Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Faces That Launched 1,000 Shots

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Faces That Launched 1,000 Shots

Article excerpt

SOME of my friendships are made in an instant.

My camera bonds us. We are two strangers linked by a smile and the click of a shutter. Maybe no words are spoken. Maybe the smile and nod are our only communication. But they are enough.

I pick my friends carefully. As I travel around a country, I search for the faces I will keep, the faces that become the soul of that country, and I gingerly transport them home. They wait in my film and come back to life on my light table. Then I can share the faces of my friends with anyone who will have a look.

The people of some countries love to be photographed. Cubans are like that: warm and friendly.

Two little girls with smiling faces and wiggling like puppies are tickled to have a tall foreigner show interest. They run off giggling and yell: "Mom! Guess what! Mom!"

An old woman stands in her doorway with the story of her life sketched onto her face. "You don't want my picture. I'm too old. I'm too ugly." But there is a schoolgirl smile. She is beautiful, maybe more now than ever before.

The old men stand chatting in a tight circle as I approach them and shyly ask if I can take their photo. "Of course."

I shoot the group, but one among them stands out, and I concentrate on him: his wonderful straw hat pulled low over his eyes, his mischievous toothless grin, and his embarrassment at being singled out. He will probably be ribbed by his buddies after I walk on.

My teenage friends are more nonchalant; they are not as obvious about their pleasure in being chosen.

A girl, almost a woman, sits on Havana's sea wall with her puppy. A wisp of her hair blows in the wind. She endures me for an eternity of several minutes and half a roll of film.

I don't know their names. I rush in and out of their lives, taking their images to keep. Sometimes when I review the film, a face will appear that I don't remember. Where did I meet you? Where did I capture you, and why can't I remember?

But other faces I can never forget.

Osvaldo approached me with a smile while I was ridiculously photographing an old car in Havana.

"What are you doing?" he asked. Then a barrage of questions followed while I fumbled with my Spanish. …

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