her headmaster is a good man and is planning to construct a new school for the girls of the region. He is moved by the fact that education for girls is less prized by the villagers, in comparison to the education for boys. His decision to pursue such a plan impressed me deeply, and I will work hard on my end to gather the funds necessary by reaching out to the Muslim Community on this side of the world... and every other source of course. 

One look into her eyes makes it clear that the work is both important and necessary. The fact that this work is needed in more villages than one can possibly count only makes it more urgent. Anyone moved by this is more than welcome to join. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Luis Miguel + Las Canchas, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2018


This image brings so many memories back from my last summer in Cuba. It was the last time I was allowed into the country with my film. My hope is that we can make arrangements to return with my film in order to make such images. Thanks to Luis Miguel and his creativity we had a great morning at this racquetball court just off of the beaches of Santa Maria. This is perhaps my favorite place on the island for photography, and I look forward to another morning there.

Anays + Water, Santa Maria Del Mar, Cuba, 2016


 

I do miss the days in the waters of Cuba, and with the talents of that island. Hopefully one day soon we will see the other side of this pandemic and get back to these waters.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Mango Habana + La Noche, Habana, Cuba, 2018


El verano pasado por la noche caminé por las calles, buscando luz en las calles. Fue una experiencia increíble, más fácil que fotografiar los edificios durante días.

Esta isla siempre me ha enseñado valiosas lecciones, las familias me han tratado bien, como un hermano y un hijo. La paciencia ha sido una lección que me ha permitido ver mi trabajo de una manera diferente.

La paciencia del verano pasado me permitió pasar menos tiempo detrás de la cámara y más tiempo con mis amigos. Tomar un descanso para descansar durante el día me permitió caminar por la noche, viendo la ciudad sin luces y sin turistas.

Algo sobre la noche hizo que mis conversaciones con la gente de esta ciudad fueran muy diferentes. Las conversaciones fueron más relajadas, sin el intercambio habitual entre turista y habitante. Las imágenes tienen una sensación diferente, y me alegro de haber aprovechado la oportunidad para hacer imágenes por la noche.

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Last summer I walked the streets at night, looking for light in the streets. It was an incredible experience, easier than photographing the buildings during the days.

This island has always taught me valuable lessons, the families have treated me well, like a brother and son. Patience has been one lesson, which has allowed me to look at my work in a different way. 

This past summer patience allowed me to spend less time behind the camera and more time with my friends. Taking a break to rest during the day allowed me to walk around at night, seeing the city without lights and without tourists. 

Something about the night made my conversations with the people of this city much different. The conversations were more relaxed, without the usual exchange between tourist and inhabitant. The images have a different sensation, and I am glad to have taken the chance to make images at nighttime. 

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

Bailarina + Plaza, Habana Vieja, Cuba, 2018


Esta noche en mi apartamento estoy escaneando los rollos del verano pasado en Cuba. Se ha seleccionado una imagen para compartir esta noche, un recordatorio de una tarde especial con Iberodance.

Estábamos haciendo un video esa tarde, moviéndonos de una plaza a otra. Después de terminar esa parte del video, estábamos a punto de pasar a la siguiente plaza cuando le pregunté al equipo por unos minutos.

Cuatro de los bailarines se quedaron atrás e hicimos una docena de fotografías. Esta es una de las bailarinas y esta es solo una de las fotografías realizadas. Fue una tarde mágica y estoy agradecido a la compañía por esta imagen memorable.

¡Iberodance, hasta nuestra próxima vez juntos!

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Tonight in my apartment I am scanning the rolls from the past summer in Cuba. One image has been selected to share this evening, a reminder of a special afternoon with Iberodance. 

We were making a video on that afternoon, moving from one plaza to another. After we finished that part of the video we were about to move to the next plaza when I asked the team for a few minutes.

Four of the dancers remained behind and we made a dozen photographs. This is one of the dancers and this is just one of the photographs made. It was a magical afternoon and I am thankful to the company for this memorable image.

Iberodance, until our next time together! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Tamy y Museo, La Habana, Cuba, 2018


Every once in a while a photographer faces their creative equal, a person who helps them elevate their art. This has been my experience with the magnificent Tamy. She challenges me on every level, and for such I am eternally grateful.

De vez en cuando, un fotógrafo se enfrenta a sus iguales creativos, una persona que les ayuda a elevar su arte. Esta ha sido mi experiencia con la magnífica Tamy. Ella me desafía en todos los niveles, y por eso estoy eternamente agradecida.

Karen y Laura, La Habana, Cuba, 2018


Hace dos veranos, mi querida amiga Gysleda Virginia De La Barca Vega me concedió el privilegio de colaborar con algunos de sus alumnos de su escuela ModaEgos, entre ellas Karen Machado Vazquez y Laura Rivalta que aparecen en esta imagen. Este museo se convirtió en uno de mis lugares favoritos para nuestras sesiones, y muchos de mis amigos cubanos lo reconocerán el verano pasado.

Este verano espero ver más espacios y volver a visitar a muchos de ustedes en Cuba. También espero incluir más el mundo del baile en mis imágenes ... ¡las modelos y los bailarines son bienvenidos!

Two summers ago, my dear friend Gysleda allowed me the privilege of collaborating with some of her students from her school ModaEgos, including Karen and Laura featured in this image. This museum became one of my favorite places for our sessions, and many of my Cuban friends will recognize it from last summer.

This summer I look forward to more spaces, and to revisiting many of you in Cuba. I also look forward to including the world of dance more so in my images... models and dancers welcome!