In the weeks before booking my flight to Havana I had a one simple question in my mind, the question that I (and many photographers) make before each trip or assignment, specially when that trip or assignment is a location as heavily portrayed as Cuba: what would I do different? How can I run away from the cliches? How true is that argument (that I hate so much) that is now too spoiled and the “good time” to be there is gone forever? Should I even go? Almost all my travel destinations are chosen intuitively rather than rationally, I go with my gut-feeling for the final decision, and this case when a conveniently timed airline promotion came up (one destination on that day only) that gut-feeling told me it was it, making the decision process very, very easy. I was meant to go, no matter what.
As the day of my flight approached, my questions got a bit more specific. It was late June, the weeks before the opening of the US embassy in Havana, with the arrival of the US Secretary of State (the first in many decades). I was curious to see what that meant to the everyday life of the Cubans, if they were preparing for that specific event, but mostly, and more important, in what way they were looking forward for the changes that might be on the horizon, the big changes that would certainly follow up the quiet reforms of the last decade from Raul Castro, those small things like the loosening of restrictions on religion or the timid changes in privately owned businesses, a much more pragmatic and hands-on vision of the Cuban revolution.
As I might expected that hope for the future, that small anxiety is more felt and listened while having a cup of coffee than seen while walking the streets. Obviously, because there is nothing to be seen, as nothing has actually changed. Everything still is as it has been for some time, with the same complications in simple things like taking care of the groceries list or keeping all their current machinery in working condition, the old cars and everything else, because there are no spare parts coming when it breaks. Going back to my photographic issues, how to photograph this? Probably the best is not worry too much about it, just capture the small things as they happen, like that domino match in Vedado with lots of rum involved, the worries of the elderly Miriam and her crumbling “solar” or the tranquil expression in Eberto’s face on his day off…NIKON D800 (105mm, f/2.8, 1/8000 sec, ISO180)
Old American car parked at a backstreet of Trinidad.
X-E2 (37.4mm, f/3.6, 1/250 sec, ISO1600)
Working hard and patiently to keep the old American and Soviet cars running
X-E2 (18mm, f/4.5, 1/180 sec, ISO200)
The boy wasn’t that interested in learning how to build bird cages.
NIKON D800 (24mm, f/2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO900)
State owned grocery store, based on ration tickets
X-E2 (18mm, f/3.2, 1/250 sec, ISO200)
Opening time at a privately owned grocery store.
X-E2 (39mm, f/3.6, 1/40 sec, ISO2500)
Late night show of Interactivo band at Vedado quarter
X-E2 (18.8mm, f/3.6, 1/40 sec, ISO3200)
Solares, the derelict and partially abandoned houses occupied by families that make each division into their home. This one is an old hotel in the center of Cienfuegos.
X-E2 (18mm, f/3.6, 1/150 sec, ISO200)
A gentle smile for my portrait before going back inside. The day was getting to hot to stay outside.
X-E2 (18mm, f/3.6, 1/56 sec, ISO200)
A nanny with the two children at her care.
NIKON D800 (24mm, f/3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO200)
Boy playing in a pateo inside a solar at Centro Habana, in a break from his football match.
X-E2 (18mm, f/2.8, 1/180 sec, ISO320)
Woman praying to Our Lady at the Havana Cathedral
X-E2 (26.5mm, f/5, 1/240 sec, ISO200)
A relaxed end of day at Regla.
X-E2 (18mm, f/13, 1/56 sec, ISO200)
Boys fishing in the waters of the Havana bay, at Regla
X-E2 (18mm, f/6.4, 1/500 sec, ISO200)
Boys using an abandoned pier close to Cienfuegos marina to dive on a hot Sunday
X-E2 (18mm, f/5, 1/180 sec, ISO200)
Playing domino in the street, rum was included in the mix
X-E2 (18mm, f/4.5, 1/40 sec, ISO320)
Miriam (the grandmother) having cup of coffee with me, talking about the building that has been waiting renovation for 20 years, while the Monica (the granddaughter) follows our conversation.
X-E2 (18mm, f/5.6, 1/40 sec, ISO3200)
Workout in a Gym of Havana.
X-E2 (21.4mm, f/4.5, 1/320 sec, ISO200)
Little girl boldly standing in front of her house.
X-E2 (48.4mm, f/4, 1/1000 sec, ISO2000)
Eberto on his day off, relaxing at his small house’s front door.
X-E2 (30.2mm, f/6.4, 1/1000 sec, ISO200)
An old green car parked outside the big arcades that are só typical of Centro Habana.
You can also check a selection of single shots of Cuba.