Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elder + Field, Outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya, 2007

She sat on a wooden chair in front of a field of grass for her portrait. One after another stepped forth to be photographed. Just when we thought all of the villagers had come and the line was at its end, more people walked up and took their place in line. 

The scene was surreal, especially in light of the fact that it was spontaneous, with nothing arranged in advance. Everyone walked at the slowest of paces, and stood in line with anticipation. What began on the spur of the moment turned into a most formal setting, like a studio had been set up in the middle of the village.

So it was that the black chair was volunteered, and each took their place perfectly. Even when the sun was getting a bit hot, we continued and raised the camera in order to minimize the shadows under the eyes, and neck. The faces were extraordinary, and make me want to get into the darkroom immediately. The fact is that these negatives have never been printed, a full decade later.

There is much to do!

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mother + Daughter, Kisumu, Kenya, 2006

In light of the testimonials being shared most recently through 'me too,' this portrait of mother and daughter is being shared. It was an honor to have heard their story, and a privilege to present it here.

A dozen years ago a connection was made to visit communities in western Kenya. The foundation asked me, "how many people would you like to photograph?" In my nativity, the answer was "as many as possible."

Upon landing, we immediately headed out to photograph a church and a congregation. It was clear to me that we would never run out of people to photograph. We would sometimes arrive at a school, and the teachers would have all of the students line up... well over three hundred students a few times.

So when I was told that we were going to visit a small home, I let out a sigh of relief. Then I was told that we would be visiting with a support group for individuals with HIV/AIDS. This weighed heavily on me, for my mind was on making sure the work lived up to the people being photographed.

When we arrived everyone welcomed us with such warmth, such kindness, that all anxiety melted away. There were perhaps two dozen people in the house. After introductions were made, each person courageously shared their story with us. While the people from the foundation did their best to translate, the tones of the voices as well as the expressions on their faces spoke volumes.

Each spoke while absolute silence prevailed, telling the stories of how they had been affected, of how their husbands had strayed from their marriages and brought the virus back into their beds. It was a deeply moving moment, and left me without words. Perhaps more than the stories, it was how they had told them that struck me. It was as if they had forgiven their husbands, and accepted the cards that they had been dealt. The strength in their presentations was supremely clear, a testament to their intact spirits.

All of this was happening as their children sat at their feet, a visual which stays with me to this day. My eyes moved from the mothers to their children as each spoke, and noticed the bond between them. This I will never forget.

Note: This frame was made with a Hasselblad V system.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Young Student + Window, Shamli District, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2017

This will be the very first negative to be printed in the darkroom this week. For those involved in her school, her portrait is being presented with gratitude. She is one of nearly 150 new students to benefit from the new classes. The first quarter of the budget has been received this week by Nirvanavan Foundation, and plans are under way to move forward with the establishment of the school in her village.

There is something truly magical about this room, and it was discovered almost by accident. One day when we were finished with the portraits in direct sunlight, we decided to go inside and found the light to be absolutely magnificent. The girls loved it of course because they could be photographed in peace, without the prying eyes of the village. They also loved the fact that they were being photographed in subtle light, rather than under the hot sun. So it began, the love affair with window light... and the creativity of the girls just blossomed.

Portraits now included two girls at a time, some near the window, some further away. Some girls looked at the camera, while some girls looked to the window. This young girl specifically was a true natural in front of the lens, and whenever asked stepped right up. Our partners in the village have created a special place for these children, allowing them to collaborate with us and without fear of being scolded. These girls have never been allowed to interact in such a way, and now they had the freedom to do so... and truly lived in the moment.

To see this young girl so poised for her portrait, so confident, pushes me forward even more so. All of those involved have my gratitude for helping make her school possible... and my respect goes to Nirvana and his team for the difficult work ahead.

Note: This frame was made with a Hasselblad V system onto Ilford film, and scanned only for preview purposes through the negative sleeve.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Xtina + Lake, Beach, Cleveland, Ohio, 2017

This past weekend was my second weekend in as many weeks with Xtina, and we have continued to build on what had come before photographically. Being a film photographer as well, she comes to the table with an incredible vision, and many beautiful questions as well. 

She understands my work fully, and knows that she has been a sister to those in my work since we first collaborated years ago. The girls in India, Lebanon and Cuba have seen her portrait... and she has seen theirs as well. It is a sincere honor for me to be her photographer.

On this afternoon we decided to drive to the beach and find a spot. We tried a private beach at first, only to be turned around by the security guard. We then drove to the public beach, and were glad to be there. It was a bit cold, but Xtina was more than brave enough to enter.

We first made photographs of her hands with various objects, from a crystal to stones to a camera. So many people looked, and more than a few connected with us as this was unfolding. Xtina then stepped right into the water, and we photographed first from a distance and then together in the water. The sun was kind to us for some time, then it was blocked by the clouds which rolled in.

Nonetheless we exposed more than a few medium-format rolls, and I for one cannot wait to have them processed in a few weeks. A few weeks because the trip to DC will be made to pick up my Cuban film from the summer, and this is the only lab trusted enough to process my collaboration with Xtina. I cannot wait!

Note: These images were made with a Sony RX100M3, mounted adjacent to a Hasselblad V system.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Xtina + Woods, Cleveland, Ohio, 2017

In a few hours we will have our second session in as many weeks, and nothing can please me more. Christina has collaborated with me ever since our days in her classroom, as funds were being raised for schools in India. She has always been exceptional, truly a creative spirit.

She has since become a serious photographer, staying faithful to 35mm film, and documents daily life in her most sublime way. It is an honor to photograph Christina, for she understands the vision of a photographer, being one herself.

This image was made when we walked out of the woods, as the sun was on its way to falling behind the line of trees. She turned to the camera and allowed the shutter to be released. Amazing.

Today we drive out to the lake, and hope to find a spot suitable for our session!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3, mounted adjacent to a Hasselblad V system.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Home + Earthquake, Managua, Nicaragua, December 23, 1972

The green light to go forward came in today, and so plans are being made for the first trip to my birthplace since the week this photograph was made almost 45 years ago. The fact that we have this photograph is a miracle, for my Father was walking around buying photographs of the earthquake before we flew to Lebanon to reconstruct our lives. I hope to be able to find the exact spot of this photograph, and to make a portrait of the site of our now long-gone home.

According to Wikipedia:

The 1972 Nicaragua earthquake occurred at 12:29:44 a.m. local time (06:29:44 UTC) on December 23 near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. It had a moment magnitude of 6.3 and a maximum MSK intensity of IX (Destructive). The epicenter was 28 kilometers northeast of the city centre and a depth of about 10 kilometers. The earthquake caused widespread casualties among Managua's residents: 4,000–11,000 were killed, 20,000 were injured and over 300,000 were left homeless.

(Photographer unknown, 12/1972)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Syrian Refugee + Garden, Zahle, Lebanon, 2017

The generation before her gave birth to my photography over twenty years ago, as a taxi driver dropped me off near to this camp. The generosity of the Syrians living in these tents was immediately felt as the women invited me to have some tea. Ever since that first moment the children of this community have been documented, their stories recorded.

The boys who used to give me trouble have now become the leaders of the camps. Instead of teasing me, they referred to me as Uncle Halim and attended to me as they would attend to their elders. The transformation was unlike any in my photographic experience, perhaps showing me the future of my work in the various communities as time passes.

This year was different than previous years, since the conflict in Syria has changed the region entirely. The number of Syrians seeking safety in Lebanon has increased dramatically, and amongst them may exist those intent on doing harm to an outsider.

Thus my Uncle asked to come along for my first visit this summer. We drove to the camp and realized that the families had relocated due to construction. They were about one mile away, and a little further from the main road. We arrived and were immediately greeted by those young boys who had become the leaders. Immediately hugs and kisses were exchanged, and smiles were on everyone's faces. My Uncle was relieved and comfortable enough to allow me to visit on my own for the rest of my time.

This young girl was of course unborn at the time of my early work, and has energized my work once again in the region. To know her language is such a relief, unlike my work in other countries. Watching her react as we speak is priceless, hearing her story firsthand without translation is irreplaceable. 

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Anyel + Tree, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2017

Even thought it was cloudy we made the best of it thanks to Anyel's calm spirit. In all of my years documenting her incredible talent in front of the lens, she has always remained positive and kind. She rarely speaks during a session, and when music is playing we will catch her dancing on the video camera. 

She has a presence in front of the lens which is to be respected, and is a privilege to photograph. Nothing needs to be said, for she understands expressions and movements. The sunlight rarely bothers her regardless of time of day.

This past year we were blessed to photograph her on three occasions, in her own clothes and in the stylings of Yudel R. Contreras Garcia, the sensational stylist and designer. Her ability to be a chameleon makes her perfect for such a collaboration, when we are provided certain pieces to use for our session. Anyel is able to put the wardrobe on and embrace the feeling such designs emit.

Next year we do hope to drive out to the countryside once again and make photographs along the way, as she truly shines in the open spaces.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Jaedon + Abandoned Home, Los Angeles County, California, 2017

Five days ago was my third session with the incomparable Jaedon. Every time I reach out, she accepts without reservation. Nothing needs to be stated regarding the wardrobe, and she is willing to drive out much earlier so that we could find the best spots. On top of it all, she always brings the tastiest snacks along, and of course healthy!

The abandoned home in this image was found first, to the side of the road on our way to El Mirage. She spotted a group of homes, and we turned off of the main road to explore. This one was just perfect, and we set up our cameras immediately.

Her jacket was more than beautiful, for it had meaning beyond its esthetic. She shared the story behind it, making the images that much more memorable for us. Our dear friend Ian came along for the ride, and through his support we were able to make images and have fun along the way.

From here we drove to a Joshua Tree, found a TV tossed to the side of the road, and then made it to the dry lake bed at El Mirage... our favorite place by far. We stopped at the entrance to the lake so that Ian can get behind the wheel... to see his excitement as he raced along the cracked surface. On our way back, Jaedon took the wheel and guided us slowly as the sun set for the evening.

These are the moments for which I am deeply thankful, and these are the kind of people for whom my photography is dedicated. It is my intention to return next year, and to document Jaedon's priceless spirit for the fourth time.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3, mounted alongside a Hasselblad V system for an immediate, digital image.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mag + Minolta, El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, California, 2017

She just happened to bring her Minolta, and loaded with film as well. So during our session Magdalena pulled the camera out of the car and exposed a few frames of the landscape, and of the photographer in action. It just felt natural to do the same in return!

Our collaboration began through happenstance over six years ago during my first visit to Los Angeles. Since then we have worked together four times, from Mormon's Rocks to Lucerne Valley to El Mirage. She has always styled herself, and brought with her the most creative attire.

Photographing Magdalena is effortless for she presents herself directly and with honesty. She truly values our collaboration for she immerses herself fully, from the preparation regarding the wardrobe to the skin art. It is a privilege to know her, and an honor to be given the chance to document her incomparable spirit.

As soon as the film is developed Mag, do share!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.