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.