My photographic journey in Cuba.
Cuba is a place like no other, a country shaped by a history of colonization, mix of cultures, revolutions, crisis, strong political position and social development.
It´s so controversial you barely find individuals with intermediate opinions, but the fact is that all this past and present make Cuban a really special kind. We all got this after a long journey through the island freezing in images with our cameras the extraordinary, polemical and profound of Cuba. Being part of a small group in a photography workshop and coming from Europe, we didn’t expect much, actually the logistic organized by our photographer leader Luis and our Locally Sourced Cuba tours guide Carlos was just perfect.
Must be something magical Cuba does to travelers, all relaxed, open minded, with no expectations but absorbing everything and document it.
It was impressive to feel how warm and passionate people are there, like a necessity to communicate and to help each other all the time, very different to our cultures which are conservative and individualistic.
So we agreed that besides seeing Cuba as complex whole, what really makes it exceptional is its people, that’s why I’m going to be specific on street photography and give some basic advices I consider are very important.
On the first day of this activity we were carrying all the gear in our backpacks, even when we were warned not to, all the lenses were packed in and some more photography stuff. It was heavy, sweaty and exhausting.
1• Advice 1: for street photography use a fixed lens for sure, is recommendable 28mm or 35mm, these are good sizes to capture the scene and stay close enough to the action. These lenses are nicely light for long work hours as well.
By using a fixed focal lens like these ones, the photographer is forced to get close to the people and generally travelers ignore how social Cubans are and how much they can interact which is the main disadvantage when using a zoom lens in this type of photography. That´s why my second advice.
2• Advice 2: approach, interact, be adventurous and explore.
Even if you are not fluid in Spanish try to communicate, Cubans will appreciate it and they are mostly happy to cooperate. Always smile, if a portrait is taken show them afterwards.
You could even be invited into a home, step in, I don’t think is dangerous at all but do it with precaution and for around five minutes. Other places like ration stores, farmer’s markets, barber shops and others are usually ok with photographers. Remember the key is to always smile and be friendly.
3• Advice 3: light clothes, lot of water, sunscreen and a hat.
This is quite general but Street photography is very spontaneous and requires a lot of outdoors time. Cuba is a tropical country, humid and hot all year around so it´s important to be well hydrated with mojitos and beers and protect yourself from sunburn.
From my experience there is a tremendous potential in Cuba for photography, in the cities and country side you will always find beautiful and interesting people.
I will go back soon to cover the east of the island and spend more time hanging around with the Cubans.