Monday, June 29, 2015

Two Models + Water, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

In addition to the ballerinas are friends from all walks of life. From campesinos to models the island bristles with beauty and talent. One morning we could be photographing on the beach with these two models, then in the afternoon we're heading out to the countryside to document people working under the grueling sun.

On the day of these portraits we met the young man in the city to exchange the photographs from our first session. While the computer transferred the files, we fiddled with the idea of working that same afternoon. While he was surprised he was just as pleased. He called the young woman in the second portrait and she also accepted. We had one problem, he had nothing to wear… and was in casual shorts.

We then called our trusted ballerina, and spoke with her mother. She of course had a solution and told us to come over on our way to the beach. She has two sons in addition to the peerless one, and had a pair of pants ready for us when we arrived which fit him perfectly. Energized we headed to pick up the young woman, with our ballerina coming along for the ride of course. In the end she was as fabulous as these two… and almost stole the show. At least that's what I try to make her believe, for she actually did steal it!

I look forward to seeing them very soon, and heading to the beach once again!

Note: These portraits were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film with natural light only.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ballerina + Sky, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

In exactly seven days my plane lands in Cuba, and the very next day we will visit this young girl and her beautiful family. Last year was our first collaboration and this year promises to be extraordinary. This image was from our last session together on the beach, during my final week last summer. It almost never happened, but happenstance intervened and this is but one photograph.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Elder + Slum, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, April of 2015

Every once in a while a elder walks up for his portrait, and such happened with this beautiful man. We were photographing a few girls in an impoverished neighborhood of Jaipur when he stepped onto the platform for his portrait. He was quiet, and respectful. We of course made way and adjusted the equipment since he was much taller than the rest of us, thus the angle of this image.

At first the boys watching started to have a little fun with the situation, then they settled down a bit when we looked their way. This was after all an elder to them, in a society where elders mean everything. The girls were different however, and moved out of his way with respect, returning immediately for their portraits.

We were standing on an abandoned temple, yet I felt that the magic of the place was within this man. He was serene, and at peace with it all. He refrained from speaking a single word, allowed his portrait to be made and walked away most grateful through his expressions.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2 with natural light only.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father-in-Law, Guanabacoa, Cuba, Summer of 2014

One day last summer Alejandro took me to his first son's neighborhood where we planned to scout some spots for our dancers, and perhaps also make some images of the neighborhood. Although this was certainly a rural area, it was less than one hour away from Havana. As we parked the car and walked down the driveway to the gravel road, Alejandro met this man and they spoke for a minute. I of course was thinking immediately of his portrait, and Alejandro recognized this as well having worked with me for the past five years or so.

We asked to photograph him, as he turned out to be the father of Alejandro's daughter-in-law. He of course allowed us to do so in the very spot he was standing, and had a comical, kind perspective on the experience. The sun had just come up from the horizon, and cleared a few trees… yet was blocked by a few others as well. This produced the most magnificent highlight/shadow contrast and has taught me once again about the beauty and unpredictability of sunlight. 

I look forward to seeing this man in two weeks, and to handing him this portrait!

Note: This portrait was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/50 mm FLE combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Student + Islamic School, Uttar Pradesh, India, April of 2015

When we arrived in Kairana, India last month we were told that most of the refugee camps had been disbursed and that the refugees had returned to their homes. The people thought that perhaps this would disappoint me because they were supposed to be the subjects of my photography. This was far from the truth of course, for having less to photograph in this regard would only make me happier.

So we visited the school of our host, an Islamic school he had opened in his own village. The building was glorious, with a spacious courtyard and incredible fields as far as the eye could see all the way around. When we stepped inside this was one of the first faces that greeted me, and immediately made me realize that we would be staying an extra day or so.

The men were wonderful and helped us with the photography. We made portraits of the boys in a small room with a window as our source of light, then switched to the walkway outside to photograph the girls with the help of a reflector. They were magnificent, including the one pictured in this image.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Student + Pictures, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, April of 2014

There are times when other people's questions regarding the importance of the photography do inject themselves into the work. What are photographs worth? What difference do they make? How does a picture help anyone?

Then I return to the villages in which the photographs were made, and hand them to the children. The reactions invariably erase any doubt in my mind, and at the most basic level demonstrate the positive. While of course these children have seen themselves on paper before, and on someone else's screen… they are enchanted by seeing themselves from the previous year. They cherish the photographs, and show them off to their friends… holding them so close to their chests that it seems they will never let go.

These are the children from one of our schools in Rajasthan, visited most recently by my dear brother Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation. My hope is that we can do even better for this school with Nirvana's guidance, and with our support.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX-100M2.

La Profesora + La Playa, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, El Verano de 2014

After six years of working with her students on the island, the professor from the highly acclaimed dance company asked to be photographed like her students. She was as kind and open to being photographed as her students, allowing us two sessions with her and accompanying us as a photographer thirsty for photographic knowledge.

In three weeks a suitcase of ballet outfits will be heading to Cuba with me, to this young woman's students at a prestigious dance school within Havana. Last year she allowed me the privilege of documenting her incredible talent, and left me in awe on that beach. When she moved to a position, she did so with great care and deliberation… demonstrating to me the immense vision she had for our session.

She was as gentle as she was skilled, treating the girls in our company with sincerity and kindness. The girls were after all her students, even though they were involved in my project well before her appearance. She knew that they would be more than excited to see her, and that they would be all over her since this was their first time around her outside of the school. Yet she accepted this role gracefully and spoke with them the entire time, never looked away nor looked uncomfortable for a split second.

Last summer I was unprepared for someone like her, someone at her level. I do however hope that my skills at anticipation have improved since that time, and that this summer she will once again allow me the chance to document her spirit more precisely.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Neighbor + Rooftop, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

One evening in my friend's apartment this young girl happened to be there, playing games with my friend's daughter. She paused for a second, then continued to play. My friend noticed my reaction and knew, right there and then, that we'd have to include her in our photography.

So we asked her mother and she immediately granted us permission to do so. We arranged an afternoon for the girls on the rooftop of my friend's building. We had perfect access to the sun, and an apartment in which the girls could change. My friend's wife also volunteered to do their hair, and she was perfectly suited to the task. She loved the girls and took immense pleasure in playing with their hair.

Although I have written it many times, the truth is that these girls impress me deeply with their presence in front of a lens. They produce the most incredible expressions and rival the best models in my work… who by the way express interest to be included in my work because of these very girls. As models, they realize the difficulty in attaining such comfort levels and know the rarity of such honesty in portraiture.

These girls after all are being photographed without props, designer clothes and a team of stylists. They are being placed in front of a camera without preparation. Yet they are completely in charge, as I do nothing more than make sure the settings on the camera are correct. In less than four weeks I will see her and her family, and look forward to possibly taking them to the beach for a session!

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination, with natural light only.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ballerina + Sea, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

One day after I met this beautiful dancer, we made this image at a beach just outside of the city. She and her family are on my mind as the relationship between Cuba and the States seems to be changing.

What will happen to their way of life; how will the world around them be transformed? Will it be possible to meet a family like them in the future on the island, and collaborate with immediate trust the very next morning?

These images were made possible through a simple conversation the day before, started with an exchange regarding fruit for sale. After talking for less than an hour, we agreed on meeting the next morning one hour before sunrise and heading out to the beach. The water and sky would serve as the perfect stage for their performance, and then the children could run into the sea for a morning in the water.

While this family lives less than two blocks away from the sea, they rarely get the chance to visit the beaches of their own island. The cost of transportation alone prevents them from doing such. So to see them playing in the water after a serious session of photography brought me a deep sense of joy, to be able to give back a tenth of what they had given to me.

Note: This image was made with a Fuji GA645Wi onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Two Dancers + Racquetball Court, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Two young dancers unknown to each other came together one morning last summer to collaborate near the beach just outside of Havana, Cuba. The older of the two is known to most of us, while the younger one was found just a few days earlier during my walk near her family's apartment. They however worked beautifully together, and helped us create this series of images.
These are two of the ballerinas for whom the present Costumes for Ballerinas in Cuba campaign is dedicated. For those interested in supporting this simple project, we have less than two weeks to reach our humble budget. We hope to surprise them this summer with a suitcase of dance outfits; and then take them to this same spot for many more sessions, at the racquetball court and on the beach a minute's walk away!

Note: These images were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Ballerina + Model, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Melting together the genres of fashion and dance, we were fortunate enough on this morning to have a wonderful model and an exquisite dancer along for the ride. Of course this happened spontaneously as our veteran dancer asked about our plans for the morning (photography of two models), and then made sure to tag along to our pleasant surprise!
As they say in Cuba, 'she was born' for photography… and so we always answer with 'yes' when she wants to come along. On this morning we photographed this young man and his girlfriend, who also happened to be the premiere female model on the island last summer. All three had their turn in front of the lens, and then we played with combinations of two.
Towards the end the female model wanted to rest a bit and so the young man took it upon himself to create with our ballerina. I was deeply impressed with his kindness, his courtesy and his gentle demeanor. When asked to treat her like a brother, to listen to her concerns, he did so in such a natural way. Although they had never met before, they took to each other like they had known each other for life. Their performance enchanted me deeply, and made me appreciate even more so our recording of it onto film.
This image will forever remind me of that moment, and makes me want to repeat this combination once again in four weeks' time!

Note: This photograph was made with a Fuji GA645Wi onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ballerina + Sea, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

This was her first year with us, and certainly anything but her last. We were looking for two younger ballerinas because our veteran dancer desired to be photographed as a mentor. It was a glorious idea and we decided to begin the search the next day at her school of dance.

We arrived at a time when all of the dancers and their parents were waiting for classes to begin. We were standing in the open space and looking at the students practicing their lessons. She stood out in my mind, both in her exquisite features and in her relationship with the other dancers. A group of six or so girls were practicing a certain maneuver and she was the one leading in the instruction. It was quite beautiful to see, the young dancer in her natural environment and with her friends.

When our dancer's mother arrived, she asked us if we had found anyone. We pointed to the girl behind her and she immediately took it upon herself to speak with her mother. Once again this is what amazes me about the island, the willingness of people to collaborate photographically and to speak with others on our behalf as well. In doing so they display an unparalleled level of pride, trust and confidence in our work.

The image below is of the young ballerina during our second session. This was exactly the expression on her face as we were speaking with her mother at the dance school… an incredible combination of confidence and joy.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Kodak TMY 400 ISO film.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ballerina + Hands, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

Here is yet another image of this priceless ballerina from our first session on the beach. Asked to provide some hand positions above her head as we finished for the morning, she did so without hesitation and perfectly. In less than four weeks we will be visiting her home, sitting down with her exquisite family and planning our next session on the beach. For those interested in our drive to provide outfits for these dancers, do follow the link below and make your impact felt… thank you in advance!

Costumes for Ballerinas in Cuba

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Ballerina + Beach, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, Summer of 2014

While we have known each other for a few years, last summer was our first opportunity to work together. We met in front of her dance school as she and her wonderful mother were waiting for classes to begin. Two parents approached us with their chidden, a boy and this young girl. They wanted to be included in the work, and we welcomed this of course. Right there and then, Alejandro took out the reflector and 'tested' their reaction to strong light. The young boy's eyes immediately closed while this most beautiful dancer's eyes stood strong. We knew from that moment on that she would shine in front of the sun.
However we never did connect that first year and so when we saw her again last summer we immediately talked to her mother. She agreed just as immediately and we arranged for a session outside of her dance schedule. Our first session included her friend and collaborator, since she always danced with him during performances. They of course performed perfectly on that first session, but the sunshine truly bothered the young boy. We made magnificent images but something inside of me wanted to photograph her on her own.
We struggled with this for a little bit and then during a visit to her family's home I presented the idea to the family. I was of course worried about the reaction and will never forget the grandmother's reaction. She eased my worry with a smile, and the idea that the boy's family would be just fine with it all. What gained their respect most of all however was our acknowledgement of the boy's feelings, and this was relayed to me later by her mother.
We arranged to work together the Monday following the weekend, and left it at that until we were on our way back from the countryside. Just as we do with all of the families, we called her family to confirm the night before on our way back home. Her mother was of course so kind, but due to miscommunication she thought that we were going to confirm prior to that phone call and advised us that her daughter was with her father for the next few days.
I wanted to reassure her and advised her that it was unimportant, in a Spanish phrase which seemed innocuous to me. Naturally she responded that it did matter and that her daughter was very much looking forward to this opportunity. We were touched by her reaction and her desire to contact the father to get everything ready for the next morning. She agreed to be collected from her home quite early, and to go with us to pick up her daughter on our way to the beach. We were greeted by her incredibly kind father who would have had every reason to be bothered. He was anything but, and had nothing but sweet words for us.
So this image is from that second session, and we had the most perfect day on the beach. Selecting which negatives to print from those two hours will be most difficult yet most pleasing, since there are just so many. Since last summer we have remained in contact through email, and developed a genuine bond with the family.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dancer + Racquetball Court, Santa Maria del Mar, Cuba, 2014

On a visit to my friend Eduardo at his hotel, a group was performing for the tourists in the lobby. Three dancers moved to the music created by three musicians, while some non-relevant program played above them on the television. The space for their performance was tiny, and they did their best to keep the mood pleasant.

My eyes then noticed this young woman getting ready to dance. She was wearing this same dress, so elegant. All my mind could think about was this dress against the green wall of the racquetball court near the beach.

Eduardo saw my reaction, we talked for a minute and then he walked directly over to the group's leader to present my proposal: would they be interested in heading to the beach for a recording session, as well as some photography?

They came over to look at my work, both the photographs as well as the video. Immediately we hit it off and scheduled a morning to pick up the entire group in two cars. Fast forward to that morning, they were ready as promised and we arrived at the court well before sunrise.

We set up the video camera on a tripod, and the manual camera so as to minimize the noise while they performed. The heat of the morning caught up with us quickly, and the young women found themselves struggling just to finish each number… but did so courageously.

Alejandro was in charge of the small camera, and he triggered the shutter an astounding 3,000 times in two hours. All in all we had a great morning, were blessed without a single sound for the recording, and left the group on the beach to enjoy the water for the morning.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination onto Fuji Neopan Acros 100 ISO film.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Laborers + Brick Factory, Uttar Pradesh, India, April of 2015

These images are courtesy of my dear friend, brother, driver and translator in India, Mr. Singh. We tried several times to document a brick factory but were denied. On our way to Uttar Pradesh however we took a chance and drove into this factory to ask. The owners were different than the others, really calm and peaceful in their mannerisms. They invited us for a cup of tea, listened to our request with smiles and told us that we could come in the morning to do as we wished.
We did so and arrived as the sun came up, photographed the families near their very basic homes, made portraits with bricks as the background and then photographed the workers as they toiled under the sun and above the furnace.
I look forward to seeing these images on film, as soon as the rolls are processed.