The speed of success...

William Kimball it the man with "it". He has that thing the judges are looking for on American Idol. The full package. He has the talent to write and play and sing a song, of course, but more than anything he has the authenticity to feel a song and in doing so, become a star. William Kimball is just William. He's funny, quirky, goofy and intense. He's a creative singer and a passionate surfer. He goes for it. He's fearless. He takes risks. He has good ideas, and not so good ones. His heart is wide open and he's willing to let you in.

Keep your eye on William. One day you will say you saw him here first.

(Disclaimer: I only met him because of a friend who saw the spark, and asked me to take a few photos. But I see what she sees, and the spark is about to burst into flame)



It's not about where you've been. It's about where you're going next.

It's not about the pain you have, it's about having the courage to let it go.

It's not about just following your heart, it's about first letting your heart crack wide open and expand.

It's not about what you take away, it's about what you have the guts to bring and share.

It's not about what you can get, it's about what you can give.

It's not about what you show Lara, it's about what you let Lara show you.

It's not about holding back the tears, it's about letting them flow.

It's not about how much money you are making, it's about what is holding you back from making more.

It's not about your age or years of struggle, it's about your wisdom and willingness to learn.

It's not about your gifts and accomplishments outside the room, it's about being present in it.

It's not about what Lara and her team can do for you, it's about what you can do for yourself.

It's not about what you do in the next year. It's about what you do tomorrow in the first 20 minutes.

It's not about having more, it's about feeling more satisfaction.

It's not about getting busy, it's about tuning out, turning down the volume and disconnecting from all the chatter and social and electronic media that distract us, in order to reconnect with ourselves.

It's not about "friending", it's about connecting.

It's not about the circumstances you can't change, it's about the changes you are willing to make now.

It's not about griping, it's about finding gratitude.

It's not about making things perfect, it's about making them happen!

Keep your eye on the ball.....Havana

Havana, Cuba

No matter what I do, this image is not posting as well as it should. The high resolution original amazes even me. Yes, the ball is there, caught just before the shade. I confess this is one of those lucky images that really looks better when you get it home than you ever imagined it did at the time.

These two were among the boys that inspired us to go an buy as many baseballs as we could to give away. Most of the kids we saw playing did not have real baseballs or bats. We actually saw one game where at least six boys were playing"baseball" with a stick and a bottlecap.

Casa De La Musica: Salsa Booties

The title says it all. We had a front row view to all the locals who arrived early to dance. Unfortunately, it meant we could not see the band unless we, too were standing and dancing.The girl is Cuban, the guy seemed to be a foreigner, practicing his salsa. He had a different date for the evening, but enjoyed a dance with this perfect stranger....all about 2 inches from our table, and yet they never even bumped the table. Impressive control.

‘I, too, have a story about Richard Holbrooke’.-Hillary Clinton

In one of those moments that made me grateful for Facebook, I noticed Sarah Holbrooke’s post that the Kennedy Center memorial service for her late father in law, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, would begin in about 35 minutes on CSPAN. Thanks to Facebook, I saw she made the post 40 minutes earlier. I turned it on and began recording immediately. A slideshow tribute to this great man and incredible statesman had already begun, and within minutes, I saw one of my own photos in the slideshow!

Elizabeth and Richard, in her childhood bedroom on her wedding day.
©Tanya Malott 2009

I immediately thought of how many other great photos I had of Ambassador Holbrooke and his family, and I started digging through my files.

As Kati spoke, she said “Richard was a very good husband”. I had seen that with my own eyes. I had so many photos of them looking so happy together. I thought of how lucky I am to be able to participate in such intimate family events, and yet step back as the observer, photographing people in some of their most natural and happy moments.

Richard and Kati share a private moment.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

I get to photograph people when they are almost unaware that they are being photographed….thus capturing things that are too often left to memory, and yet seem nearly impossible to conjure once those moments have passed: little glances, warm hugs, knowing smiles and loving kisses. I believe these are all moments we treasure and eventually miss the most when our loved ones are gone. Kati’s tears brought tears to my eyes. As she said “I will miss him forever”, I felt her immense sadness, because I had seen his incredible warmth, with her and with all of his family.

A toast to the couple. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Kati and Richard admiring Elizabeth ©Tanya Malott 2009

A private bit of advice from Ricard Holbrooke to his step-daughter, Elizabeth. ©Tanya Malott 2009

I met Richard Holbrooke on the occasion of his stepdaughter Lizzie’s wedding. I don’t think he ever knew that it was really his doing that I was there. As he was accepting Hillary Clinton’s appointment as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, I watched on CNN as he thanked his “beautiful wife Kati”, his children, and his stepdaughter Lizzie and her fiancĂ©, David. Because I was friendly with several people close to Holbrooke, I figured there must be a way to meet this unknown future bride. It was really out of character for me to initiate contact with a potential client this way, but once I met Lizzie Jennings, everything felt like it was meant to be. Lizzie seemed like an old friend. After a few exchanged emails, I flew to New York just to have lunch with her. She was beautiful, brilliant, funny, serious, and busy.... planning a wedding in France and another in Bridgehampton while finishing up two masters degrees at Columbia in international affairs and public health. She was my kind of woman, and I was so thrilled my instincts were so strong and positive about her. Apparently the feeling was mutual, and I spent many days photographing wedding related events for the family.

I think it is one thing to have photos that document an event, but my goal is always to catch something deeper. I try to capture the essence of people being most themselves, no matter what the event. I look for the way that people look at each other, hold each other, and communicate with each other. I want to catch people laughing, smiling, dancing, or whatever it is that they do when they are not posing for a camera. Photos like these tell me so much more about who a person really is.

Richard and Kati at a beautiful rehearsal dinner alfresco overlooking Cap Ferrat. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Dancing into the night. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Sometimes I wonder why I take some of the photos I do, why I look for these moments in-between, the gestures and glances that don't even seem worth photographing. None of this seems monumental. If anything, I specialize in the mundane.

Mother in the foreground, watching daughter, in the background.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

A hug and a laugh after one of the most beautiful wedding speeches ever,  that brought tears to every eye. ©Tanya Malott 2009

A relaxed and happy Richard at the wedding.  ©Tanya Malott

For me, these photos capture a side of Richard Holbrooke that was not the statesman or the diplomat, but rather the man that was very loved by and loving toward his family. I feel so lucky to have seen this happy side of a man who did very serious work.

A private moment captured.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

Kati said that Richard taught her "that a life of meaning is worth more than a life of ease". Though my contribution to the world is tiny by comparison, I feel my life has more meaning because I can share photographs like these that help us remember our loved ones just as they were.

Club Tropicana: Havana

The Tropicana was the ultimate spectacle in a pre-Vegas world. A Cabaret Guide issued in 1956 described The Tropicana as, "the largest and most beautiful night club in the world...."

Americans once flew from Miami to Havana JUST to catch this show. There was a special Club Tropicana tourist package: Cubana Airlines' Tropicana Special began a round-trip flight that ferried club customers from Miami to the Tropicana and returned them to Florida at 4am the following morning. The plane featured a wet bar stocked with a bevy of cocktail selections, as well as a scaled-down version of Armando Romeu’s orchestra for anyone brave enough to dance in the aisles.

I would have loved arriving in 1956, surrounded by glamorous women in colorful evening gowns, with meticulously coiffed hair, long gloves and handsome men in white dinner jackets! A front row seat might have been impossible back then (even at $4.50 a table), but a glimpse of Marlon Brando in the audience might have been enough of a thrill for one night.

When we arrived last Thursday, 2 hours before showtime to get our front row seat, some tourists were posing out front with a beautiful vintage Cadillac convertible taxi that had dropped them at the door. The radio was blaring a Lady Gaga song, the the girl was wearing a micro mini skirt. So much has changed. Sadly, none of the guests today dress very well. We are all tourists, and the price tag today (about $100 per person including a small glass of sparkling wine and a half bottle of Havana Club) is beyond the reach of almost any Cuban. Besides, they all know the place is for tourists.

I'd say my expectations were modest. A Cuban friend had rolled his eyes the day before when we announced we were headed to the Tropicana on December 30th (December 31st was $250 a head, cash only!). The entrance felt more tarnished and almost tacky, than tasteful, and the food....well, no one goes for the food.

But our table was touching the stage on the left side, and Eason paid our $5 fee so that I could legitimately take photos from the audience. I was pretty hungry and devoured a few of the appetizers they offered at outrageous prices....sad cold cuts and stale bread for $15....but finally the place filled up and the show began.

Wow. I had no idea I would love it so much! I enjoyed watching each subsequent routine, convinced that each dancer had removed an article of clothing below the neck, and transferred it to a spot on her head. What a spectacle indeed! I loved every minute, every costume, every move. It was a riot of color and music and movement that looked about as I expect it looked circa 1956. Dancers nearly fell on our table and we had feet and derrieres right up close and personal for many routines. Nearly 200 dancers in all participate in this show. Sometimes they dance on two separate stages....with the distant dancers resembling tropical birds from my vantage point. I had a ball taking photos and getting creative with my less-than- ideal equipment for the task.

I can't wait to go back and do it all again! If I could, I would definitely fly from Miami to catch this show....but then I would stay longer because Cuba is such an interesting place to visit.

These are just a few of my favorite images....

Two Brides in Cuba

These two Cuban brides married on the same day, at the Club Habana, just as we happened to be visiting the Club.
The best vintage American cars are rented to brides in Cuba every day. Convertibles preferred.

Later that night, we saw them again when they arrived at the Hotel Nacional for a drink in the courtyard, overlooking the ocean.
What you don't see here is the groom in white, holding his tiny black and white Chihuahua.

There he is!

Junebug Weddings Best of 2010: Honorable Mention

I prefer to promote others rather than promote myself, but I have to mention this Junebug Weddings blog honor because ALL of the photos they are showing as the "Best of 2010" really impressed me. I can't believe how sophisticated wedding photography has become. Most wedding photographers have no idea what wedding photographs looked like back in the early 1990's, but overall it was not good. Now, I think wedding photography rivals the best in fashion, journalism, portraiture and still life photography. Oddly, that is exactly the reason I fell in love with weddings.....I didn't have to specialize in any one kind of photography, because weddings presented such a full range of opportunities.

The "West Coast" aesthetic of daylight, overexposed, highly styled and posed photography seems to be the dominant trend of the moment, and I love the look and envy the beautiful natural light and the amount of time those 'Westies' get to spend with their couples. I notice, however that my real favorites are darker, more mysterious, and highly emotional. I am always impressed by an expert handling and control of lighting, combined with an intensely emotional image. Call it the Scorpio in me.... Soft is beautiful, but I love the power of strong chiaroscuro. I love images that make me STOP and wonder, "How did they DO that?", or just simply, "Wow!". Clearly, Ben Chrisman is a real master in this area....not only did he have two winners among the 50, but both of his winners are among my favorites.

There are so many exciting styles to look at and so many amazing photographers at work. I am looking forward to meeting some incredible new talents at WPPI in Las Vegas this year. Last year, I met a wonderful group of photographers at Elizabeth Messina's workshop in France, and I look for ward to a re-union of that group in Vegas.

Do not miss this Best of the Best for 2010 blog! Of the 50 winners, here are a few of my favorites:

Quinceanera in Havana

We found this beautiful girl posing for photos with a local professional photographer in the driveway under the arch of our hotel. She was preparing to celebrate her Quinceanera, or fifteenth birthday next month. Apparently the photos are done well in advance, and the Hotel Nacional de Cuba sees many brides and Quinceaneras come to do photos every day of the week.

When he finished, I asked the photographer, and the girl, if I could offer some suggestions, and took her out in front of the arch for a spin.

We had already finished shooting, when a lavender Chevy pulled up.....naturally, I made her go back to work! Her photographer didn't bother to take this shot, and I didn't think to get her contact info until it was too late.

She had disappeared to change into her next dress for another portrait. We saw her again from our 7th floor window at the Nacional, posing in a red dress, with the Malecon and the Caribbean in the background. By the time we rushed downstairs to trade addresses with her, she was gone.

From the hotel concierge, we learned that some girls change over half a dozen times to do these portraits, the dresses are usually rented, and they spend all day taking photos (not to mention doing hair an makeup). Sometimes the girls rent a space in the hotel for the multiple outfit changes. I guess that means sometimes they don't. I wonder which dress she would choose to wear for the party? I loved the lavender.....and I would definitely rent the car to match!

Stay tuned for the day we saw the two brides who got married together. We ran into them twice, in two very different locations, on the same day!