Havana

23Apr14

ballet

A few weeks ago, I visited Havana, Cuba on a photo tour. That seems to be the only way Americans can visit Cuba these days but it is not entirely a bad idea. What was interesting to me was that we had an Itinerary of places to vista and photograph. There was a boxing club, peoples’ homes, a school, and what probably interested me the most—a ballet school. It is something I had always wanted to photograph, with their movements, balance, and wonderful gestures which had always captivated me. We were to visit it on our last full day in Havana and I was ready—really ready. We had to meet at 10:00AM for the bus but I awake early that day as I had been doing so I could go our for an early morning stroll, since the light in that city was so beautiful at that time.

Three blocks from the hotel, as I walked along the street in that old crumbling city, I stepped on a steel grate in the middle of the sidewalk. I heard a noise, my foot dropped, the grate gave way, and I fell straight down. For some reason, my left hand managed to grab the edge of the sidewalk and I dangled over a dark bottomless pit. “FUCK!” I yelled. I must have yelled again, and then I noticed to my right, a steel ladder. I could not see down, and I had no idea what lay beneath me so I made a grab for the ladder—and missed. Down I fell to the bottom. I was a bit stunned but I seemed for the most part intact. I started to climb the ladder out of the hole, and then I saw about 20 hands at the top offering help and screaming in Spanish. They pulled me out and asked if I was OK. I thought all I had was scrapes and bruises so I declined their offers to take me to the hospital and made my way back to my hotel. By the time I reached the lobby, my right thigh had swollen to the size of a hot-water bottle and the hotel nurse  told me to grab a taxi and go to the hospital.

As I waited in the emergency room, I thought about getting back in time to visit the ballet academy. I worried whether I would make it or not. Time passed. More time  passed and it became apparent that I would not get back in time.

By the time, I had finished and gone back to the hotel, I realized I was too late and would miss the visit. I was pretty banged up but also very disappointed that I would miss the ballet school. As I waited in the lobby, trying to figure out what to do, Neyla, the Cuban Government guide came up to me,and asked me what had happened. I told her.  She asked if I was alright and said that the group would be meeting for lunch at the Hotel Nacional after the ballet schools and would I be up to joining them there. I said i was.

Two hours later, I arrived at the hotel, received a round of applause from the other members of the group, and sat down for lunch. I was sitting next to peter, the group organizer, and I mentioned that I was sorry I missed the ballet school visit. He very kindly suggested that perhaps one of the other guides would take me back there after lunch, since the rest of the group would be on a walking tour and I probably was not up to that.

I leaped at the suggestion. I would be at the ballet school, on my own, without any other photographers jumping in front of me as I click the shutter or stumbling into my shots. After lunch, I got into a taxi with Alain (one of our guides) and off we went to the school. We went to the director’s office and he told her the story of my accident. “Of course she said” I could spend as long as I wished photographing the class. For the next 45 minutes I had the place to myself to work in. There was nobody except 4 or 5 students, the director and her assistant, and Alain in this huge rehearsal hall.

I am always amazed at where my photographs come from. 4 hours earlier, I never imagined that I would have this shot. Life is an endless series of surprises. I love that!


Ordinary People

14Apr14

man_at_home

 

One thing I have noticed about people is that whether they are up or down on the income scale, it affects their desire to photographed. Rich people are afraid—afraid of what I do not know but they are afraid. Usually, they decline the opportunity to be photographed by a stranger. I suppose with money, there is always the fear that someone will take it away from you. That is probably the case, but the guy taking it away from is not the photographer—most likely its a relative, or a professional con artist.

When you have nothing, its different. There is nothing to lose, and someone is paying attention to you. It’s only an occasion to interact with someone.

This guy was in a poor neighborhood in “Old Havana”. Things were bad—very bad but he was tanking outside his home and he said hello. He invited us into his home which was very sparse, chickens running across the floor and some guy sleeping off a stupor on a couch.

Life in Havana is rough but the people are great.

 

 


DeLand Florida, 2014

DeLand Florida, 2014

Deland is a small town in central Florida which I pass through either on my way to or from Daytona when I go to “Bike Week”. I kind of like the place but I am not sure why. This is the second time I have been here and walked up and down the empty streets lines with restaurants,  gift shops and such. Not much going on but I keep working at it. This time was different. I discovered when I was at “Bike Week”, that there is really nothing going on in Daytona before 3:00PM because everybody is sleeping off the activities of the night before. They go there to party and of course they party—all night long. So since I don’t sleep well in hotels, I get up early and decided to have another crack at DeLand. This time, I found a different part of town. It was an alley with a few bars and joints and this guy came out  of one of them for a smoke. I love that light!


Windowwash

 

Another sunny day at Hollywood Beach. I have been here so often, I don’t look at the beach anymore—at least not as often. Every now and then I look at the condos and hotels overlooking the beach. You never know.


bar-bathroom

 

Bike week can be exhausting and when it is hot, it takes its toll. This year I made two decisions when I came back for a second round at Daytona. 1. Wear a hat. 2. Drink beer.

1. Wearing a hat was a no-brainer. Since I don’t have much hair left on top, I noticed last year that I was burning and then had to seek refuge in shady areas. Not a bad idea, however the shots I were looking for happened to be where the sun shone, so I had to make some choices. I chose sunburn and went to bed with a headache every night. This year I bought a black Harley cap.

2. Drink beer. This one was more complicated. Last year, I noticed that a lot of the action was in the vast outdoor bars that litter the place.  Thats where the action was—that’s where I thought I should be and just walking around with a camera, was sort of odd. I did not think I really blended much and so this year I thought I could deal with a few issues by drinking beer. I could keep hydrated sort of and I look as if I belonged sort of. To stay sober, I only drank Bud Light which did not taste so bad—it almost tasted like beer. Hanging around with a can in my hand also slowed me down and I could wait for the right shots. (Patience has always been a problem with me).

So here I was, in a bar, drinking beer and I saw this cleaning woman having her lunch in the bathroom of this gigantic outdoor bar. I saw here sitting there, lonely, outside of the action and it had a sort of sad feeling.


L1000279I have really begun to enjoy Bike Week in Daytona Beach. This was the second time going and it keeps getting better. I don’t ride a bike anymore—in fact its been a very long time but when I did I enjoyed it. It did give me a sense of total freedom, which is something one begins to cherish as we grow up. I love the crowd here. It is a “live and let live” group and almost anything goes as long as you keep it to yourself. I like to think of it as  boobs, beer, bikes, butts and bellies and they are all in abundance here. This is as hot of Evan and his girlfriend who I met here. I was photographing him and he noticed me so we spoke. He asked me to take a shot of them, which I did and sent it to him. He then asked if he could take a shot of me and his gf and of course I obliged.

The previous week I went to Calle Ocho in Miami which is another festival for the hispanic community. It was not much different than Bike Week. That was boobs, beer, butts and salsa.


Sunlight

29Jan14

L1083087Things are always changing. When I first began to take photography seriously, I always looked for cloudy overcast days. At that time, I only shot black and white and the blank white sky on a sunny day (yes, I know it was blue, but it always came out white) bothered me. The shadows were harsh, The sky lacked detail, and the range between highlights and shadows was always to large. The truth is if I know  a lot more than I did, I probably could have worked with it. The rule was to expose for the highlights and the shadows would take care of themselves but they never did. I shot Tri-X, liked the contrast and that was a bad combination for that film. I could always use Panatomic -X, but nobody ever used it, and I did not want to start any trends.

These digital days are different. I love shooting in color and working it. I brighten the color, change the tone a bit and voila! In fact I now dread those cloudy days and only shoot when the sun is out. Well, not really—but most of the time. It really does not matter about the weather anymore because I shoot according to what the light is like—I am just looking at different things.

Most of the time, I try not to expect anything when I am out shooting. I just go with it and hope for the best and that seems to work. If I falter and try to look for something special, I come up short, all the time—no exceptions so these days taking photographs has become more of a mental discipline. I think  howe I am feeling is  just as important as what I am looking at.




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