Latin American Fotografia: Danielle Moir

By David Schonauer   Wednesday January 25, 2017

Music brought Danielle Moir  to Cuba.

A New York City-based freelance photographer and filmmaker, Moir had been photographing musicians around the United States, including Cuban performer Pedrito Martinez. “After having shot Pedrito and his band in New York on a few occasions, I expressed my desire to join them in Cuba should the occasion present itself,” Moir says. “As luck would have it, Pedrito was planning to return to his homeland to record his album ‘Habana Dreams,’ and he was interested in having a photographer document the recording sessions and to shoot pictures of the city as the artwork for the album cover.”

The big challenge for Moir was timing:

“The band had only four days to lay down the tracks in Havana’s historic Egrem Studios, and I had to carve out a sliver of time in between recording sessions to capture the album cover,” she says. “I had two hours total to shoot four guys in the street, and while that is a generous amount of time for a typical portrait session, there was nothing typical about this, because it was Cuba! On a good day in the hot and humid climate there things operate at a snail’s pace. Add to that the fact that I had to mobilize a group of musicians and label executives without having scouted a single location, and the heat kicked up a notch.”

When the time came to shoot, Moir grabbed her two Canon DSLRs — a 5D Mark II and Mark III — and jumped in a van with the band. They headed to the neighborhood where Martinez grew up and where much of his family still lives.

“Luckily, the street is my comfort zone, and witnessing the joy and pride Pedrito has for his Havana — his connection to the people and the streets where he grew up — made me want to capture it all in one magical moment in time,” she says. She used an 8-14mm lens to shoot Martinez riding a bike as people in the neighborhood watched, and a 24-70mm lens for tighter shots.

“Another absolutely essential tool that I use without shame is my iPhone,” says Moir. “I almost always walk away from any single day of shooting having at least one iPhone image that becomes one of my favorites, and not just for social media.”

It was one of her iPhone images — a shot of beautiful women in bright clothes standing near the Egrem Studio — that was selected as a winner of the Latin America Fotografía 5  competition.

“We had just returned from our outing, and my cameras had already been taken into the studio when I saw her, and I simply could not miss the opportunity — that dress, her nails, her pride and beauty were all so evocative of the people of Havana. I was able to snap two quick shots of her before following the crew into the studio,” Moir says.

Moir grew up in a world of moving images: “My parents owned a production company that created television commercials, so the film set was my classroom,” she says. “I was surrounded by lights, cameras, and crews and was being groomed as a producer long before I was even aware of what that role entailed.”

But, she says, she was also fascinated by still images that stopped time. “The composition, the energy, the emotion — it was how my brain connected to the visual world,” she says. Moir ended up studying at the International Center of Photography and now specializes in covering America’s social climate, often through her street photography. She is also a partner in the media company Sherpa Productions, which develops and produces content for television and documentary films across all media platforms.   




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