New cuban photography

If the 1970 generation in Cuban photography was a transitional step to open the way to the creation of the most important artistic movement of the late twentieth century, it is from 1980 that all the established schemes were broken and remained in force throughout those years and continued until the 21st century. Here taboos were eliminated and there was an opening in terms of criteria, concepts and themes that until then were never thought could be retaken.

new cuban photographer leonel fernandez

Photo: Leonel Fernández

If then it was affirmed that Cuban photography and cuban photographers was divided into two main trends: documentary photography (direct or testimonial) and so-called conceptual photography (creative or manipulated), today after 30 years it can be assured that it has three major trends very marked: the anthropological-ethnological, the sociological-critical and the experimental-creative (manipulation, photographic collage, naked with strong tendency to the rude, use of semiotic and symbolic elements, etc.), based on the criterion of Magaly Espinosa.

However, in the first two (anthropological-ethnological and sociological-critical) follows the rhythm of the documentary, but with some difference one from the other. In the first, the events and events around us are witnessed in an anthropological way, where photojournalism is included in some way, and in the second, although it is influenced by the documentary – but with an inclination towards social criticism – eliminating the beautiful and praising the grotesque, the ugly, the irreverent, the morbid, among other sensations, taking into account a little the rejection of the beautiful. Substituting the beautiful for the ugly.

As for the experimental, the emphasis is on non-classical compositions, production is much more inclined toward the conceptual. There is a strong use of self-portrait and nude subjects, intermingling with symbols and signs, also with the unreal, surreal and ambiguous dispositions and Afro-Cuban beliefs.

Those that were new
At the end of 1970 the work of Alfredo Sarabia Domínguez (1951-1992) burst into Cuban photography, giving a thematic and conceptual turn to this contemporary documentary photography, with followers like Raúl Cañibano and Gonzo González, among others.


pictures of cuban photographer alfredo sarabia

Photo: Alfredo Sarabia

However, this strong binomial formed by Cañibano and Gonzo, persists in images without detours and without subterfuges of the country where they reside, with their successes and failures, their triumphs and their mistakes, but above all of their Cubanness. There are those who also qualify them as followers of the work of Sebastiao Salgado. They have traveled the country spontaneously looking for that autochthonous, brusque, real, strong and perishable image of the simple and unknown Cuban; although Gonzo, is involved in the work of women in their midst as demonstrated in his series Fidelísima; also in young people and children, in their series Maleconeros or La Edad de Oro.

Previously, they were already dabbling in these parameters Humberto Mayol, Rolando Pujol and Pedro Abascal who managed to persecute the human being – driven maybe, by the journalistic trade – selected and wove with fine humor the precise moment of a spontaneous and diaphanous photographic action, without reaching the vulgar, adjusting to a subtle, elegant and at the same time very Cuban humor. Although from the 21st century Humberto takes as a flag a different creativity, from the computerized image, manipulating his previous works or creating new images from modern technology; Pujol leaves the black and white and focuses on full-color advertising photography and Abascal is shaping up with a more elaborate tendency: towards an artificial management of the direct image.

Rolando Pujol and Pedro Abascal who managed to persecute the human being-driven perhaps by the journalistic trade-selected and wove with fine humor the precise moment of a spontaneous and diaphanous photographic action, without reaching the vulgar, adjusting to a subtle mood, elegant and at the same time very Cuban.
Of the 80 were the interiors and domestic situations of René Peña, who, in turn, at the end of the century had a total turnaround in his production, where he mixes visual aesthetics with Afro-Cuban rites, through self-portraits. He uses referential elements from the black of his skin with white tools, playing with them, although in some cases he uses ambiguity. In the second quinquennium of the new century it is framed in rescuing found objects, elevating them to the category of magnificence with color gigantographies.

Point apart deserve the works, at the end of the nineties, of Marta María Pérez, Juan Carlos Alom, Cirenaica Moreira and Eduardo Hernández Santos when conceiving their series from a conceptual, formal and structurally different examination to all the established parameters, going from brutal expressionism to a marked eroticism, with strong Afro-Cuban mystical elements, in the first two; but among all they have tendencies of plastic experiments and some theatrical staging, although differentiated from each other. Marta María was the pioneer of the new nude in Cuba, at the end of the 80s, when the subject was spilled in the Cuban plastic arts. Eduardo Hernández’s images are the highest scenographic expression, as far as photography is concerned. Although he continues to focus his attention solely on the nakedness of the male, and reminds, in some cases, Hellenistic or Roman images; but all of them are full of homo erotic sensuality, creating unique and unrepeatable images. In almost all cases it uses external elements outside photography, of support like metal and glass to give sense of volume to two-dimensional pieces, or drawing a feature that reaffirms it more.

The generation of 2000From the youngest exponents of the Project Cultural Cubafoto (Cuban Fund of the Photographic Image) and props in the generation that began in 2000, are the images of Leisis Elisa Cordoví, Nadalito (Nadal Antelmo Vizcaíno), Leysis Quesada and Lissette Solórzano, among others. The first focuses on black and white self-portraits (B & W), looking for new trends that surround the visual universe. It is projected towards languages ​​rich in symbols and meanings that put it at the level and scale of the newest of Cuban production, like Nadalito. On the other hand, the latter did not start making self-portraits or symbols. He started by making color photographic photography -he totally detested the B & W-, with an emphasis on the treatment of inconsequential and intimate subjects, linked to personal events. Being the opposite of the rest of the artists who have preceded him. His hyperkinetic temperament together with the technical and spiritual development have led him to an evolutionary plastic development.
Series as Grooves of Time or Photographic Readings, divided into subseries presented through the use of graffiti, with manipulation of the negative from scratches and pictorial treatment of the emulsion, suggests points to be analyzed by the spectator audience. His work in general marks a different and original treatment to what seems to be developing this new wave in contemporary Cuban photography. Lately his work is given by the treatment of highly marked digital manipulation, relying on the self-portrait and the morbid of the erotic. Other names such as Alfredo Ramos, Ernesto Javier Fernandez, Alina Isabel, Arles Iglesias, Niurka Barroso, Maria Cienfuegos and Alejandro González together with a group of painters who, following the path previously drawn by Arturo Cuenca and José Manuel Fors, assume photography as a means of expression as well as Yaniel Montero from Camagüey, Alain Pino, Deborah Nofret, Antonio Gómez Margolles, Jacqueline Zerquera, Litzie Alvisa, Glenda León, Elsa Mora, Yoana Yelín and Sandra Ramos are names that enrich Cuban art and especially photography from the beginning of the 21st century.

“The real marvelous” carpenterian of this young photography, lies in the use of different photographic styles ( interiors, nudes, urban landscapes, street characters, self-portraits, manipulations and testimonial facts es). “The real marvelous” Carpenterian, of this young photography, lies in the use of different photographic styles (interiors, nudes, urban landscapes, street characters, self-portraits, manipulations and testimonial events). In all this you can observe a masterful play of light and shadows and, of course, a high printing technique, although with more emphasis on the environmental portrait, but especially in the nude and uses a lot of scenographic composition. His look is more frank, sharp, and provocative. In some cases with some ambiguity, but in all there are original proposals of fine plastic sense, without copying the pictorial tendencies. From 2000 a radical transformation is unveiled, unlike the previous generation towards various philosophies, in search of a new hero and with a new poetics, which is giving a total shift to what was already recognized until then. Many authors, prior to these decades are still active and many of them use color for their projection. Maybe because of the influence that only color materials are sold (because it is the most used in tourism, because it has more demand and because it is the most requested for advertising and commercial photography). Although most yearn for the B & W because they consider it more creative and dramatic. So far in the twenty-first century we can assure that of the two expressions with which Cuban photography is expressed (the one assumed directly and the one influenced with pictorial training), it is still the direct, the most predominant for having incorporated more reflexive visions. There are those who argue that documentary and press photography in Cuba practically no longer exists or are not well seen in art galleries and the museums. You can not be so specific in this statement. The problem is that that photograph had a sweeping volcano in the 60s, which marked a very particular style and pattern, creating a school. It also competes against her that most of today’s production is based on other concepts and more creative (less journalistic) views influenced by the trends and tastes of western photography. But it can be seen in the samples of contemporary Cuban photography circulating around the world, that there is still Cuban photography for a while, where new exponents and avant-garde tendencies are emerging every time.

What can be affirmed is that there is good or bad photography, whether from one trend or another.Novísima fotografia cubanaAs of 2010, there is a great wave of young talents, who realized that photography is not only technical (the latest model of a camera or a novel collection of different objectives of different focal lengths, etc.) but it is also necessary to keep in mind the rules and laws of the visual arts, applied to photography. It is then when a large number of artists come out of painting schools or the Academy of Photography that they dedicate themselves exclusively to using photography as a tool. It is what we call the new generation that is displacing the simple photographers who previously were only interested in technology. They are the ones who are currently exposing their creative work in galleries and museums, from Cuba and the World. You can not talk about self-taught training anymore. They are visual artists who have introduced subjects such as History of Art, Genres and Styles, Composition, Artistic Appreciation, Semiotics, Subliminal Image and Rhetoric of the Image, among others, into their teaching curricula. They are those that emerge from the need to express themselves or perhaps, influenced by the sweeping thrust of the aesthetic changes of postmodernism that encourages them to study, with such a creative force that drags and uncontrolles, all pre-established parameters. generation there are names like Alfredo Sarabia Fajardo (Havana, 1986).

Graduated from the San Alejandro Academy and the ISA. He works documentary photography as a faithful heir to his father’s work. He prefers the photographic essay to express questions of the type: Who is it ?, where the individuals are unknown or visually invisible and can be any of us. It seeks a dialogue between symbol and image, affirming realities, provoking analysis and reflections with unrepeatable themes. Another exponent is Arién Chang Castrán (Havana, 1979). Graduated from the Photography Course of the UNEAC. It not only tries to document the existence of longevity and centenarians, but also the mediations that intervene in the phenomenon of old age: race, sex, social origin and habits, among others, as part of the complex process of life. They are compositions of surprising plastic capacity and an admirable use of the techniques of color and black and white, as well as perspectives, and unusual angles. The images have a high comunicológico value from expressions, gestures, play of lights and an interesting compositional management. Photo: Alain Cabrera Without following a chronological order we continue with Alain Cabrera Fernández (Havana, 1980). Graduated in History of Art and Photography Course convened by the Cubafoto Cultural Project. His work has a purely artistic character but with strong testimonial projection. His photography evolved from naturalism to abstraction, marked by the works of the Dutch avant-garde painter Piet Mondrian, founder of geometric abstraction. Lázaro Luis García del Campo (Havana, 1966). Graduate of the Photography Course convened by the Cubafoto Cultural Project and the Summer Course of the San Alejandro Academy. It began in 2002. His photographs make us think a little more about the real and everyday. Play with lines, colors and juxtaposition of them to give a chromatic balance of never seen forms. Search in common situations, different angulations and different or unimaginable expressions.

It boasts the use of the great approach with elegance, novelty and elaborate figurative elements to banal spaces of the natural environment. It reveals a kind of figurative reverie, where eroticism is a game between forms and imagination conjugated with abstractionism. Lisandra Isabel García López (Havana, 1989). Graduated from the San Alejandro Academy and the ISA. Explore the everyday, intimacy and the feminine, representing objects from their domestic environment to highlight certain types of tastes, motivations, sensibilities and reflect on the permeability to the environment. Part of the idea that the things you live with say a lot about yourself. Rodney Batista Herrera (Havana, 1988). Graduated from the San Academy Alejandro and student of the ISA. His photographic work focuses on portraying corpses in installation situations, which have led him to create from this position symbols with dramatic meaning, summoning the anthropological with aesthetics and creativity. He is not interested in any corpse, but those flooded in the buckets with formaldehyde in the morgues, those who have never had their burial and, for that reason, they are still disputing at the same time the persistence of their materiality and eternity. He does not play with the pieces, he exposes them strongly with symbolism. They are works of strong dramatism and poetic sense, with strong links with the anthropological and the teleological, as the critic Frency said. Sometimes it makes the corpses pose next to different objects, or fragments of them, such as dolls. The interesting thing about this relation of object-corpse is that they belong equally to the plane of death, although artificial, since it is the product of a symbolic death, consequence not of a natural process but of the destructive action of the human being: mutilation of said objects. This triple relationship of life-death-mutilation is taken to the plane of art, granting them a new existence of the aesthetic. Yanahara Mauri Villarreal (Havana, 1984). Graduated in History of Art at the University of Havana and the Photography course convened by the Cubafoto Cultural Project.

His work is based on showing the woman as a gladiator, sometimes naked with unusual postures or situations, breaking away from non-traditional positions. It deprives the woman of millenary attachments, rejecting fears. Exorcises women through domestic violence, delving into everyday life leading to absurdity. It decontextualizes and ironicizes each model and its objects that have accompanied them throughout history. Each image represents different women with different positions that humanity had marked them with ties, but now is mocked or overcome, with astucia.Eduardo Rodríguez Sardiñas (Havana, 1982). Graduated from the courses of the Cabrales del Valle Art and Photography Academy. His creative work has a homoerotic discourse, with marked use of studio lights. Try to demystify some issues, presenting conflicts or addressing issues, concerns and behaviors of the human being. Although today, also, it has specialized in glamor and fashion portrait. José Luis Díaz Montero (Havana, 1967). Graduated from the Photography Course convened by the Cubafoto Cultural Project. It began in 2005. His work uses the resources of chiaroscuro, chromatic contrasts and transparencies. Without getting rid of certain melancholy or drama (since the object becomes identity) It offers a visual experience dictated by the eye and the soul, through compositions that can be warm or cold depending on the state of mind. All his works are reflections of intimate feelings and their intrinsic characteristics are personalized. Try to touch the sensitivity of the observer to transgress the space of the other or propose spaces together. Look at the environment and things unprejudiced, as if it were a scenario where there are visual leaks in all directions. To focus not only on the capital of the country, it is recommended to analyze the works of Alvaro José Brunet Fernández (Sancti Spíritus, 1974), Yunior Yanes Torres (Sagua la Grande, 1974) and Yanela Piñeiro Gutiérrez (Bejucal, 1998). The first architect of training and photographer by vocation. His work constitutes an exercise for reflection and imaginary possibility. It is based on graphic design, in a minimalist way with morphological and conceptual tendencies. As a studio photographer he handles light with exquisiteness using objects stripped of their original meaning, and pointing them with multiple readings, which denounce problems of reality.

They are minimalist still lifes, moving away in some way from the documentary photo. Although part of the direct photo, its objects are chosen, analyzed and composed in the studio, with wise use of light and shadows. Create a surrealism with history. The second (Yunior Yanes Torres) Graduated from the courses of the Academy of Art and Photography Cabrales del Valle. He started in photography in 2012, with exhibitions in several Cuban galleries and in the Fototeca de Miami, among other spaces. Seduced and fascinated by the signs, symbols and architectural mysteries emitted by cities and public spaces, he tries to capture his spirit and reflect it in his work, fundamentally taken in eclectic Havana. It seeks to strip these common and everyday places of superfluous elements and take them to their simplest form. In his work stand out forms, colors, textures, lights and shadows, which connote the influences of abstractionism and even Picasso’s cubism, as projected in some of his works of buildings, stairs and monuments, to try to surprise The spectator It uses framings and angulations that distance themselves from the traditional view, to show the reality of a city that is decontextualized, almost unrecognizable, achieving surprising results. Finally, and not least, Yanela Piñeiro Gutiérrez (Bejucal, 1998). Graduated from the courses of the Cabrales del Valle Art and Photography Academy. UN Award, 2011, first prize of the Contest Against Gender Violence, in Santiago, Chile, 2016, among a score of them. With 16 years exhibited at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and the Museum of Key West. With only one amateur camera he walked among galleries, competitions and exhibitions, since he was 9 years old. Until now he is interested in documentary photography, when he wants to capture the situations that are around him, with an innate mark according to his knowledge of art and his talent. With his series he also tries to sensitize photography lovers, that even in simple and poor places there can be plastic beauty, just having in mind the use of light, shadows and the organic composition of the elements that make it up. This is a small list of some exponents of the latest photography in Cuba, there are several dozen more to discover and describe in the pipeline. Serve this as a starting point to chronicle this latest Cuban photography.



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