Thursday, December 31, 2009

Karina, Woman, Mother, Model, Studio, States, December 30, 2009


She sits in front of us, a woman, a mother, a model.

She understands the purpose of the work and gives of herself for the sake of girls in other lands.

For three hours, she allows me to give her instructions, to ask for an expression, all without hesitation. In the end, with her portrait, she joins the countless faces in my portfolio, she becomes their sister, their mother, their daughter in spirit.

For years, the camera has remained hidden in my own home, barely used. With Karina and women like her, this has changed. Now girls from other lands see girls just like them, with similar dreams and hopes, living in the States.

They are mothers, sisters and daughters to them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Second time with Sabrina, Studio, States, December 27, 2009

This is her second portrait with me. Sabrina has supported the work from the beginning.

She allows her portraits to be shown alongside the ones from overseas, allows her photograph to be sold with the proceeds going to the foundations. She asks for nothing in return.

She lives over one and a half hours away and comes to my studio without making a fuss. She shows up for the benefit in the cold, snowy night and then drives back in time for work all with a smile.

Her portrait was taken with me to the Middle East and Asia this year. The girls loved seeing her portrait, loved seeing an American girl stand out from the rest. They so enjoyed seeing her art, her piercings. They asked many questions, usually in wonder that an American girl can appear like Sabrina, on her own terms and with such strength.

They loved the idea that Sabrina had seen their pictures, that their pictures were seen by people in the States next to her portrait. In Sabrina, they have a sister.

People always ask: How can I make a difference?

I point to Sabrina's portrait. It is that simple.

She is a model and gives of her talent.

There is little need to write more.

Some have much more and give much less.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Girl Student, Near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 19, 2009

We work around the clock now, making portraits when last year we would be resting. Instead of working early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is low, now we work in between using a reflector and usually two volunteers.

We make use of existing household items, place them next to a low, wooden chair. The two men with the reflector stand behind me to the right, holding the reflector high and pointing it down to her face. She ignores the bright light and stares into the lens.

Her classmates sit to her left, neatly and watching events unfolding. To her right, a few men gather quietly about four meters away.

We finish with the photography and then move on with the videography. Three meetings occur, the first one of which is a meeting of farmers. They collect themselves once a month, at times twice a month, to discuss issues and to contribute to a fund from which they can make loans to each other.

The next meeting is that of women who talk about issues dealing with health, medicine, education, loans and the like. The last meeting involves the girls and is a way for them to voice their thoughts, their needs and desires. Rarely in this society are such girls given an opportunity to do so in my limited experience. Even though many of them remain silent, this is a beginning and their smiles attest to their joy in having such an audience.

We end by having lunch at the home of the teacher. The meal is prepared and we are given a place to sit. As is the custom, the visitors are given their food first and are expected to finish their meal before anyone else in the household eats. At first, this was most difficult for me to do, coming from a land where the hosts and guests eat at the same time. After four years, it has become a little easier and we finish our meal, wash our hands with water provided and make our way to the next village, hoping that the hosts have their meal after our departure.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eyes Closed, Kalsada Bagh, Rajasthan, India, November 3, 2009

Sometimes we ask a girl to close her eyes, sometimes to move her hands.

She does both and holds still for a few minutes while chaos ensues around her. The folks in this small cluster of homes are just waking up, getting ready for their day. The surrounding areas are already awake, tending to their crops and livestock.

This community is different; they are known as the Kanjar Community. Presently, they prepare their girls to become either prostitutes or women that tend to the home, the former of which have more esteem and prestige while the latter take care of the home, cook and clean, wash and sweep.

This young girl is a daughter of this community. Her future is decided by others.

For the time being, she is a student and attends a school on this roof sponsored by Nirvanavan Foundation. She learns to read and to write, aspires perhaps to be different. Time will tell.

As she holds her hands up, the sun beams upon her face, beads of sweat form on her face. We walk to her and blot her face dry in between exposures. She and her friends giggle but she remains unbelievably still, maintaining her composure throughout. With her eyes closed, she is able to defy the sun, perhaps even her community.

Hopefully in the future she can do so with her eyes open.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Banjara Girl & Pitcher, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 10, 2009

She sits down low, next to an open fire pit.

At first, she is photographed in the clothes she is wearing. As we make more photographs, she and the others change into their traditional blouses and dresses. All the girls at this home photograph easily, with her leading the way. Once one shows the others how, the photography flows.

She is a natural.

After a bit, the man of the house signals us to stop, a common practice with this community. Just as the excitement builds, or perhaps because of such, our work comes to an end. Time and time again, it seems to me that when girls perceive an opportunity, men decide to remove it from their view.

This perhaps is the single most frustrating part of my work since it deals almost exclusively with girls and women. The opposition of men and boys is unrelenting, in every single street, neighborhood or town. They always seem to be there, always pretend to be concerned, always do so without gaining an informed perspective, always.

Admittedly, the last sentence above is made without having a complete, informed perspective myself. I am a stranger to them, a man with expensive equipment, walking around with guides, making pictures of their children, more specifically their girls. For me to truly understand, much would need to change in my life, much would have needed to change before my birth.

I make these statements based on certain limitations, certain preconditions.

Can it be otherwise?

Perhaps in the future, my perceptions will change and a fuller understanding of this friction will unveil itself. Until then, my patience will be tested every single time a man comes into a scene and voices his 'concern' regarding the work, even when that man is from another town and is a stranger himself to the girls in front of me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Smile from a Frown, Rajasthan, India, November 21, 2009

We arrive this morning at the teacher's home around 7:30 a.m. to her surprise. She greets us in the street and then walks back inside to make tea without our knowledge. We think that she is getting ready, therefore waiting in the van. Then she walks to us with a tray of tea and we accept with some humiliation and a great deal of appreciation, all while about a dozen men are perched on a ledge less than one meter away staring at us without pause.

We then drive to the school perhaps a little over one kilometer away. The girls are nowhere to be found due to the lack of information from the previous day. Regardless, they arrive shortly and the excitement builds. There is however a strange feeling, one that brings itself to the surface when we begin with the photography.

It is the teacher. After a few girls have their portraits made, all with sullen faces, the reason becomes clear. Girl after girl, the teacher pushes them to be photographed, really pushes them and without a single word of encouragement. At times, she removes a scarf or an article of clothing should she feel it is inappropriate. After several attempts to speak to her, a decision is made by me to end the photography and is shared with the rest of the team.

They cannot believe it. They feel that perhaps my mind will change even as my equipment is put away. They feel really bad and plead with me to do otherwise. My answer to them is this: send the teacher home in front of the children and then we can begin once again.

After a few minutes, they do so. Then the mood changes. The sun is higher now and we need to find another place. We do so across the street, find a small bench and arrange a reflector. All of a sudden, the girls begin to smile. The very same girls that wore sullen expressions now are completely different, as in the portrait above.

Such is one day in the process of the photography. When people see a portrait with a smile, they seem to think that the smile is natural. While the smile is natural, at times it is restrained by forces acting externally. The work behind the photography is to allow that child to be themselves by removing the barriers being placed upon them, whether that barrier takes the form of an unhappy teacher or the usual group of boys acting up from a distance.

In response to this story, my dear friend Anna wrote the following:

'It is amazing what happens when someone stands up for those who need a voice. By sending that teacher home and having the children witness it, it allowed them to see that they should be honored rather than silenced. My hope is that they hold that moment in their hearts forever.'

'There have been times when things have come up at school and I have felt frustrated and rushed and grumpy. That is when I have to stop and say, who is this for? Is it for the children? Well then, zip it girl--it isn't about me. ... Once I stand in the moment, it is all good. Many times, that isn't what happens regardless of your profession. The "I" overshadows everything else. It is funny what happens when the "I" is quiet.'

Banjara Girl, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 6, 2009

Here she stands, in front of two benches.

Everyone is excited, everyone is running around changing places, looking at the pictures. The other girls are sitting to the right, watching her being photographed. They giggle when she smiles, they laugh when she turns shy.

Here she stands, for at least five minutes while color film is changed for black and white.

The day before, we arrived here and talked to the women, the men were absent. They agreed quickly to being photographed. They still cannot believe even after four years that my work continues to follow them, even when they move. They seem happy.

When we arrived earlier today, the men were present and they quickly disapproved. The women were different this time, reacting surely to the break in momentum. The girls then followed the women, having lost their support. The good people of the foundation lacked a response. Everyone was standing around, lacking an answer.

With some input from me, the team began talking to the people. A little by little, the girls came back, frowns turned to smiles and then smiles turned to laughs.

Here she stands, above it all. She is an example to her people, to my people.

Most recently, the wonderful children of Holy Rosary Montessori School in Cleveland, Ohio raised enough money through Yoga lessons and bake sales to perhaps fund this young girl's school for one year, about $1,200.

As their good and kind teacher Anna put it just tonight in our email conversation:

'I look at your pictures and I think to myself--what do I need? I have so much. My daughters have so much.

They will never have to sweep excrement off of the dirt pathways or prostitute themselves because those are the only jobs available to them. How can I look at those Indian twins and not want them to have the same opportunities as my twins? It is a simple act of geography that their circumstances are so different. When I hear the girls saying that they want to be teachers because they are the people that the children look up to, how can I go to the mall and spend money on stuff when their voices are ringing in my ears? A better investment is in their future than in my closet for sure!

I have read that India is a country where you think with your heart. I am unable to go there to teach them myself, but I will give them every opportunity I can to be educated. And when my daughters are on their way in the world, then I will be able to go and teach in India or other places where there is a need. I am thinking of the children with my heart.'

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Twins, Maid Village, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

They stand in front of the camera to my amazement, allow me to make at least twenty or so exposures with my medium format equipment and a few additional ones with the smaller digital camera. They allow me to go between color and black and white, without moving or being bothered by the sun.

Behind them is their home.

Last year, their grandfather invited me over for a cup of tea and a chat. We had a nice talk and while doing so photographed his granddaughter.

The very first person to greet us this year as we arrive to this village is his granddaughter. In an instant, she recognizes me and my eyes recognize her, a smile reaches her face. The effect of acknowledgment on a child is powerful. This is a most important part of the work, to show them that it means more than a picture, to show them that they are remembered regardless of their portrait.

This afternoon we make portraits of the school and, although she attends a different school, the good people of the foundation extend my invitation to her and she gladly joins us for her portrait as well. We then move on to another school in this village, all the time wishing to return for a more properly lit portrait of her.

Why the desire to photograph her only? Many times this question has come up, in different towns and in different countries. The answer eludes me and so the usual solution is to photograph everyone and to make sure she is one of them.

We get the chance to do such when the next school lacks students to photograph. Because the school has since closed due to lack of funding, the girls are in the hills collecting firewood. We make a few portraits and then decide to call it a day. It is at this time that I make a decision to return to the first location to make her portrait.

This time however, all the other girls have been photographed and I can choose to photograph her only. The joy on her face in knowing that we came back for her is beyond my capacity to color here. It is these memories that keep my work moving forward.

She goes inside to change, proud to do so in front of all of her friends. She is the star of the afternoon.

While we wait, her uncle asks me to make a few quick pictures of his twins. In the end, going back for her portrait yields the portrait above. In four weeks the negatives from this day will be in my hands and her portrait will be shared.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Caretaker of Trees, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 22, 2009

We spend the morning of my last day in Banganga, Rajasthan. This is a tradition that dates back to my first year in India.

The teacher from Humana People to People India and her sister look after me as a brother, serving two cups of tea rather than one and two servings of breakfast rather than one on this and every day. They do so even though they have very little, they do so with smiles reflecting the love they have for our collaboration, a love that is mirrored within me.

We arrive early this morning and it is very cold, forcing us to sit around a small fire for warmth. This small fire is cooking the meal for the buffalo nearby. According to the girls, each buffalo eats five kilograms of food per day, food that is cooked for them by the family with much care.

The sun begins to rise and, instead of walking over to the usual place, we decide to photograph at the teacher's home to show fairness. She smiles broadly and arranges the benches that will be used as backdrops. As it gets warmer, the girls of this school begin to arrive. The sun rises more and so does the temperature. We set up and begin with the photography.

In the middle of the session, two events occur, the result of the first is shown above. While making a portrait of his daughter, the father from the second home calls me to come over in an excited voice. He wants me to photograph a young boy who happens to be located about sixty feet or so up a tree.

We run closer to the tree and make the pictures, with this young boy pausing in the middle of his work to pose for us. It is a wonder that he can do so, for he is without shoes and using only a rope to keep himself from falling. I am told that this is his work, that this is how he supports his family, by going to different homes and asking to trim their trees.

This reminds me of a friend's words earlier this evening. Alyssa wrote these words in response to seeing earlier entries and has allowed me to include them here with all due respect to all parties described. She writes:

'If only each American could live a day in their shoes, away from the luxuries and technology that we are able to enjoy everyday... More of us would appreciate the simple things that we have an abundance of, yet they lack.'

This is the first time that my eyes have ever witnessed someone else doing any of the work in either one of these two homes. Every single time we have visited, the men were guaranteed to be working the fields and the women were guaranteed to be working around the home. We have never visited either one of these homes to see anyone sitting down, never. This is in spite of the fact that these two families have a sizable amount of land and even perhaps the humble means to bring someone to help with the land. I have a deep respect for the families, for their children.

We walk back to the photography and notice that one girl is missing even though we stopped by her parents' home the evening before to ask for their permission. We decide to send for her and she arrives for her portrait, a little sad that she almost missed her portrait. Regardless, her friends make the effort to help her smile and she does so ever so brilliantly. At times my lack of language in this land provides me with so many questions. I hope that the portrait when processed in four weeks time will answer my curiosity.

This day is spent without a translator. All seems clearer somehow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On the Roof, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 3, 2009

We arrive at the school and all the children are ready within fifteen minutes. The good people of Nirvanavan Foundation arrange them by gender and height, making it a little easier for the photography.

As always for this school, the sky is cloudy this morning. For some reason, this happens every time we visit. We decide to wait a few minutes, making some informal portraits. Then the sun decides to appear in between clouds and we make portraits, resting when the sun hides again.

The pink wall is still pink, like the most perfect backdrop. In color, it provides a most pleasant backdrop. In black and white, the value of the wall is high enough to provide a washed out background.

Against this background she stands, a student of the school and a member of the Kanjar Community, a community that trades in the world of commercial sex. Their women are sold by the men to local customers as well as faraway nationals. Their woman work locally and also work in the brothels of the larger Indian cities.

As a matter of fact, while her portrait is being made, the women below are making themselves ready for the day's customers. Of course, while we are present those customers are few and far in between.

Nirvanavan Foundation has a successful school in this village, on the roof of this building. It's small but effective, with a teacher that cares.

Can a school change this community? Many of the local villagers will say it's useless.

Then again, these are the same local villagers that treat them as below any caste yet use them for their sexual needs. It seems prudent to think otherwise and hope that education is the first step.

Her portrait as well as the portraits of others like her are for sale through my website, with the proceeds benefiting the school.

halimina.org
nirvanavan.org

Standing Tall Amongst Prostitutes, Rajasthan, India, November 31, 2009

Does it really have to be this way?

Does she only have one choice? Does her community need to turn her into a prostitute?

When you look at her, can you see someone other than a child of a prostitute?

Will the men in this village find work other than selling their girls to foreign nationals?

Will she be sent to the Gulf States to serve the needs of strangers, with 'house servant' written on her papers?

Will she then be sent back to Rajasthan, pregnant and without the support of the father?

Does she really have one purpose in life? Maybe two?

Do her people remember a past when they used to live another life, when their woman danced on ropes and their men played instruments, when people used to cheer and her people earned a living by entertaining common folks and royalty in such a way?

She stands tall amongst prostitutes, she is our hope for the future, one without the need for such, one that separates us from such a world of hopelessness, of such oppression.

This is her stand, you are her witness.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Man and Woman, Pipli Village, Rajasthan, India, November 4, 2009

In this small collection of homes, some of the girls have been released from a future of prostitution for the time being. They attend government schools and have displayed promise over the past four years. Unlike the other villages of prostitution, some of the families in Pipli seem to have adopted a different life.

Time will tell. As these girls turn sixteen, our hope is that the pressure to join the older women in the flesh trade is limited, giving way to a different path. This is made even more difficult in light of the fact that the esteem of the sex workers is higher than that of the housewives, the latter given the responsibilities of cleaning, cooking and so forth for all of the members of the family, including the women forced to work as prostitutes.

While surely nobody will argue that the life of a sex worker is desirable, to some of these girls, seeing the sex workers walking around dressed beautifully, gaining the attention of strangers, has an effect on their youthful eyes, especially when they see their aunts or mothers toiling away making bread or cleaning excrement, both human and animal.

We cannot assume to place ourselves in their sandals. We can only hope that those sandals are at least given a choice, a real choice.

The man and woman above are from Pipli, where the majority of men and women are pimps and prostitutes respectively. Leaving their identities and work descriptions a mystery, let us hope that they are wonderful examples for their youth, in charge of families that have chosen otherwise for their children.

To learn more about this important work, one may visit the following websites, where the prints are also for sale to benefit the various foundations.

halimina.org
nirvanavan.org

Monday, December 7, 2009

Young Girl, Student, Alwar Slum, Rajasthan, India, October 31, 2009

Today we arrive at an Alwar slum, our fourth visit since 2006. The school holds classes in an open temple, without such luxuries as chairs or libraries or privacy. The children stand to greet us and then take their place on the floor.

We look around and decide on the steps of the temple as the studio. The equipment is arranged, chairs are placed and a reflector is given to two volunteers to experiment with until the children are ready. Our friends from the States have given us presents for the children, so we arrange a chair to the left for the disbursement of the gifts.

One by one, the children sit on the steps and have their portraits made. There are perhaps sixty people in this small space, forty of them children and the rest adults from the slum as well as people from the foundation. A friend from Thailand named Anna sits down in a chair and finds her rhythm in handing out the gifts.

These gifts were made by the students of Holy Rosary Montessori School located in Cleveland, Ohio. A couple of months ago, after seeing and hearing of the children from Nirvanavan Foundation, the students from Holy Rosary along with their teacher Anna decided to make gifts for every girl associated with the foundation, about 350 girls in all. The students looked at some of my photographs and realized that some of the girls had safety pins attached to either their dresses or bracelets. On their own they came up with the idea of placing beads in safety pins as gifts, along with bracelets and necklaces.

The expressions on the girls' faces in the temple as they collect these safety pins today is proof in itself of the intuition of children from across borders and cultures. One after one, they almost jump off of the steps and run to Anna for their gifts; now my photography has competition and nothing could make me happier. To see their faces as they turn to their right and start walking with a smile gives me a perspective never experienced before, absolutely perfect.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Farmer, Former Humana School, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2009

Last year a Humana People to People India School operated in this village. All was calm and we had the cooperation and guidance of the teacher in making exquisite portraits of the girls. We made portraits on the roof of their home and then moved to the field to continue the work, all without a single problem.

We were served lunch on a wonderful day later in the week when the foundation had organized a 'Culture Day' for all of the schools. That lunch was served in the same home and all of us ate together on carpets laid out on the floor.

With these memories in mind I arrive at their village this year, dropped off by the driver and alone. The volunteers from Humana People to People have been left behind at the last village to have their lunch and then head back to the main town. The driver will return in three hours to collect me and my equipment. I am alone and with about a dozen Hindi words to my credit.

In my mind, this is an easy village, one full of friends from last year. While this may be correct, a certain sense of trouble is in the air when the first response from a few people is to tell me to leave. Pretending to lack an understanding of their words, I decide to sit down and wait it out, more so since it's a bit early for photography. With me sitting there, about a dozen boys, older and younger, decided to sit down with me. This is usually trouble since they lack a sense of discipline and respect without an older presence. This proves to be correct. The boys decide to poke at the equipment, demand to see the albums, mock the lack of language and the usual. I am pretty used to all of this but unused to it being all alone.

I decided to do the one thing that usually anesthetizes their need to dominate, make pictures of them. In my experiences with men and boys from around the world, this has worked well. Since most of my work is with women, the men generally feel slighted and ignored, usually for the first time in their lives. Here is a man that places women and girls first in their midst. The trick is to reverse this conception, make portraits of the men and then diffuse the situation.

Since a digital camera is with me this time around, it's even easier to show them their portraits. We begin by making a few for fun, then some men begin walking over for their formal portraits. The one above is made after a few of the younger boys poke fun, as usual, at some older man walking by. By walking over to the man and showing him some respect, his portrait is made in peace.

At this time, a few of the older boys decide to help. This is a turning point since the girls are just waiting for the atmosphere to change. It has for the moment and we collect a chair and head out to the field. The older girls are too startled to come along and this saddens me, since many of them are past subjects. Nonetheless, enough girls come along initially to attract others once the photography begins.

We head to the field and arrange a space. Four helpful boys come along, between the ages of 14 and twenty perhaps. One stands by my equipment, one makes sure the younger boys limit their silliness and two help with the arrangement of the girls. We ask the girls to stand on the chair, one by one, therefore limiting the amount of interference that the younger boys can produce. We work for about one hour before the man of the land comes by to ask us to leave. He is a young man of about twenty and it is unclear to me if he is really the man of the land. Regardless, after a few Hindi words, he allows us to stay for another half an hour, every five minutes needing a plea from me to continue. I know that if we break this session, it will be hard to continue somewhere else. At that time, the taxi driver comes along. He is a great man and helps with the translation.

We decide to walk up to the street and as we are about to pack everything up, I notice a wonderfully yellow wall lit by the sun. We ask permission to continue and are given that permission. We arrange the equipment and continue with the girls. Now there are many, many more. Most of the girls photographed today are younger than twelve and that makes me happy, they are the future of my work in this village.

We end up by making more pictures of the boys and then head back to town. All in all, a very strenuous but successful day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Banjara Girl, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 10, 2009

They tell me that a young Banjara man happens to be working in the Sunset Hotel, a remarkable fact since this tribe has caught my attention from the first day in Rajasthan four years ago. We meet him and he offers to take us to his family's community. We accept and meet in the hotel the next morning, before sunrise to make the long trip.

According to many accounts, the Banjara are typical nomads that wander from place to place in search of a living. In my experience, some of these communities have made homes for themselves on government land and have even acquired ration cards as well as participation in the voting process, both of which many in these communities usually lack.

Their manner of dress has influenced my search for them. Their girls and women wear a combination of a skirt (ghaghra) and a blouse (choli), with the skirt being quite long and reaching to the ankles, which are also usually adorned with anklets. Their jewelry is in much demand inside India and outside as well.

Unlike many other communities, they are quite resistant to photography. They have had multiple experiences with people offering schools, financial assistance and the like. They have always been disappointed when those same people disappear shortly thereafter.

As a matter of fact, during our talk with this small community, we are informed that the president of the foundation 'helping' at the moment is in a local jail, serving time for misusing funds. We talk for some time, show them our photographs of other Banjara and they allow us to photograph a few of the younger girls. The excitement builds, the girls change to their more elaborate skirts and we make images for at least one hour, until a relationship is formed for perhaps next year's visit.

Unfortunately, upon our return to the truck, we find two punctured tires and a broken window. Of course anyone walking by is a candidate for this action, but we cannot help feel a sense of sadness in knowing that perhaps our visit to others in the area might have resulted in some ill feeling.

Regardless, this young Banjara girl knows the difference between us and the others from her past and shows us a trust that so few have in their first encounter with us. She is an example for people that have lost these qualities, for those seeking to regain them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Daughter of a Prostitute, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, October 31, 2009

She stands here like a queen on a throne, with a sense of compassion that few in such high places have.

A daughter of a prostitute, surrounded by acts of immeasurable difficulty, she stands proud.

How much more can she take? How many more years can she bear?

She has survived so far and, with the help of Nirvanavan Foundation, will rise above her circumstances to become a different person than her society expects.

On this day, she gives me more than five minutes to make her portrait, first in black and white and then in color, time is absent. She is the person that gives my work its worth, for without her story my work has little meaning.

She is an example for the rest of us.

nirvanavan.org
halimina.org

More portraits can be seen at the above websites and are for sale to benefit the foundations.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Banjara Girls, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 6, 2009

This is my fourth year with these girls and their small community. My work with them has spanned two foundations, beginning with Humana People to People India and presently with Nirvanavan Foundation. At this time, they lack a school, live in tents, lack water and electricity and live on land that is in question according to the folks living in the town nearby.

The surrounding community wants them to leave and have made that quite clear. In great thanks to Nirvanavan Foundation, a case has been made on their behalf in the court system and now their voices are being heard. This community lacks land, ration cards and the ability to vote as well.

Since the beginning, they have heard from me that they will never be forgotten, regardless of their status with the foundations. Last year, with the great help of Nirvanavan Foundation, we found them and continued our documentation.

On this day, we arrive with their photographs from last year and hand them out to the children. At first, the men are a little hesitant to allow the photography. After the good people of the foundation speak to them for a little bit, the girls line up and wait for their photographs to be made. They all know that they will receive their pictures before my departure this year.

We make a studio with the materials given to us and portraits shorty thereafter. The girls are just wonderful, in light of the difficulties surrounding them. It is glances like theirs that keep me going. When you look at this picture, do you see their faces? Do you see the love in their eyes, their smiles?

I do.

You have my thanks for taking the time to read this blog, it tells their stories to the best of my ability. I hope that the pictures do better.

Thank you on their behalf.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grandmother, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

As the sun sets, this portrait is made.

Her first time in front of me, this is the grandmother of two wonderful women in Banganga. Her daughters have shown me the best of this large country over the past four years. One is the teacher of the Humana People to People Girls Bridge School in the village and the other a mother of six children, four of whom have become central to my photography in Rajasthan, with two being a bit young to have their portraits made as of this day.

All in all, seven girls from these two families are involved in my photography for Humana. In three of my four visits to India, my photography has ended in Banganga, Rajasthan.

On the day of my flight to the States this year, we arrange the school's girls in the home adjacent to this one. We make portraits of all, including some parents. We then move to this home for breakfast and, in the tradition of these two families, are served two meals, one from each family, along with two cups of tea in the same fashion.

The teacher makes rice with sugar and her sister makes a sweet rice pudding, even though this region of India leans heavily on bread rather than rice.

Everyone watches as the two of us eat, me and the taxi driver.

Woman, Beejwad, Rajasthan, November 5, 2009

She waits until the last minute to show her face. This afternoon, we make portraits of all the children, all the other women before she decides to have her portrait made. Every time she lifts her veil, the other women laugh and invite her to do the same, barely holding her pose for a few seconds before turning away to laugh. This time, she gave me a little more than a few seconds.

The school in this Nat Community is in its first year. It has been accepted well and the teacher seems to be happy. She shows us a wonderful classroom, one full of children eager to learn. The walls, while in need of repair perhaps, are lined with drawings of the children.

There is also another woman in the room, an assistant to the teacher. She is just as kind and serves tea to us at the end of our photography.

While the children lack even the most basic essentials, such as seats or even mats to sit upon, they are happy to have a foundation that truly shows them respect, keeps its promises and provides them with an education that will hopefully show their community a way out of the world of sex, a world that the Nat Community knows all too well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Farmer, Chota, Rajasthan, India, November 14, 2009

He decides to have a smoke after the farmers meeting, just in time for his portrait.

A few minutes ago, he was involved in a meeting of farmers, one project that Humana People to People India supports. These groups of farmers meet every month, share ideas and have even developed a banking system that allows them to loan to each other. Every meeting, the farmers put a little bit of money into a collective fund from which members may borrow.

Today, Babulal from the foundation directs the meeting, asks each farmer a few questions and gives them a chance to tell their stories. We record the footage and then take the time to make their portraits. Each enjoys posing for the camera, comes up with their own ideas, such as the farmer above.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Student, Baba's Village, Rajasthan, India, November 21, 2009

So then the next day we visit Baba's village. He has been smiling all week with the thought of visiting his village with the team and so today his smile is even more complete. This man has over the past ten days been instrumental in the work for Humana People to People India, allowing me to complete my work even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Everyone knows him here so we decide to take a small detour to his home and set up our lunch of samosas next to his fields. We meet his wife and she refrains from saying a single word at the same time, a custom my ears have become used to in this land. We eat our samosas in peace and then move onto the school, where about sixty girls have been waiting for us patiently.

We find one of their classrooms perfect and arrange our equipment. The teachers in this school, as well as the Principal, are more than accommodating, arranging chairs for us and even writing the names of the girls down for us. One at a time, the girls sit down for their portraits, starting from the upper classes to the lower. Some girls smile easily and some less so.

Two male students hold the reflector and have fun doing so even though the subjects of my photography are all girls. In the end, they also have their portraits made by me along with the all-male staff and Principal. We leave to a chorus of appreciation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dinner, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009



She prepares everything from scratch, with ingredients coming from the land around us. We sit down after a day of photography and have dinner, all of the family watching me and my team having dinner first before touching a morsel of food themselves.

Every year, my photography in Rajasthan ends in this little village, in this home or perhaps the adjacent house, the home of her sister and the teacher of the Humana People to People India Girls Bridge School. These are two families whose girls all attend school, first with the foundation's program and then with the mainstream school.

These are two families that tend to the land themselves, without the help of any outsiders other than perhaps some specialized chores such as the trimming of the palm trees. Every single time my team has visited these two homes, all were working either in the fields or in the homes. My eyes have never seen anyone sitting upon arriving. The two men of these households are endlessly working, tending to the land.

They recycle everything, cook food for their buffalo every single day and make use of their surroundings for fuel, food and shelter. Once again this year, my photography ended with breakfast two days later in this same spot, after a wonderful morning of photography.




Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Days Away, October 26, 2009

It's almost two in the morning and sleep is hard to come by. The equipment is packed and the film as well, yet it's hard to sleep. One more day of work before leaving, pretty much all is organized at the office, yet my eyes are wide open.

The fact is that three days remain before seeing the subject of this image, well at least the possibility of seeing her. It all depends on the schedule planned by Nirvana and the foundation. Chances are pretty good that we will visit her small town on the first or second day.

Regardless, sleep is hard to come by. Maybe on the plane ride over this will change.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Widow, Mosque, Old Delhi, India, 2008

She stands along with her friends in the shadow of a local mosque. The walls keep the chaos of the street at a distance. Outside is a mass of people moving from one point to another using every form of transportation known to a road.

We photograph for about thirty minutes and then men begin arriving for prayers. The foundation, meaning well, nonetheless schedules all the widows from their Widow's Program to be photographed on the same day. This is a bit much and our photography flows over into prayer time.

The men of the foundation tell me that we need to finish. I see about ten women waiting for their portraits to be made. The men go about washing their feet, hands and faces without giving us much notice. They respect the difficulty that we are facing, both the photographer and the women, and allow us to continue with our work amidst their praying.

She stands in the shadow of the mosque, looking to her right, with the sheer fabric barely hiding her expressions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Outside a Church during a Wedding, Kenya, 2007

We arrive at a white building near the school. As with the other days, the good people of the foundation advise me that we will wait a few minutes and the people will begin arriving. Maybe one minute goes by and the people are already coming.

A few men from the good works projects arrive first. These are older men that were perhaps doing little before meeting the foundation and are now involved in public works projects and environmental improvement initiatives. They pose first and we make their portraits while the sun is still a bit strong.

Then the older men and women come along. Samuel from MACODEF arranges himself to note their names down and one by one they stand in a line. At any one time, there are perhaps thirty people waiting patiently. The sun is strong and the temperature high. Nonetheless, everyone waits their turn and gives me a minute in front of the camera. They appreciate even this one minute and sacrifice an hour of their time to do so, maybe even more.

The trick when the sun is at times overwhelming is to tease a smile out of them. In this way, they will forget about the sun for a split second and allow their face to coincide with the smile. The portrait above is one such example.

All these portraits and others are for sale in order to benefit the foundations involved with the photography.

halimina.org

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Student, Al-Arqam Academy, India, 2007

A couple of messages are received today that have shed some hope on finding this young girl again, along with her friends at a small school two or so hours north of New Delhi. The school has changed hands but many of the children still attend classes in the renovated building.

This small school situated next to a remote village welcomes me every time and shares with me and my hosts from New Delhi a dinner and always tea of course. The number of children whose features are as magical as the ones seen above is limited only by the amount of film in my bag. It is a remarkable place, only one school next to one village in a country that has over 750,000 villages.

I just hope that the next week or so presents a plan to find her and her friends, in good health and waiting to have their portraits made again. The one portrait above is already in her hands, in her home for her parents to see and enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From Website to Film, Rajasthan, India, 2007

When looking at Nirvanavan Foundation's website initially, a young girl with very short hair stood out. Her hair was very short even though a bright, orange cloth almost covered it from view. She had a most intense expression and made me want to visit the foundation even more so.

After photographing the students at Advaita Garden, we drove a little bit further to photograph the children in their home environment. We drove past all the children walking home, all smiling knowing that we would be waiting for them. We found a building next to our guest's home and set the equipment up on the safe roof.

One by one they went home, changed into their traditional clothes and climbed onto the roof. All of a sudden, she showed up. She was missing earlier from the school and my mind had almost forgotten her. Here she was, with her hair a little bit longer and with the same cloth covering it.

We made the photograph, taking her expression from the website and translating it onto film.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Girl, Article, Infant Mortality, Health of Children, India, 2009


Tonight a dear brother passed on to me some statistics relating to my work in India and shared with me an enlightening article which in turn is being included here as a link. The girl above has survived the dangers of childhood in this nation and hopes to see the benefits of getting older in spite of the improbability as discussed in the article.

Here are some facts as noted:

'India accounts for over 20% of children’s deaths worldwide from preventable diseases, a larger number than any other country'

'Each year, some 400,000 babies die within 24 hours of being born in India'

'In total, two million children die each year in this country before reaching their fifth birthdays'

'The country accounts for a third of the world’s malnourished children, with 46 percent of those under the age of three considered underweight'

You can read more regarding these figures below, read about this young girl's environment and gain a better understanding of her circumstances.

Children Born Today Will Live to 100. Just Not Here in India.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Smiles the Second Time Around, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008


So it goes that given the chance, these two boys share their smiles with us.  

A month or so ago, a blog entry showed them a bit tense, just as they were at first in front of the camera. It needs to be noted that these boys were also in front of a dozen of their friends, a handful of adults and about two hundred girls seated under a large tent.

So we can understand their hesitation to smile.

Given the chance, they show us their smiles. 

They live in a small village where Humana People to People India works.  The foundation has arranged a small school for the girls who would otherwise lack an education.  These girls are needed usually to work in the fields or weave carpets.  The foundation has spoken to the parents and received their permission to give these most beautiful children two to four hours of education in between their work and chores.

The boys were looking on from a ledge at the girls from all the Humana People to People India Girls Schools.  The foundation had arranged a gathering for the girls to meet each other, to sing songs, to play act and to enjoy each other's company.  

It was a deeply moving experience for me, to see the subjects of my photography sing, dance and smile all day long.

All the portraits from my work with the foundation are for sale to benefit the good people of these villages.  For more information, please visit the website below.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another Girl, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008

As with the girl in the previous entry, she stands to the side as her friends get photographed, since her friends are enrolled in the school. She hopes that one day the foundation will have space for her in the school and that her parents will allow her to study like her friends.

Just like the girl in the previous entry, she acts shy and then jumps at the opportunity to be photographed. While shy at first, she shares her smile with me after a couple clicks of the shutter. She is also wearing wonderful pieces including a safety pin.

The background for this portrait is the white wall of a house adjacent to the school. Behind her slightly to the right is the road. Behind me slightly to the right are two oxen. To my left stand the owners of the house. I am standing next to the oxen below the girl to gain the best vantage point. A couple of times during the shoot the oxen make some gestures that startle me. It causes everyone to laugh and as always comedy makes the session more enjoyable for the children.

A week or so ago my dear friends from Montessori School - Holy Rosary invited me to speak to the children. We had a great time and the children learned much about their counterparts in this part of India. They also noticed the safety pins and, one week later, had come up with a glorious version of the safety pin, placing tiny beads on the stem of the pin, closing it and transforming it into a beautiful pendant or a piece to be held by these girls cloth necklaces.

These gifts will be taken to the children of Rajasthan in four weeks, as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity from the children living here.

If my photography can foster such creativity, compassion and action, then it has served its purpose.



Friday, October 2, 2009

Student, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008

Every year we arrive at her school on a roof of a small building and the timing for the sun is less than ideal. Two years in a row her school is the second school of the day to be photographed, putting her and her classmates at a disadvantage in this respect.

We arrive today and it's very much the same as the previous two years. The roof proves a dangerous place to make portraits with so many children walking around. They let me walk around the houses and look for a better place. I walk around for about fifteen minutes while all smile and giggle, the older folks included. I even sit with six or so men for a minute to take a break lacking a single word in common but smiling nonetheless.

I get up and start walking back to find one house with the perfect white wall, with a platform for the girls to stand upon and a depression for me to rest my camera. Again, without a single word in common the owners of the house agree to the photography with great, broad smiles. Little do they know that about thirty or so girls are about to collect at their doorstep.

I signal for everyone to come down as it happens that the school is next door. They all come down and we make wonderful portraits, with everyone from the village watching rather than on the roof in an exclusive format.

After the girls from the school are photographed, a few girls seem to want their portraits made but are too shy to ask. They stand to the side waiting for someone to ask. Needless to say, I ask and they jump for the chance.

The one above is one such example. The school is only able to provide thirty girls from this village a chance to learn. So this little girl is excluded from even this experiment in education. She wants to be included and may have to wait her turn until space is available for her next year.

The necklace and bracelet are her way of expressing herself with dignity. She wants to be a girl like any other from around the world and having less does not get in her way. She makes do in the most beautiful way. Her hair is styled and her pose natural.

We finish our session and leave the owners of the house still with broad smiles, especially since their portraits are also made. I will deliver their portraits to them in four weeks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banganga, Rajasthan, Humana People to People India, 2008

Just when I think that all of the faces have shown themselves to me on my third visit to this most beautiful of villages, she walks through the field to us. She is a new student, knows of my work and exudes pure happiness.

Three years ago an experience in this village endeared me to its inhabitants. On my very last day, I heard the camera make a funny noise. I looked it over and realized that the shutter in the lens was broken. My stomach sank.

Did that mean the shutter snapped on that day or that it was broken the entire time in India? Did that mean that 10,000 negatives were all exposed incorrectly?

My stomach sank. I used my second camera to finish the pictures but everyone saw it all over my face, the pain of the unknown. I then told the guide that we would be coming back to the village in the morning, staying overnight. He thought that I was mad because my flight was the very next day. We would have to drive without rest to get back to the capital in time to reach the airport, still needing to pack.

I thought that at least I would have one morning of photography to make up for twenty days of blank negatives.

We did go back and shoot the next morning, I did not sleep for one second the night before. We drove five hours back, flew twenty four hours to the States, slept overnight and then drove to the camera store with three rolls of film, one from the very first day, one from day 14 and one from the very last day.

They were all perfect.

My stomach finally rose.

After all of the negatives were processed, only one roll was half blank, at the exact moment the camera made that noise.

On this day however, all the negatives are exposed beautifully, the camera functions without trouble and we allow this young girl her day in the sun indeed.

I hope that she will be there in four weeks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Al-Arqam Academy, Northern India, 2007


They attend school in a most remote village. The government school is a distance from their homes and their families' incomes make attending a traditional school difficult.

We arrive during their classes and hand out images from the previous year. We tell them about our desire to make more portraits today and the excitement builds even though they are still in class. In the meantime, while we wait, we decide to walk through the neighboring village in search of more faces, more stories.

We invite as many to be photographed alongside the girls from the school. However, in addition to a few shy girls that come along bravely, a few boys also come along and begin to cause trouble. It becomes evident that the photography will be most difficult with their harassment and we find a place on top of the school that will allow us a sense of peace, away from the heckling.

We set up the equipment and the girls line up for their portraits. There are perhaps about four dozen girls and they stay after school for their picture to be made. We send news of the photography to the nearby village to inform the rest of the parents in order to put them at ease. The girls are just lovely, switching articles of clothing while waiting for their turn.

These are girls that cannot afford traditional schools, some are orphans and live here, some have parents that have given the foundation permission to provide housing for their children. The following year we return only to find the children away on a field trip. Even though this saddens me very much due to the fact that the principal was misinformed about our visit, the changes evident with respect to the school brings me much happiness.

The buildings have been painted beautifully. The interiors have all been renovated, with an impressive computer room, a refined cafeteria and classrooms designed for the comfort of the students. The changes are due to the fact that a new foundation has received ownership of the school. The pride on the principal's face is clear and a sign of progress for the children. We leave him behind with the promise of returning this year.

I very much hope that these girls will be there this year.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Student, Rajasthan, India, Humana People to People India, 2008

We arrive in the middle of the day to photograph this school and have another to visit later in the afternoon.  The teacher is missing and the children are therefore unaware of our desire to photograph them.  They are nonetheless excited and we move fast to find a place for their portraits.

It's the middle of the day and my typical arrangement is impossible.  We stand in the path and look around, realizing that the house behind us has a wonderful courtyard. We are given permission and find a small chair for the children to rest upon. For the very first time, a reflector is used to direct the light of the sun onto the subjects.

It works beautifully and we make wonderful images, all the children enjoying the experience as witnessed by their smiles. The older women also want their portraits made, with their smaller children as well. 

This session changes my view of photography in India and will provide me with a wider window of time on the next visit. Arriving early and photographing later in the afternoon will certainly continue. However, my hope now is that the foundations will allow me to photograph during the middle of the day while they have their lunch and get some rest. 

I hope that their respect for the guest will be secondary to their hunger and need to rest. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Orphan, Happy Home, New Delhi, India 2006

We stand on the roof of a three story building in the middle of New Delhi called 'Happy Home.' It is a place where children from various backgrounds live, boys and girls. Some are partial orphans whose single parent cannot support their schooling orliving. Some are total orphans from the violence this world has brought upon them in the name of religion.

We stand on the roof as the sun is setting. There is just enough to light her face in this image, after which it sets behind the taller building next to us.

After this portrait, she returned to her family and has since left 'Happy Home.' The children of this wonderful place have welcomed me back three more times since this portrait. We have made many photographs, had countless dinners and have even visited an amusement park and some tourist areas, renting a bus and hearing them sing songs along the way. They are my family away from home.

The call me 'Halim Uncle.'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Man Cutting Grass, East of Habana, Cuba, 2008



Here is a man whose daily job is to cut down the grass on the side of the road. He is given a certain length for maintenance. He works twelve hours a day under the hot sun and does all the work with his hands, his sweat.

We stop at the side of the road and ask him for his portrait while working. Even though we have a rental car, he allows the three of us to make his portrait while cutting the grass. He is just wonderful, never looks at us and allows us a view of his life as if we are absent.

We talk for fifteen or so minutes after the photography and get an idea of his circumstances. He lives nearby and walks to this spot. He helps support his family with this contribution to the collective society. He humbles us with a sense of peace, a sense of accomplishment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wife of Blind Man, Old Delhi, India, 2006

So here we are sitting in a medical clinic in Old Delhi. The man next to me asks of my purpose. My answer is reflexive, having answered this question countless times just this past week and on many previous visits to other countries.

He looks puzzled and asks once again, clearly sharing with me his desire to hear something different. I then ask him his thoughts on my photography. He tells me that the photographs can be sold and money can then be sent back to the people.

To make his point, we walk outside, one block down and then down an alley into an open air market. We pass a man laying to the right of the alley covered with debris and flies. We see children walking around with nothing on their feet, covered with dirt. We see a mass of people sitting next to their produce baking in the sun.

We stop and he tells me to pick a few faces to photograph. To tell you the truth, I am a bit shocked. The scene is chaotic and in the middle of the chaos he wants me to put my tripod down and pick some faces. Regardless, I select a few faces and they are asked to be photographed, including the older woman above. Her husband is blind and they both agree to be photographed.

We spent about thirty minutes doing so and everyone cooperates graciously. It happens that all of these folks know this man and his foundation, the very foundation that runs the free medical clinic one block away. The give us their portraits because they know that the medical clinic is there for them, regardless of their inability to pay for any services. He is a good man and his foundation a blessing for them.

We walk back into the clinic and my answer has been hit by a revolution. The next time someone asks my purpose, they will hear something different.

All of these images are for sale on my website and will benefit the people involved.

halimina.org

Student, Private School, Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, 2006

She is asked to be photographed before her classes begin. A few minutes ago, she was seated on the roof of her school reciting with the rest of the children Hindu prayers. Along with a few friends, they step to my little area and we make their portraits.

Her name is Rekha.

My chance to photograph her came as a result of my friend's insistence that we do something. We were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive at the offices of Humana People to People India in Virat Nagar. We noted that a private school rested above the office and we ventured upstairs to watch. The principal welcomed us nicely and we talked for a few minutes before he gave us his permission to photograph about six girls, Rekha was one of them.

The following two years we visited the school and missed her. The first year, she was missing from the school due to her family's inability to afford the humble school fees. The second year, she was enrolled in a school just a few minutes away, with the teachers offering to take us to her.

This time around, I will seek her out, I will take the time to find her family and to make her portrait once again.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

International Children's Day, Habana, Cuba, 2008

He sits on a ledge during International Children's Day, taking a break from the festivities on his block. Just an hour or so ago, he allowed me to make his portrait formally, along with the other children from his street.

The children are running around, singing songs, watching their friends stand in front of them acting out their fantasies. Every now and then a child walks over and has his/her portrait made by me. My friends and I walk around and make spontaneous portraits of them in return.

On every block there is such a scene. On this small island, the love of children is noticeable. The streets are playgrounds for the children, with everyone watching out for the children of others. On this special day, endless effort is spent gladly for the sake of the children. They take the little that they have and spend it on balloons, decorations, cakes, cookies and so on.

This is International Children's Day and it shows.

Living in the States for over thirty years has rarely given me a glimpse of this day, in one of the most affluent nations on Earth. Walking around Cuba has taught me lessons missed over those thirty years, has taught me the value of such sharing.

Writing of such brings another story to mind. When walking around Gambia one day, Spanish is heard as a man walks by talking to two guides. I turn to my friend and ask about this stranger. My friend tells me that he is a Cuban doctor taking care of villages lacking any medical facilities.

It seems that the lessons learned during International Children's Day last a lifetime.

Two Boys, Habana, Cuba, 2008

We walk past these two boys on our way to a family waiting for us. Like in so many neighborhoods in Habana during the hot summer months, they are using what they have around them instead of a bat and a ball. Sometimes the bat is nothing more than a broom stick and the ball nothing more than a bottle cap.

Regardless, their passion is only humbled by their accuracy. It never ceases to amaze me how they can consistently hit an object as small as a bottle cap flying through the air as people and cars pass by.

While the States and Cuba seem to diverge on so many fronts, from politics to economics to language, the people in the streets share a passion for this sport.



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oxford Square, New Delhi, 2007

This is the view from the roof of the school. The children who attend classes belong to families that live and work below. They belong to a caste that washes clothing for a living, live near the water and use the water as their work space.

The good people of the school invited me over from last year to photograph their students. Along with two other guests, they show me a respect that can never be returned. We watch the students line up for a session, listen to the speakers and then watch the students as they begin their lessons.

For the photography, we arrange to photograph each class, one by one, with the girls being photographed first.

The following year, I return to New Delhi only to learn that the school is perhaps closed. There is a bit of mystery and perhaps misunderstanding. It is connected to another foundation that has helped me immensely during my time in India and during one of my days with them, we decide to visit the area in spite of the possible closing.

We decide to walk down this path, to the homes of the people. As we walk, there is a feeling that some of the children recognize me from last year. They look and smile. Many of their expressions turn from that of wonder to that of recognition. At first the walk is lonely and then it is just wonderful. One of the students remembers me, my name and guides us to his home where we are welcomed, given chairs to sit down upon and an audience to accept the photographs from last year. It is a bit chaotic but just beautiful.

After we finish handing out the photographs, we decide to take a different path out of this area. As we do so, many familiar faces come out of the homes, out of the alleys to greet us. One face that has been on my mind is still missing. All of a sudden, a young boy invites us into his home. We oblige and are greeted by that exact face my mind had been seeking from last year. She is out of her uniform, tending to the family's goat. She smiles, remains silent and continues with her work.

I have always wondered how it would feel to be in their small shoes, what it would mean to see a stranger's face one year after that stranger's visit. I suppose that I will never know that feeling for certain and will just settle for that tender smile and that beautiful silence.

I will visit her this year, visit this area and photograph along the banks of the river.

Her picture is below.