Image above: Alejandro—Havana, Cuba. Hand-altered Polaroid.

One can never underestimate the power of the photograph as a direct result of the exchange of vulnerability and trust between two souls. Portraits are not made with our cameras. Portraits are made when two souls make an agreement, and the art of being an artist is to work from your heART. The most sophisticated cameras and technical mastery are primitive in comparison.

It’s always a reality that any portrait could be the last portrait that you will make, whether you are the subject or the photographer. And it does not matter if you are a professional photographer. An image is an image and has the potential to go on living for many generations—this is what I carry into my profession with me every time I press the shutter.

The above image is of an eighty-seven-year-old man named Alejandro. I met him on my first of four visits to Cuba. Each time I went to Cuba to photograph, I shared time with Alejandro. We made a total of four portraits. This was the final one. He died a few days later.

It took me a while to get to this place. There was a time when I did things with less awareness and did not understand the sacred power of the photograph.

I feel that I used to “take” photographs, until one day I realized that taking is stealing. Now I connect with my subject and through our shared humanity, we “make” a photograph.

It’s no trivial matter, and deserves all of my willingness to understand, to be with, and to care about each and every person with whom I am called upon to make art.

My goal is to carry this awareness and heartfelt interaction with those I work into every aspect of my life.

I’d like to leave space open for the reader to contemplate and share an area of your life where you could bring more of yourself to the table. Perhaps, you are already doing it, and I’d love to hear about that as well.

This image was created using a Polaroid process in which the artist carves into the photograph before the emulsions harden. No paint or Photoshop has been used. This technique became extinct when Polaroid closed its doors in 2009.

The powerful images of mixed-media artist Robert Sturman have a vivid presence that is both other-worldly and deeply rooted in the earthly wonders he has explored so adventurously in his global travels. A spiritual journeyer as well, Sturman is an intuitive creator whose works resonate with an inner vision as much as they reach out to embrace the viewer with tactile, richly hued physicality. The official visual artist of 2005’s 47th Annual GRAMMY® Awards, Sturman has formal training as a painter and photographer, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. For more on Robert and his art please visit him on Facebook or his website.