People of Cuba
Judy and I traveled to Cuba as part of a photography workshop. An amazing experience! Such a beautiful and colorful island community. So warm and friendly. I am going to focus my attention in this blog on the People of Cuba. That is, photos that include the diverse and interesting people I encountered and, in most cases, met.
Our trip was led by the famous photojournalist, Peter Turnley, who also happens to be a warm and engaging person with an extremely high degree of character. His resume includes over 40 covers on Newsweek and many awards. SO cool to spend so much time photographing and talking with him. His assistant on the trip was Néstor Martí, a Havana native who is also an extremely talented and “known” Cuban photographer…and a new friend! And we also have another friend, Armando Gutierrez from the Jewish community in Havana. And, a highlight of the trip were the other two couples in our group–Adam and Mari (from Seattle) and Geoff and Debs (from Isle of Man). We hope to stay in touch and remain friends with all of these people!
Let’s jump right in because there’s SO much to talk about and see!
The photo above was a scene I saw from quite a distance away. I approached the man slowly and moved clearly in his direction while making eye contact and smiling. Not sure then (or now!) if he understood me, but I picked up my camera a bit, showed it to him, and asked if I could take his photo. He just nodded and didn’t change his expression. I took a few images, watching as the figures on the edge of the frame moved around a bit. I smiled and thanked him.
I don’t recall the exact specifics of this, but I noticed the wall from a distance and saw the girl jumping rope. I signaled to her that I wanted to photograph her and she obviously approved! In fact, as luck would have it, she moved over slightly so that she was by the “white panel” of the wall as she jumped high. I seem to recall going across the street and showing her the image on the back of my camera, as I usually do. (Though I have the preview set up on my camera as black and white.) By the way, I really like the paint and subtle character markings on the wall and street.
The people of Cuba seemed to be visible and willing to be photographed. And, they know how to pose! I really got the idea that they are used to being photographed and know that it’s good PR to look good for the tourist’s cameras. I like his relaxed body language and the blues and greens on his building. I also really like the little peak that we get inside the door where we can see his wife, smiling.
More people of Cuba, hanging out on the streets of Havana. I saw this group of guys, chatting and laughing…having a good time. So, I got in front of them and asked if I could take their photo and they started mugging and goofing around and I took photos of that, but asked them nicely if they could not goof around so much. This frame is the result…much better than laughing and mugging at the camera, eh? Again, nice color and wall!
Okay…I admit this takes some degree of guts! haha That is, our group went into the church on a Sunday to watch and observe. I moved to the front of the congregation and sat down right next to this group of women. I was very close and they obviously knew I was there even though I didn’t feel it was appropriate to speak or interrupt them at this moment. But I clicked a few frames to let them get comfortable and feel relaxed about what I was doing. When their hands went up in prayer, I felt I had something and quietly moved away while smiling at them. Sometimes I really, really like a photo…and this is one of them.
Viñales is two or three hours west of Havana. It’s a bit more agricultural area than we were accustomed to visiting. When we first got there, I couldn’t figure out an “angle” to capture them working. Then, as we were leaving and moving on to another area, I approached the man and asked him if I could photograph him with his hands on his hips, and I signaled/asked the man in back to stand for a moment, too. I then gathered them, showed them the image on the back of the camera, and thanked them. Just the image that I had in my mind. I am very happy it turned out…that doesn’t always happen!!
A real treat and surprise to see more people of Cuba came when we went to visit the dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker. What an experience! Peter suggested we go into the wings, off stage, and photograph the dancers who were there. At first glance, there was very little light, but then I realized it was outstanding, dramatic light! Just enough light from the bright lights across the other side of the stage came through and provided a real opportunity for photos! Once again, all the dancers were agreeable.
For you photo geeks out there, note that Peter suggested we use one camera and he recommended sticking with a wide angle lens. That’s not unusual for me, but I kept to that concept 100%. Every one of the photos made by me on this trip were with one camera and a fixed focus 35mm wide-angle lens. I’m also trying to determine what to do with all the images! For now, I am sharing them on Instagram (visit me at sml_photo), Twitter (@stephen_levin) and my personal and photo Facebook pages. I’ll also make at least one more blog post on the same topic. Eventually, I will make a book of the People of Cuba and every image will be black and white. And Judy and I will also make a color photo book about the trip which will include HER fabulous images!! There are SO many photos!
Please join me here and, as usual, leave your comments. I’m always interested to hear your opinions and questions!
Thanks for stopping by!
Stephen M. Levin
Facebook – @stephenmlevinphotography
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Instagram – sml_photo