Friday, August 31, 2007

Looking for Havana

On my last trip to La Habana in January, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman who was the camerman for the well known movies, Fresa y Chocolate and La Vida Es Silbar. He was sharing with us stories of a new documentary titled Buscandote Havana. This documentary comments on the life and struggles of "palestinos", undocumented Cubans living in Havana. These are Cubans that come from the country looking for a better life. They make a life in Havana without the documents that allow them to legally live there. On You Tube after seeing the first part there are two additional parts of this documentary to the right.

Often they set up a home in areas close to the city, constructing with whatever they can get there hands on, i.e. wood, cardboard, sheet metal. These shantytowns, called fanguitos are similiar to the favellas in Brazil. Quite often they lack running water and electricity, without proper papers they are not entitled to medical care, education, la libreta and if caught they are sent back to their province.

This image was taken at a fanguito in San Miguel De Padron, a suburb on the outskirts of Havana. What amazed me about what I saw was the cleanliness and ingenuity of the occupants...just look at this hammock...two sticks, a sheet and some rope.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What purpose a balcony?

A balcony affords us a front row seat to the theatre that is the street… a reflection of our own lives or...

Maybe a balcony gives one a rest…a sanctuary from the reality of life.

We hang clothes from a balcony, our plants…a dove/pigeon will rest there not to fear of the cat…a child will pee from that place knowing that those below cannot get to them quickly if at all.

Maybe like Juliet, One waits for their life, their love to manifest itself...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why Black and White

Often I am asked, Why Black and White?

Initially, I sought to differentiate myself from the numerous photographers photographing Cuba in colour. That B/W would be taken more seriously by the observer and not be lured by the beauty of colour. Then I thought that I would shoot in B/W until Fidel Castro dies and then go to colour. ( As in the movie The Wizard Of Oz, recall that the movie starts off in B/W until Dorothy's house lands on the wicked witche's sister in Munchkinland)

But then tonight I came across a speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. A Knock At Midnight . In it Rev. King states: "At midnight colours lose their distinctiveness and become a sullen shade of grey." Read the speech and in many ways it's "medianoche" in Cuba.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Usually I see fishing boats named after women...maybe a mother or wife...a daughter or a lover. But this one named his "Liberty"...does the fisherman feel some sense of freedom when on his little island?
My grandfather was a fisherman...he was a courageous, strong man and had an quiet endurance in life. When we would go fishing...he knew where to go based on landmarks and looking into the water...we would always embark at dawn and by noon had a cooler full of fish...all caught with a hand line attached to a "cuban yo-yo" a round implement that is used to hold the line. I would feel the line with my finger and could feel the fish biting...once it grabbed that bait I would jerk the line...set the hook and pull the fish in. It's a good memory...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Always being watched...

I am very aware as I walk throughout Cuba, that there's at least one pair of eyes on me. It's not unusual that someone will pass by and say hello and mention that they saw me in another part of town last week Friday...
Just hanging out on a corner, listening, taking in the scene and I noticed the guy on the balcony...smoking a cigarette and looking at me...he then turned his gaze elsewhere turned to enter the apartment and had to take one more look...

Back to School

One night I showed my father-in-law a portfolio of my Cuba images, as he slowly and quietly looked at the photos, he stopped at this one..."what's this? Students at school with no shoes...this can't be...esperate eso es una escuela en mi pueblo! (wait this is a school in my town!) He kept shaking his head in disbelief not wanting to believe.

Mi suegro is a professor in this small town in Eastern Cuba...he still teaches but also has taken up photography as a profession shooting birthdays, Quinceneras, ID photos (carnet)...$20.00 a month wasn't enough after over 20 years teaching.

Monday, August 20, 2007

In their dreams...

they are dancing on a world stage...dancing for Alicia Alonso and the Ballet Nacional De Cuba.
There is a cuban phrase..."no cuesta nada sonar" cost nothing to dream.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vista De La Habana

This view is fom the Casablanca area...
I try to include an individual in all my images. Often I will find my view and then wait till the moment is right.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Ruins of Havana

It is impossible to ignore the dangerously undermaintained shape of a serious number of La Habana's buildings ― many of which collapse or become uninhabitable and unusable each year.
Theodore Dalrymple’s essay Why Havana Had to Die addresses this more depressing view rather eloquently. Dalrymple writes of ‘the Ruins of Havana’ and bluntly reminds us that, “Forty-three years of totalitarian dictatorship have left the city of Havana ― one of the most beautiful in the world ― suspended in a peculiar state halfway between preservation and destruction.” This is a great read!

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Is it still worth $1,000.00?

I walked through a door that led to a large patio with the doors to many apartments...toward the far corner I noticed a woman preparing what appeared to be pineapple juice...I asked if she was selling the juice and she invited me to have a seat in her living room. I asked where the other rooms to her home were, just seeing a room and she looked up and told me that their was an upstairs...a barbacoa...a loft crudely built above where I was sitting. I asked if I could see and I was told to take a look. I climbed a very narrow staircase and was now in her and her daughter's bedroom...two beds separated by a very old amoire. "I have something to show you but you must promise not to say mention this to anyone" I agreed..she asked that I turn around and I heard her rummaging..."you can turn now" what she had in front of me was an United States Thousand dollar bill, President Grover Cleveland...minted in 1934..."is it still worth $1000.00" I looked at it and stated that if it was a real bill that it was and to a collector maybe worth even more. She offered it to me for $800.00 explaining that she wanted her daughter to have a "quince". I politely stated that I could not be sure that it was real and why not take it to the "bank". I asked to photograph the bill...I went back a month later interested in purchasing the bill...

She sold it to the government and received $750.00...their take was 25%. It was real after all...

Today it was 90 degrees in Cuba

Children and their ability to find a positive in most any situation amaze me.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

La Iglesia De La Merced

Across Cuba this is what you will see in many churches this morning.

"Iglesia De La Merced" La Habana

Until the middle of the 20th century, this was one of the most ornate churches in the whole city. Its origins date back to 1637, the year in which the so-called, “Monks of Mercy” began to build their convent, a task that would carry on for the next hundred years. It was then left to the Pauline Fathers to put the final touches to the interior decoration, completed in 1867. Esteban Chartrand painted the walls and backdrop of the Lourdes Chapel, and other painting work was carried out by Pidier Petit, Juan Crossa, Manuel Lorenzo and Aurelio Melero. On September 24th, known as the "Day of Mercies", both Catholics and followers of the Afro-Cuban cult, “Santeros” gather in the church, many dressed in white, and pay tribute to the deity Obbatalá.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mami...vamos al "cine"

It's Saturday night...what to do in downtown Cienfuegos but catch the latest Cantinflas movie..."Los Tres Mosqueteros" at the the way most were driving "Flying Pigeon" bicycles, a few Ladas and I think there was the obligatory "Chevrolet". This image was taken in was about 9pm...I was driving back from Trinidad...oh yes...this movie premiered in ...

Thursday, August 2, 2007


I have been travelling to Cuba since 1996...those early years I always would take lots of chewing gum. I was always asked by children for Chiclet...

I was in the area of La Habana near the Cuatro Caminos market...these boys had been playing but once they saw me coming they immediately asked for some and I stated that if they allowed me to take a photo of them that they would get their gum...

I could not have posed these kids this well if I had tried...and I didn't...this is exactly what they gave me ...naturally...each child is an image unto itself!
After about 1998, the kids stopped asking for chiclet...they asked for 'moneda'.

What would make a mature woman...

dance in the street in front of an outdoor cafe...wearing what appears to be a bedspread with gladiolas and a palm leaf placed in her cleavage.

Many visitors to Cuba quite often comment that the "Cubans" are so warm and friendly...that they are always laughing...a salsa step just 'un ritmo' away. The Cuban spirit is warm, loving and beaten. Most tourists may not realize that they are looked upon as a way to learn a little of life outside of Cuba, enjoy a meal, be given a few dollars, a book already read gifted.

This woman was making a fool of herself...appeared to have been drinking and was being encouraged by the the tourists with clapping and laughter and a few dollars. Why can't they see the struggle behind the smile ...the difficulties facing her everyday...???

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I often wonder...

When I see an elderly person in Cuba...what was their life like before did it change with the "revolution" and if they think the sacrifice was worth it?

Una Sola Opcion...

Only One Option Fatherland . Revolution . Socialism
There are always options...but at what price...loss of job...prison...harassment of family...