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

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.


Cuba photo workshop and Phase One

Along with my assignment photography work I started a photo workshop company with a friend and colleague for many years. Bruce Byers and myself are starting out first workshop in Cuba along with Phase One. The new workshop website is cameravoyages.com. I am very excited to be able to share my knowledge and travel experience with people. This video is a bit of what clients will experience in my workshop. Cuba is such a visually interesting place More to come!

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. 

Finding inspiration and photographing lifestyle in Brazil

There is nothing better than getting people to smile and enjoy the moment. Musicians on Copacabana beach

Photographing in a foreign country is a challenge. Most of my work is in the documentary/reportage style. Basically photographing in the moment. These days though my projects are in that style but with models, wardrobe, picked locations. So it's not so much photographing in the moment anymore, but "planned in the moment" images, it is certainly more involved than just showing up with a camera, and making do with what is there. Not to mention to keep it feeling serendipitous while controlling everything. That is the challenge.

I went to Rio with a long shot list, and a mandate. Show modern Brazil and its people, living a healthy lifestyle. We found models in Rio (yes, its true it seems like almost everyone is beautiful there), locations, and had to plan shoots while on the run. It was tough, but with Rio and it's people as an inspiration, not to mention some great help on the ground, it was a pleasure.

It's not just clicking the shutter, it's the journey to get to that moment to take the photo is what defines a photographer.

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.

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.

Trekking for Hearing Impaired Orphans in Nepal

My work usually puts me in the spectators seat, telling stories of people in need. I want to change that. I am teaming up with Kids of Kathmandu and trekking in to Everest First Base Camp to raise funds for some of Nepal's neediest, hearing impaired orphans who need education, clean water, consistent electricity to thrive and help themselves. Click on photo to learn more and to donate. Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 8.43.51 AM

"Need a Lift?" she said, documenting women's health in Kenya

W_VAZQUEZ_KENYA_GIRL_BIKE "Need a lift?" she quietly said, as we passed by her on a path among the corn rows. We were headed to visit Pheobe, an obstetric fistula survivor, and her family at a village in Mumias, Kenya. I said no, thinking how a person as small as she is ride that giant bicycle with someone on the back. One of my traveling campanions had no issues with that. He hopped on the bike and rode off with her pedaling away. We continued on and after 15 minutes I arrived to find him sitting in the shade and relaxed, while I stood there sweating and over heated. Next time don't think so much I told myself.