Last month I treated myself to a week of total photography immersion in Cuba! I spin a lot of plates on a daily basis with the business side of life tugging constantly at my creative side. To do nothing but take pictures in the morning, noon and night was such a release and very fulfilling.
The timing of this trip I took with Muench Workshops couldn’t have been better. It is just a few months now since a decades old standoff between the USA and Cuba has begun to see some easing. Thats not to say there aren’t tourists in Cuba. There are. Just not many from America yet. Hearing so many languages in the hotel elevator had me feeling far, far away. Much further than the 1-hour charter flight from Cuba I took to get there.
While there are many stories to tell from this mysterious island, for me, it quickly became about the people. Because tourism is not as structured (or maybe because the way Americans are required to travel in Cuba in a very structured cultural exchange program) I found myself thrust into the daily lives of Cuban people armed with my camera. From the small rural towns to the bustling city of Havana, I got to see, firsthand, the struggle of life under a failed governmental system. At the same time there was a palpable sense of hope for a better future with everyone I talked to. After all, it is now past two decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This country has had to find its own way and forge international relationships to foster progress. The hard line of communism has softened considerably.
I have traveled throughout the Caribbean since 1985 and what struck me more than anything was the warm and friendly nature of the Cubans. Quite unlike most any other Caribbean island where people tend to be quite reserved with visitors. On Cuba, everywhere I went people greeted me and seemed every bit as inquisitive of me as I was of them. This was only amplified when they found we were Americanos!
I was struck! I had to capture this pure essence of living I found here; love of family, music, strong national pride and values. Above all there is an exuberance in them that comes with a sense of progress. Simple things like farmers being able to bring their abundance to the people instead of it rotting in some state-owned warehouse waiting for distribution that was always late.
To have withstood what these people have for what, in actuality, has been centuries of struggle and oppression baffles the mind. I hope my Faces of Cuba photographs instill that emotion in you. If it does, you can look forward to more stories from my visit there. I encourage you to go too and see for yourself, this remarkable culture so close to us but a world away.
If you would like to explore more of my entire Cuba photography collection, Im adding more and more to it all the time. Im also working on a documentary movie full of Cuban faces, time-lapse of Havana and some interesting cinematography.