Inspiration – a push and a pull that put me in the right spot

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Many moons ago, I slept restlessly on the brink of the biggest photography job of my brief career, and what would become a personal moment I hardly deemed imaginable.

After sitting through hours of extremity-numbing, brain-freezing, impossible-to-insulate-out cold, I took in the Freedom Concert in high spirits, but also on a high-rising LCD screen in Washington DC. Like so many others, I had come from far and wide, across the seas literally, to witness the inauguration of the first African American President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. Just his name felt like a big enough change for me. Obama rode to victory on a gust of hope bigger than the skepticism that resisted him, and driven by what appeared to be the collective will of the world. He rose, seemingly overnight, to become a symbol of possibility for the marginalized and the fatigued. We sank every dream we had into him and floated along on the blissful current of victory towards that fateful day. I left my island, unwilling to witness history on a small, crackling television screen, miles and miles away.  I never glimpsed the gorgeous, new first family on anything other than a screen throughout my entire time in Washington DC.

It was with honour and excitement that I therefore accepted the job as an official photographer for the 5th Summit of the Americas, several months later, when this dashing protagonist of a real-life saga, would make his first appearance on my sunny shores. After security checks and debriefing, I lamely reported to my friends that I had not received one single “Obama” assignment and that my enthusiasm about covering the activities of the elegant First Ladies of the region was slightly dampened when it was clear that Michelle would not be present. Family and well-wishers attuned to the news of the day wrote and called in words of encouragement and support to “do us proud” when creating my photos. Two of the most memorable statements I received on the eve of Obama’s arrival, were a threat of disownment, only to be withheld if I scored a coveted, REAL photograph of the brand new President Obama; and the advice to “secure the Korda shot” of the event. I took them both to heart with the gravity and single-mindedness of a woman on the frontline. At the end of the Summit, I had indeed obtained the image that could be, with a generous stretch of the imagination, called “the Korda shot” of the event. It immediately went viral, spreading through the international news media as quickly as data can move in the internet age. It culminated in my “Korda shot” on the front page of the NY Times, London Times, LA Times, CNN and so forth, (as well as the preservation of a lifelong friendship) a thrilling moment in my young career.

In homage to the idea of “the Korda shot”, I made use of an art school assignment about inspiration, to recreate my version of the real Alberto Korda iconic image, Guerrillero Heroico, a photograph that morphed man into demigod, and redefined a generation’s ideas about the impact one image could make.

As my first offering to luzdetusonrisa, (borrowed lyrics from the song Hasta Siempre, which translate to “lightofyoursmile”), and in the spirit of inspiration, I present La Guerrillera Heroica, an image kindly modeled by classmates Lourdes Gonzales and Pablo Frisk (not seen in the final version of the image).

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