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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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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.

 

 

Image backstory, India "The girl in purple"

Starting a little series of how I created certain photo with some back story.

I was in India on assignment working for Abbott creating imagery that illustrated their social responsibility efforts in India. I was photographing, clinics, people, milk collection, farmers, farming, and landscapes. I had free reign to photograph whatever I wanted, but the images had to tell the stories that the client wanted to highlight. There was no specific shot list just concepts.

  • Milk collection in rural areas
  • A local NGO's efforts on locating and helping women with gestational diabetes
  • Women's healthcare in rural India
  • A local NGO that provided access to clean water
  • Medicine distribution in rural India

Its not a very long list but its very daunting when you consider the process that the images have to go through before they are selected. The photographs have to feel serendipitous, show the best of India and its people, show that you are in India, simple uncluttered backgrounds, and be able to use the images in different ways. For example social media, in print, horizontal, vertical, on a cover, leave space for copy, and the list goes on. So its a lot to think about when you are deciding on an image to take, framing shots, and clicking that shutter. Plus there is no client going through this process with you and sharing in the struggles to create the images. Its my problem, and my problem alone.

In these series of photos. I was hanging around a clinic hoping to create some images of women at the clinic. The day I am there was a super slow day. The story of my life. I am either too early or too late. There were only two patients and the photos were not ideal. So I waited, and I waited hoping some other women would show up. Also it was getting later in the morning and once the light gets too high its really harsh. Not great light for images of people. Then these three girls appeared through the gate, one of them was coming to the clinic to meet with her mother.

They stopped in front of the wall to wait. I approached them and started a conversation through my interpreter. I asked if I can photograph them. They said yes, but they were very shy and would not look at the camera. I decided that I would need to separate them, and I figured my best chance was with the girl in purple. I said that I wanted to photograph them separately, but I started with the girl in purple. Just in case they decided to quit on me.

At first she wanted to be photographed with her friends and was calling them over, but I reassured her that it will be quick and I will photograph her friends after her.

This is where we started giving me a not so friendly face plus the light was a little hard. I wanted her to turn into the light a bit so her eyes would light up. Also her friend's shadow was in the shot so I had to move her away a bit.

After I got her friend to move, I was able to focus on my subject. She was shy in the sense that she wasn't able to look at the camera and smile at the same time. So I spoke to her friend and asked a question about the girl in purple. I think I asked if she was always this shy. She replied and this caused my subject to turn towards her and smile. She sort of smiled, she was trying her best not to smile. I shot about 30 frames of everyone including the final shot, and the whole encounter was probably 5 minutes.

Waiting for that "perfect moment" would make these projects go on for weeks and no guaranty of success. So I have to step in and control what I can by being selective, have a clear vision, and influencing what is going on in the image so I capture the best out of people in the time I have.

I think this image turned out great. She made me work for it a bit. The light was beautiful, as well as all the colors. Yes, it doesn't obviously feel like it was shot in India, but with the elements taken together it still gives that sense.

Gear

Canon 5D MarkIII, Canon 24-105 f4L lens

 

 

 

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.

Serendipitous moments while out in the field. Bhutan

"Guys whats going on????" That was my question to my driver and guide after spotting masked men with torches stopping cars on the road we are driving on. In my experience masked men stopping cars on a quiet road, at night, is something to be very worried about, and always avoided. I was putting on my New York don't mess with me face. After a moment the driver replies. "Oh wow this is great, man!" What! what are they doing? I say. The driver says "You are lucky they are chasing off the bad spirits!" So I got out to chase them to get some photos, but they were off chasing the spirits faster than I could catch them. Almost like spirits themselves.

A little local knowledge goes a long way when traveling. I was able to breathe again, although it was tough at 10,000 feet.

I love moments like these...

Shot with a Sony A7s iso 64000 f4 1/20 sec

2016 new year, new photography website

Starting 2016 with a new site full of recent work illustrating the direction that my work has been going these last few years. The site still needs work and like a house it "will never be done" but that is the inspiration to keep making the site better and create compelling images.

2015 was a year of firsts. Besides my commercial photography work, I started a new company (Camera Voyages) with Bruce Byers creating and leading photographic workshops to different parts of the world. Also I got to take my youngest daughter on a photo trip with me to Bhutan and Nepal. Normally my photo assignments are mad dash through airports and places, which would be no fun for anyone. So it was great to spend 2 1/2 weeks with my youngest in beautiful, interesting places like Bhutan and Nepal, and experience a different way of life

 2 1/2 hours into our climb up to Tigers Nest just outside Paro,  Bhutan. An amazing Buddhist Monastery 9000 feet up. in the mountains.

2 1/2 hours into our climb up to Tigers Nest just outside Paro,  Bhutan. An amazing Buddhist Monastery 9000 feet up. in the mountains.


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.

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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. 

The best part of what I do as a photographer

Photographing life in India The best part of what I do as a photographer? Getting to know people that I would probably never, ever encounter if it wasn't for being a photographer. Meeting people from different cultures and spending some time with them, eating with them, drinking tea with them really keeps things in perspective for me, and I find immensely enjoyable. I am lucky. Here I am getting to know and sharing a bit of tea with Abhimand a bit before I photograph him earlier this year on an assignment for Abbott. He was on his way to deliver milk from his cows to the milk receiving center in Shirdi, India about five hours east of Mumbai.