This year’s photo tour to Cuba was a resounding success! We had nine wonderful, creative and engaging people join us this time. We were able to secure our favorite guide, Tatiana, whose great humor and open mind was perfect for our wandering band of photographers. Guides, especially in a place like Cuba (where things tend to be done the way they are “supposed” to be done, after decades of top down directed life) tend to prefer to control their groups & move them according to a schedule and a checklist. A photography tour has to flaunt that kind of rule, however, just by its very nature. We photographers need to explore, take our time, get to know a person or a place in order to create a better image. Postcard shots are all well and good, but in this age of ‘everyone is a photographer’, anyone who wants to actually do something special or unique with a camera needs to take a little more time, give a little more effort, in order to find their vision. Tatiana got that (after a little training of course!)
I’ve heard recently that photographers are suffering from “Cuba decay fatigue”. So many have gone to Cuba in the last ten or so years & brought back images of the decaying buildings, doors, walls, infrastructure, etc, that some are getting tired of looking at it. There is a parallel version of this happening with images of decaying industrial buildings here in the states too. The problem with this criticism is that at least with Cuba, it’s so much a part of the country and the culture, that you can’t avoid it. I love the doors, of which I’ve made dozens, maybe hundreds of images (two above) and the walls are filled with stories. Shades of Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan! (look them up)
But back to our trip. As I’ve written before, the Cubans are warm, friendly & itching for more contact with us. The two schoolgirls were enrolled in a music conservatory where we were given a concert of sometimes world class excellence from the older students. The enthusiasm of everyone there was life affirming, and during the finale, a rousing version of ‘Guantanamera’ (which I was ready to never hear again as it is played too many times for visitors, but this version was jazzy, a full salsa band rollick through the auditorium), the entire student body was joined by the faculty in salsa dancing in the aisles. The fellow on the left was part of another musical show, street performers doing traditional African dance & drumming in a poor neighborhood that is being reclaimed by the arts called Callejon de Hamel.
Of course the old cars are everywhere, seducing every visitor. But they are simply evidence of the resourcefulness of the Cubans. I love this image captured in a farmer’s market. Repurposed Corona beer bottles holding garlic paste for sale.
There is a flood of Americans traveling to Cuba now. The hotels are being renovated at a frantic pace. We saw more economic activity in the form of major construction projects and new small businesses this trip than in both of our previous two. Change is coming to Cuba; the big question is how well it will be managed and how much outside influence will be exerted. If you want to see Cuba before the golden arches get there, I think you may want to start your planning now.
The mountains near Vinales, a World Heritage Site in western Cuba known for tobacco farms.