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William Vázquez is an advertising, portrait & documentary photographer based in New York, USA.

Puerto Rico....still needs help

This past April I was in Puerto Rico on assignment for @americares documenting their ongoing projects helping Puerto Rico recover from the devastating hurricanes that passed over the island in 2017. I have visited the island a few times after the hurricane. Things are betterl, but there is still so much to do. In many areas there still is no electricity, debris still hasn't been cleared away, many essential services still don't exist, and jobs non existent. No wonder so many Puerto Ricos are leaving their beloved island to the mainland US to find better opportunities.

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Lucinda and Juan live in the mountains of Utuado in the center of the island. This area was particularly hard hit. They live near a beautiful water fall which during the hurricane turned into a raging mudslide that swept away most of their home, their belongings, and electrical lines. Fortunately, they were able to escape with their family before anyone was hurt. Although their future is uncertain, get their water from the river, they still don't have electricity, and have no idea when it will arrive. Working together with their neighbors they make the best of their situation, but many neighbors have left to the mainland. They refuse to leave..."this is our home and we are not leaving." Such beautiful people.

Me at Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Dedicating my trek to Puerto Rico

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When I was visiting I saw a Puerto Rican flag on the wall and I asked where I could buy one. Lucinda, took it off the wall and handed it to me. I did not want to take their flag, but Lucinda insisted. She said "This is remember us and where you come from." An emotional moment for sure. So this is for Lucinda, Juan. I haven't forgotten! 

2016 in photos review

Some highlights from the projects of 2016

 Working with AbbVie and  Direct Relief  documenting the emergency relief efforts in villages affected by hurricane Matthew in the Dominican Republic. This is a mother and child waiting their turn to see a doctor and get medications in the Monte Plata region of the Dominican Republic. We were in a tiny village community clinic overflowing with old people, plenty of babies and families waiting in very hot and humid conditions with an overwhelming smell of raw sewage from the flooding.

Working with AbbVie and Direct Relief documenting the emergency relief efforts in villages affected by hurricane Matthew in the Dominican Republic. This is a mother and child waiting their turn to see a doctor and get medications in the Monte Plata region of the Dominican Republic. We were in a tiny village community clinic overflowing with old people, plenty of babies and families waiting in very hot and humid conditions with an overwhelming smell of raw sewage from the flooding.

 In many of the places I work in I stand out. Blending into the background, and being present when I choose to is something I strive for. This little one wasn't going to let me blend in. She watched me like a hawk. Documenting emergency relief efforts by AbbVie and  Direct Relief  in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew in the Dominican Republic.

In many of the places I work in I stand out. Blending into the background, and being present when I choose to is something I strive for. This little one wasn't going to let me blend in. She watched me like a hawk. Documenting emergency relief efforts by AbbVie and Direct Relief in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew in the Dominican Republic.

 I explored parts of India that I had ever seen before and had some amazing experiences. Young monks blowing horns during a remembrance ceremony on the steps of their monastery in the Ladhak region of India in the Himalayas.

I explored parts of India that I had ever seen before and had some amazing experiences. Young monks blowing horns during a remembrance ceremony on the steps of their monastery in the Ladhak region of India in the Himalayas.

 Getting the shot!  Christopher M. Lynch  driving while  Kedar P. Gaekwad  films. I got to work with some awesome people in 2016. I traveled through India and Nepal with Chris. We worked on some assignments together as well as did some research on future projects. He was an amazing travel partner and photographer always ready to go the extra mile to get the shot. It was a privilege to work with Kedar. I met him five years ago on one of my first projects in India and we have kept in contact since. I have seen him go from director of photography to directing feature films in Mumbai. Talented guys!

Getting the shot! Christopher M. Lynch driving while Kedar P. Gaekwad films. I got to work with some awesome people in 2016. I traveled through India and Nepal with Chris. We worked on some assignments together as well as did some research on future projects. He was an amazing travel partner and photographer always ready to go the extra mile to get the shot. It was a privilege to work with Kedar. I met him five years ago on one of my first projects in India and we have kept in contact since. I have seen him go from director of photography to directing feature films in Mumbai. Talented guys!

 Riding the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield motorcycle. The bike is underpowered, heavy, and terrible brakes, but amazing to ride through the Himalayas. Always find time to do things that make you happy. Love what you do, and it will love you back!

Riding the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield motorcycle. The bike is underpowered, heavy, and terrible brakes, but amazing to ride through the Himalayas. Always find time to do things that make you happy. Love what you do, and it will love you back!

 I strive to create photographs that illustrate the joys of life no matter how mundane or small. School girls playing at recess captured while on assignment in India for  Abbott

I strive to create photographs that illustrate the joys of life no matter how mundane or small. School girls playing at recess captured while on assignment in India for Abbott

 One of my favorite assignments of 2016. It's amazing how much compassion the organizations I work with have for the people they help. On assignment for  Americares  documenting their rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake in Nepal. This is Junkiri, she was seriously injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. @americares helped her with much needed physical rehabilitation so she could help in providing for her children. I went with her doctor up into the mountains of the Sindhupalchowk district to follow up on her progress. She is doing great and was happy for us to all crowd into her house.

One of my favorite assignments of 2016. It's amazing how much compassion the organizations I work with have for the people they help. On assignment for Americares documenting their rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake in Nepal. This is Junkiri, she was seriously injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. @americares helped her with much needed physical rehabilitation so she could help in providing for her children. I went with her doctor up into the mountains of the Sindhupalchowk district to follow up on her progress. She is doing great and was happy for us to all crowd into her house.

 You really have to have a reason to be someplace up in the mountains around Kathmandu. The roads are more like river beds and in the rain that is exactly what they are. I was traveling with doctors from  Americares  in a raging storm doing follow up visits of patients in remote villages. The roads were terrible, but at least this time I wasn't freaked out about my driver being extremely cross eyed. That is another story from a previous trip into the mountains

You really have to have a reason to be someplace up in the mountains around Kathmandu. The roads are more like river beds and in the rain that is exactly what they are. I was traveling with doctors from Americares in a raging storm doing follow up visits of patients in remote villages. The roads were terrible, but at least this time I wasn't freaked out about my driver being extremely cross eyed. That is another story from a previous trip into the mountains

 One of my favorite images from 2016. It was from an assignment for @Americares. We crowded into Junkiri's tiny one room home in the mountains of Sindhupalchok to escape the pouring rain. It was literally pitch black inside, so dark that I didn't notice that right next to me there was "grandfather" who put his hand on my arm to guide me to a seat. I suspect that Nepalis can see in the dark. As I was having a conversation in the darkness. I contemplated how I was going to be able to photograph. Then someone turned the light on their phone, then another, and another. It was beautiful, and a solution to my dilemma. Jinkiri's daughter went around offering us, and what looked like half the village crammed into her hut some tea and freshly made popcorn made from the corn she had drying in her home. It was a beautiful moment, and after some arranging of the "lights" I was able to get a good representation of that moment. We should have stayed over that night. The drive back down the mountain was a nightmare of roads blocked by parts of homes and power lines brought down by the storm.

One of my favorite images from 2016. It was from an assignment for @Americares. We crowded into Junkiri's tiny one room home in the mountains of Sindhupalchok to escape the pouring rain. It was literally pitch black inside, so dark that I didn't notice that right next to me there was "grandfather" who put his hand on my arm to guide me to a seat. I suspect that Nepalis can see in the dark. As I was having a conversation in the darkness. I contemplated how I was going to be able to photograph. Then someone turned the light on their phone, then another, and another. It was beautiful, and a solution to my dilemma. Jinkiri's daughter went around offering us, and what looked like half the village crammed into her hut some tea and freshly made popcorn made from the corn she had drying in her home. It was a beautiful moment, and after some arranging of the "lights" I was able to get a good representation of that moment. We should have stayed over that night. The drive back down the mountain was a nightmare of roads blocked by parts of homes and power lines brought down by the storm.

 I visited small tribal villages in Rajasthan and was invited to opium tea cookies with the local tribesmen. I got to dress up and there is photographic proof. Don't ask me how to make that turban.

I visited small tribal villages in Rajasthan and was invited to opium tea cookies with the local tribesmen. I got to dress up and there is photographic proof. Don't ask me how to make that turban.

 I was the favorite target of every kid within a mile on Holi the festival of colors. This was from the first 30 minutes of walking the streets of Thamal, Kathmandu. So much fun!

I was the favorite target of every kid within a mile on Holi the festival of colors. This was from the first 30 minutes of walking the streets of Thamal, Kathmandu. So much fun!

 In the mountains of Nepal you are always climbing up or climbing down. I was with a group of women who are social workers for  Americares . We were climbing down a very steep hill. I was in front. When I got to the bottom I offered my hand to help the woman behind me. She laughed at me. She said "we are mountain women" true that! She could probably carry me down and up that hill in sandals no less.

In the mountains of Nepal you are always climbing up or climbing down. I was with a group of women who are social workers for Americares. We were climbing down a very steep hill. I was in front. When I got to the bottom I offered my hand to help the woman behind me. She laughed at me. She said "we are mountain women" true that! She could probably carry me down and up that hill in sandals no less.

 On our way to the days location in rural India, and I spot out of the corner of my eye movement. I look and see off in the distance kids swinging from the hanging vines of a banyan tree. I of course make everyone go out of their way to go investigate. It was amazing and of course all the kids I happened to be photographing were there. Almost like I had planned it. Perfect! On assignment for  Abbott .

On our way to the days location in rural India, and I spot out of the corner of my eye movement. I look and see off in the distance kids swinging from the hanging vines of a banyan tree. I of course make everyone go out of their way to go investigate. It was amazing and of course all the kids I happened to be photographing were there. Almost like I had planned it. Perfect! On assignment for Abbott.

 t's gratifying when I get to photograph a success story. These three are triplets born severely under term in Kosovo. They survived due to the efforts of their amazing doctor, and to the availability of a drug to help premature babies breathe. These three were a handful running around hopped up on sugar, didn't speak any language I did, and had everyone who was there telling them something different to do. The whole shoot lasted 45 minutes with 40 of them spent in the ritual of eating pastries, cookies, and tea with the family then 5 minutes left for shooting. On assignment for AbbVie with  Americares  in Kosovo.

t's gratifying when I get to photograph a success story. These three are triplets born severely under term in Kosovo. They survived due to the efforts of their amazing doctor, and to the availability of a drug to help premature babies breathe. These three were a handful running around hopped up on sugar, didn't speak any language I did, and had everyone who was there telling them something different to do. The whole shoot lasted 45 minutes with 40 of them spent in the ritual of eating pastries, cookies, and tea with the family then 5 minutes left for shooting. On assignment for AbbVie with Americares in Kosovo.

 Photographed some tough things in 2016. Premature baby wards where you see tiny babies being kept alive in incubators. Survival of preemies is a huge challenge in developing countries.

Photographed some tough things in 2016. Premature baby wards where you see tiny babies being kept alive in incubators. Survival of preemies is a huge challenge in developing countries.

 Travelled with @directrelief to Chiapas, Mexico. We visited families who need help with transporting their children to the hospital for cancer treatment. Some of these families would need to travel more that 8 hours round trip from their village. A trip they cannot afford.

Travelled with @directrelief to Chiapas, Mexico. We visited families who need help with transporting their children to the hospital for cancer treatment. Some of these families would need to travel more that 8 hours round trip from their village. A trip they cannot afford.

 Young monks traveling in packs at a Monastery in Bhutan. I led a photo workshop with @cameravoyages to Bhutan/Nepal. I was part den mother, teacher, cat herder, guide, doctor, storyteller, and therapist. Taking people to experience the world the way I do when on assignment is a pleasure and a privilege.

Young monks traveling in packs at a Monastery in Bhutan. I led a photo workshop with @cameravoyages to Bhutan/Nepal. I was part den mother, teacher, cat herder, guide, doctor, storyteller, and therapist. Taking people to experience the world the way I do when on assignment is a pleasure and a privilege.

 I spent a little time with these guys who were swimming at sunset off the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. Amazing light and always something different going on.

I spent a little time with these guys who were swimming at sunset off the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. Amazing light and always something different going on.

 I spent a couple of days with a family documenting their day to day work. She wanted to wear her favorite dress during the entire shoot. I enquired about a sari and was given a face of "no way". They let us disrupt their day and did whatever was asked. Beautiful people through and through and I appreciate the openness and effort in their part.

I spent a couple of days with a family documenting their day to day work. She wanted to wear her favorite dress during the entire shoot. I enquired about a sari and was given a face of "no way". They let us disrupt their day and did whatever was asked. Beautiful people through and through and I appreciate the openness and effort in their part.

 Leaving a monastery in the Ladakh region of India, and we run into these guys. Apprentice monks, they were fun to watch aggressive, a homemade cricket bat, talking smack. So serious about their cricket game. Love the moment.

Leaving a monastery in the Ladakh region of India, and we run into these guys. Apprentice monks, they were fun to watch aggressive, a homemade cricket bat, talking smack. So serious about their cricket game. Love the moment.

 Mexico amazing in so many ways, beauty, culture, food, people, I can't count the ways.

Mexico amazing in so many ways, beauty, culture, food, people, I can't count the ways.

 Woke up at 11,000 and beautiful vistas. Himalayas, Ladakh, India.

Woke up at 11,000 and beautiful vistas. Himalayas, Ladakh, India.

 You can't leave until you have eaten said grandmother as she prepared the food over an open fire in the hut they live in. We were on our way out and she handed me an egg taco and a cup of watered down coffee. She stood there and watched me eat to make sure I finished it. Then she gave me more. Every home I visited in the countryside the same thing happened. Simple but great tasting food. I was so full I couldn't eat for the rest of the day. Chiapas, Mexico

You can't leave until you have eaten said grandmother as she prepared the food over an open fire in the hut they live in. We were on our way out and she handed me an egg taco and a cup of watered down coffee. She stood there and watched me eat to make sure I finished it. Then she gave me more. Every home I visited in the countryside the same thing happened. Simple but great tasting food. I was so full I couldn't eat for the rest of the day. Chiapas, Mexico

 Made a difference with a group of kids lives. Fundraised for @kidsofkathmandu and working on more for 2017!

Made a difference with a group of kids lives. Fundraised for @kidsofkathmandu and working on more for 2017!

 My last post of this series. Photographed while on the road between Shillong, and Kochi India. The great adventure of 2016 started in 2015. My old friend Greg @dospinguinosindia proposed we do something a little crazy for 2016. Together we participated in the Rickshaw Run. Driving 2500 miles through India in an auto Rickshaw. Just for the hell of it, and to fundraise for orphanages in India and in Nepal. Surprisingly we survived this, and lived to tell the story. It was an amazing thing to do with lots of laughs, scares, bad roads, terrible food, horrific hotels, time wasted searching for elusive rickshaw parts, very warm beer, copious sweating, near misses with homicidal bus drivers, cows, and amazing interactions with Indians from all walks of life that were happy to see us. Even if they did think we were a little insane, ok very insane. There are so many images left to show, and people to talk about from 2016. I did my best to cover the highlights. My deepest gratitude to my clients, friends, followers, and people who let me into their lives to photograph them. A special thanks to my wife  Scherezade Garcia  who gives me the freedom to do what I love even when she tells me things like "wait a minute you are driving that thing across India? I don't know if I like that"Together you made 2016 great, both in my work, and personally. Although those worlds occupy the same space in my life. I am what I do! Onward to an awe inspiring 2017.

My last post of this series. Photographed while on the road between Shillong, and Kochi India. The great adventure of 2016 started in 2015. My old friend Greg @dospinguinosindia proposed we do something a little crazy for 2016. Together we participated in the Rickshaw Run. Driving 2500 miles through India in an auto Rickshaw. Just for the hell of it, and to fundraise for orphanages in India and in Nepal. Surprisingly we survived this, and lived to tell the story. It was an amazing thing to do with lots of laughs, scares, bad roads, terrible food, horrific hotels, time wasted searching for elusive rickshaw parts, very warm beer, copious sweating, near misses with homicidal bus drivers, cows, and amazing interactions with Indians from all walks of life that were happy to see us. Even if they did think we were a little insane, ok very insane. There are so many images left to show, and people to talk about from 2016. I did my best to cover the highlights. My deepest gratitude to my clients, friends, followers, and people who let me into their lives to photograph them. A special thanks to my wife Scherezade Garcia who gives me the freedom to do what I love even when she tells me things like "wait a minute you are driving that thing across India? I don't know if I like that"Together you made 2016 great, both in my work, and personally. Although those worlds occupy the same space in my life. I am what I do! Onward to an awe inspiring 2017.

A Little Adventure to do Some Good

"Wait you are going to be driving that thing???" My wife's reaction to my plan. Most everyone particularly Indians I spoke to on my plans would have similar reactions.

More than a year ago Greg a friend and fellow photographer came up with an idea. Lets drive the length of India in an auto rickshaw, and we can fund raise for charities that we support. (An auto rickshaw is a three wheeled under powered vehicle used in India and other countries as an inexpensive way to get around cities. Totally not meant to do what we were going to be doing to it.) So after more than a year in the planning we departed Shillong along with 70 other rickshaw teams with similar insane ideas on a 2,400 mile journey to Kochi in a vehicle that went no faster than 30 miles and hour, has no windows, and broke down on a regular basis. Along the way we faced terrible roads, monsoon, flat tires, beyond insane traffic, sweated profusely, poor food, burned out pistons, lack of sleep, the hunt for spare parts, mosquitoes, suicidal bus drivers, roadside chai, and an amazing journey through India's magnificent landscapes. The best part, meeting people all along the way. Indians who would drop whatever they were doing to say hello, ask questions, shake our hand, take selfies with us, help load our rickshaw on a truck, bring us chai, help us find a mechanic, and treat us like celebrities. All of this with a huge smile on their faces with genuine amazement and happiness to see us.

Our fundraiser is still open until 9/1/2016. Every little bit goes a long way in helping orphans in India and Nepal. The main reason I did this was to fund raise for orphans. As cool as the trip was it was about doing what I can to help on making these kids lives a little better.

Please help me help them.

https://www.crowdrise.com/the-rickshaw-run---india---august-2016/fundraiser/williamvazquez

Here are some photos of our Adventure.

A big thank you to Ian and Sam. I met them in Guwhati airport getting a taxi to Shillong. We ended up traveling together during the whole adventure. They stuck by us when our Rickshaw was sick, towed us a few times, snapped photos of us, and Ian just loved to get on the ground to take apart our engine when it needed fixing. They made the trip even more awesome. Great people.

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Rickshaw Run: Shillong, India to Kochi, India

I am always looking for ways to combine what I do as a photographer to help others. Working for NGO's is one way I help, by bringing awareness through my photography which in turn helps the NGO's raise funds. Every few years I find a challenge to do and fundraise directly. In 2013 it was a trek to Everest Basecamp. I raised almost $7,000. This time around I am driving an Auto Rickshaw 2,100 miles from Shillong, India to Kochi, India with a friend and fellow photographer Greg Kinch. Its a bit crazy but it should be super interesting, fun, a serious challenge, and the best part I get to generate funds for a few NGOs like Families for Children, Kids of Kathmandu, and Cool Earth. My goal is to raise $5,000. Which will be split evenly by the three charities. These funds will go towards direct support of the children. Please support this endeavor!

Traveling through the mountains of Sindhupalchok, Nepal

Experiencing the most amazing moments in unexpected places.

Recently, I was traveling through the mountains in Sindhupalchok, Nepal with a small group from Americares on a patient followup who had been injured during the massive earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015. This is an area that was devastated from the earthquake with most of the homes destroyed and many people injured or killed. It took us about two hours on very poor roads just to get near the village where she lived. Once there it was about a half a mile walk on a muddy, twisting path to get to her home. On the way to Junkiri's home it started to rain heavily. So we took refuge under a nearby home's outdoor cooking fire cover. Unfortunately, we did not all fit under it. A woman inside the home invited us in. She said we were welcome to wait out the rain. I felt terrible with all five of us dripping wet and making a mess. She said not to worry. "It was all right." The rain lessened a little so off we went to Junkiri's home with what seemed half the village in tow. Along the way the rain started up again. Originally we wanted to work outside, but the rain forced us inside. All of us crowded into her tiny home, and sat where we could, on the bed, on a box, a stool, the floor wherever. It was pitch black inside with no light so everyone started to take out their phones to light the scene. As Junkiri was interviewed, her daughter passed around ginger tea and popcorn. We were not allowed to leave until all the tea was drunk, popcorn consumed and the rain stopped. She and her family took us in, gave us refuge, and left a really special memory on me of our encounter. I am happy to say that she is almost fully recovered from her injuries.

I am always impressed with the selfless dedication of Americares staff working in difficult places, and under challenging circumstances. They are extremely dedicated to making peoples live better.

Now the hard part to make our way back down the mountain during the storm....That in itself was an adventure!

 The roads on our way to visit...more like river beds than roads.

The roads on our way to visit...more like river beds than roads.

 Escaping the rain and wind.

Escaping the rain and wind.

 Taking temporary refuge from the storm in a neighbors home.

Taking temporary refuge from the storm in a neighbors home.

 Crowded in the home staying dry while tea is passed around with iphones lighting the way.

Crowded in the home staying dry while tea is passed around with iphones lighting the way.

Stories from Nepal.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal that killed many, and left many more injured and homeless. I am in Nepal working on a variety of projects documenting some of the reconstruction efforts. I am excited to be working with Americares documenting some of their reconstruction efforts in Nepal. As a personal project, I am working on creating stories of Kids of Kathmandu's efforts in Nepal rebuilding schools and supporting orphans. I have worked with them in the past and I am a big fan of their work. I also admire and respect its founders Andrew and Jami who pour immense amounts of love, and tireless work to the success of the organization, and the children.  I am lucky to have teamed up with Chris Lynch a friend, a Sony Artisan, accomplished film maker, and a fellow photographer. He is helping me create content that will help them get the word out on the great work these organizations are doing.  Big thanks to Sony Artisans for their support. Stay tuned for more!

You want to donate to a cause there is none better than Kids of Kathmandu.

 This is the most amazing Samjhana. She was so patient with us, smart and quite the charmer.

This is the most amazing Samjhana. She was so patient with us, smart and quite the charmer.

 

 

Afghanistan 2006

10 years ago I was asked to go to Afghanistan for a Abbott a commercial client. They wanted to document the work an NGO (Afghan Institute of Learning) that they supported was doing in Afghanistan. I was excited and honestly very worried. I had never been in an active war zone. Although it can be argued that growing up in NYC in the 70's qualifies as a war zone. Particularly in the neighborhoods I lived in. Needless to say my wife was not to happy. I was a father with two young children and the chances of something happening to you are high. Not to mention there were other issues. Number one being that this was my first job for them. Also it was more like documentary photography which was a departure from what my work at that time which was commercial portraits with lighting etc. So lots of things to consider. Of course I said yes! I never turn down an opportunity to be challenged and of course travel.

I started doing the research I needed to make the trip happen. Visas, travel, local customs, on the ground conditions, and connecting with the in country organization that I was going to work with. Luckily I had great support from my clients, and I already had lots of travel experience to lean on. It is one of the defining moments in my career as an artist and a person. It has led me to all sorts of new opportunities and people.  All I had to do what take a leap into the unknown.

This project helped with my perspective of how I see the world and photograph it. Thoughts I live by in my day to day.

  • I want my photos to be beautiful
  • I want to show the best of humanity
  • I portray people with dignity

This photo is one I took while I was at a clinic outside of Kabul with the most amazing Afghani woman. Dr. Sakena Yacoobi. She is a force of nature and I am lucky to have spent some time with her. Normally women in Afghanistan cover themselves from head to toe in Burkas. Behind walls they can a little more relaxed with that. Although if a man is around they normally stay covered up. So being basically an alien from another planet in a place like Afghanistan some of those rules don't apply to me. She was sitting waiting her turn to see the doctor, and we stopped to talk to her. Well I spoke through Sakena. She had pulled her burka over her head in a relaxed way, but covered her face a bit with her hand so I could really see her fully. I would ask questions like what she was doing there, how was she feeling, about her family etc. As we spoke I set up my Speed Graphic 4x5 camera, and started taking some photos. I really wanted to see her smile, but she would not drop her hand, and was very serious. As we spoke I took a few shots I tried a few words in Farsi the local language and she found that very amusing, she smiled behind her hand, and I clicked the shutter. Then she had put her hand down and had graced me with a beautiful smile. Wow what a privilege!!  These are the moments I live for. I ended up only taking a few photos of her and the photo stars were in alignment that I had captured what I was looking for. It wasn't used by the client but it was more for me anyway.

Tech specs

  • 1960's era Speed Graphic view camera
  • 150 mm Schneider lens
  • Type 55 Polaroid film (sadly, extinct now killed by the digital revolution)

Creating photographs for good

We've broken ground!!! 9 of 50 schools are now in the process of being rebuilt in Kavre, Sindupalchowk, and Ramechap. In...

Posted by Kids of Kathmandu on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

There is no better feeling than knowing the work you do is helping others. I was in Kathmandu on a commercial project and took time to photograph for my favorite NGO Kids of Kathmandu. They are doing great things for the children in Nepal before and after the earthquake in 2015. Check it out here, and if you can give please do. It definitely goes to the right place.

Creating images one at a time.

Back in 2007 I went to Afghanistan on assignment. I was excited and nervous for many reasons. My personal safety was highest on my mind along with all the other reasons, doing something worthy, not disappointing my clients, not mess up, in other words lots of pressure on myself by the worlds toughest critic of my work....me. I was not there to capture conflict imagery, but documenting some programs of nurse training run by the Afghan Institute of Learning, and when I had a chance something where I got a glimpse of the soul of someone. No superficial images of destruction or people beat down from the conflict. So I had to get in there, get to know people, accomplish my goals, all in a very short time frame.Being the crazy idealist that I am, along with my digital gear I dragged along a 1960's era 4x5 speed graphic and polaroid type 55 film. Super low tech, slow, and some of the best photos I took were with that camera.I met Aziza at a women's clinic she was waiting to see the doctor. We got to talking a bit (through an interpreter of course) and we connected. These are the only 2 frames I shot. You have to wait for the right moment, and create images one at a time. I liked the first one where she was being a little shy with her smile.

afghan_woman_polaroid

Cultural lifestyle, Ethiopian Horsemen

I had been with the horsemen for a while taking their photos while they primped their horses to get them to look just right. I was starting to worry they weren't going to do anything it was taking so long. Then all of a sudden they were off, I had to scramble to the spot I thought I was going to get the shot, and I almost missed it. The scene reminded me of a painting I saw somewhere in a museum far away from Ethiopia.  That is what I wanted to capture a painting in action. Carter Center, ITI and Pfizer celebtate 100 millionth dose MalTRA week in Dongla Ethiopia.

 

Stories from the road, Kisumu Kenya

w_vazquez_william_kisumu-8951The sun is setting and I am at a restaurant by the beach in Kisumu, Kenya. We pretty much finished shooting for the day, I was looking forward to sitting down, not sweating profusely and a cold Tusker beer. As I sit down and notice the fisherman on the beach startheading out to fish for the evening. I was working on a malaria story for MSH an NGO in Africa, and some fisherman working shots would be a great addition to my project. I grab my gear and run off to the beach with the cameraman from Kenya broadcasting TV who was working on a similar story for KBTV. We find a capo to negotiate with on taking us out on a boat. Soon enough we are speeding along the water on a very leaky boat that needed constant bailing, and with a worrisomely sputtering engine. We pull up to some fisherman to interview and photograph. I ask them if any of them have malaria and all at once they tell me how all of them have malaria at one time or another. Dusk is when they work and its prime time for mosquitos. Getting malaria seems to be an occupational hazard for them. I try to ignore the swarms of mosquitos everywhere that are making a meal of me also. Great just what I need Kisumu malaria.....Its is starting to get dark and they need to work so we say our goodbyes, they sail off into the sunset to fish, I went back to my cold beer, with more than a few mosquito bites and somehow stayed malaria free. I guess that Malarone works, this time at least.....

 

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Quiet Dignity, Gynocare Center Eldoret, Kenya

A bittersweet moment....I spent some time with her, before her surgery. While the doctors and nurses were preparing for surgery, which used to be kitchen. I was left alone with her. She was smiling and joking around with me as we waited together. We didn't speak the same language, but that didn't matter. As the time for surgery drew closer she started to calm down, and became quiet. It's a tough thing to go through so young and by yourself. What she needed to have done was not complex, but will be life changing for her. As she woke up from the anesthesia she started to cry. I held her hand until she feel asleep again. Total strangers, yet for a moment very close. w_vazquez_kenya-9173 w_vazquez_kenya-9220 w_vazquez_kenya-9264

Sierra Leone family

Sierra Leone, family from william vazquez on Vimeo.

Right now Sierra Leone is in the grips of an Ebola epidemic which seems to get worse by the day. My travels to Sierra Leone last year showed me what a beautiful people they are. Not only in physical beauty, but beauty, as a caring, hospitable, friendly, and welcoming people trying to live life just like you and me, but under sometimes very difficult circumstances. They have survived a brutal civil war where the term "blood diamonds" comes from, and are still hopeful of their future.  Want to help? then give to organizations that are making a difference.

Many thanks to Lindsey Pollaczek from Direct Relief, the Medical Research Center in Sierra Leone, and Direct Relief. All of whom do amazing work that help save the lives of babies, and mothers. 

Life goes on, documenting relief efforts in the Philippines post Typhoon Haiyan

I was in the Philippines documenting on going relief efforts by Direct Relief post Typhoon Hiayan. Even with all the devastation of peoples lives and livelihoods.  People rebuild, babies are born, and life goes on. This little guy was only about an hour old and he still had the umbilical cord attached along with the placenta. I was privileged to be there for the umbilical cutting. He was born in a clinic that Bumi Sehat Foundation along with its founder Robin Lim set up in Dulag on Leyte Island an area that was destroyed by the typhoon. Inside the clinic are a series of tents where, women go through labor, babies are born, mothers recover, midwives live in, medicines are stored, and healthcare is administered. Amazing women who work there on 24 hour shifts, every single midwife a rockstar.Newborn baby, barely an hour old, born in a tent.Dulag, Philippines Midwife holding a newborn baby at Bumi Sehat Foundation clinic in Dulag, Philippines

The devastation had been cleaned up in some areas and some areas not really. In Tacloban fishing boats were washed ashore during the typhoon and no one knows when they will be moved. So people have restarted their lives right under the boats. With children playing around them, meals being prepared, and homes being constructed.

Fishing boats washed ashore in Tacloban, Philippines.

On assignment: Cover your eyes and hope for the best

Vigli, being extremely shy; Punjab, India "Smile!" but look at me.

When on assignment I am sent with specific requirements on what ideas the images are supposed to convey, as well as look and feel. "Oh, and make sure there is room for type! but not sure of exactly where it will go." So as random as it feels sometimes, I get mandates like "go photograph pregnant women in India with gestational diabetes." One of the most important aspects is authenticity. Keeping the images "real" is probably the biggest challenge. Its much easier when things are planned and working with models. You can control the look and the feel of the images that way. Although that can have its pitfalls when it comes to looking authentic. Working with real people it can be hit or miss, of course being a professional it is expected that there is more hit than miss. You can tell people stand there and look this way, and that way, but how do you convey an idea you want them to express in their faces and body language? This becomes particularly problematic with cultural and language barriers. Many times I show up at a persons home in a rural area of another country that is off the grid like an alien from another planet that just got off a spaceship. Although my visit is usually pre-arranged. Most people have no clue about, why am I there, what I am doing, why am doing it, why is it important,  and what is the point of it all. Not to mention I am probably the first foreigner that they have ever seen up close let alone interacted with, and a man no less which can be an issue in very conservative countries. Also I want to take lots of photos over here, over there, doing this, doing that....I get 20 minutes tops before people start getting tired of the whole thing. Plus they have work to do!

So whats a photographer to do? Sit down and have tea, share a moment, get to know each other a bit, and do more than hope for the best.

Fundraising and trekking for a good cause.

WILLIAM_VAZQUEZ_ORPAHN_CLASSROOM-1 People I photograph tell me all sorts of stories about themselves, good stories, funny stories, and tragic stories as well. Although my photography does help by getting their stories out to a broader audience, and action being taken. I am usually left wanting to do more; something more concrete. With so many people that need help, where do you start? When my friends, founders of @kidsofkathmandu asked me if I was interested in fundraising for some new projects they were working on in Nepal, not to mention "lets make it interesting by trekking to Everest Base Camp" I was sold.

I visited the school where the project I was fundraising for, to see the place and meet the kids. What a wonderful group of curious, and super excited kids to be in school. The money that has been raised will go to clean water, solar power, and spruce up their living area to make it more comfortable. Small things that will make a huge difference in their daily lives. The best part will be that this is just to start things off. There will be local support to help sustain the original investment. This support will give these children an opportunity to help themselves. I am very grateful of the people who had confidence in me to donate to this project. Many thanks to the founders of Kids of Kathmandu, Andrew Raible and Jami Saunders who lead busy lives in NYC and work tirelessly to do good for some of the less fortunate. Two people who I find inspiring, and I am lucky to count as friends.

I am looking forward to following up on the kids as the projects moves forward and will of course update everyone as I know. I did finish my trek, that story is in a previous post, and I am still fundraising a bit more to try to get closer to my goal of $9,000 which goes a long way in Nepal. Here is the link to the crowdrise fundraiser

http://www.crowdrise.com/everestbasecamptrek/fundraiser/williamvazquez

Here are A few photos of some of my time visiting a few of Kids of Kathmandu's projects in Nepal.

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Trekking to Everest Base camp one

I Trekked 60 miles over 2 weeks and climbed more than 9000 vertical net feet. There were lots of ups and downs both literally and figuatively on this trek.  Nine strangers and myself started this together, and we finished together.  I learned a few things that would come in handy. Things like you should be very wary of passing Yaks, always wear a headlamp when visiting the toilet at night, watch out from up above for falling 50 pound sacks of potatoes on narrow mountain trails (thanks Tikie for helping me miss that one), bring wipes that have a fresh scent, and sometimes a snickers bar is the only thing that will help you climb that last 1000 feet. All kidding aside it was a great opportunity to raise funds for an orphanage, the main reason for the trek (more on that in another post) and to visit one of the rarer, mythical places in the world. I miss my fellow trekkers after spending 24/7 time with them for two plus weeks.

This is a bunch of images from my Instagram feed shot on my iPhone from the trek. The best camera to have is the one that you have with you. I will post other shots that I did as I liberate them from my real camera, even some black and white twin lens Rollie shots.