Colors of Cuba

Rhapsody in Red and Green

As I am working on printing my photographs for my upcoming exhibition on Cuba, I keep being astounded by all the beautiful colors that I see as the prints come out of my printer.  While I was there, I felt the same way.  This image was made on a boat trip around an island in Santiago Bay soon after we arrived.  I loved the colors of the rooftops and the whimsically painted boards set against the green trees and blue skies.  Though the people are not well off and lack many of the comforts most of us demand, there was such beauty in their homes, which fit perfectly within the landscape.   The light also illuminated the colors making them glow.  It was truly a feast for the eyes.

Ruins in the Golden Light
Santiago is besieged by both hurricanes and earthquakes.  How anything remains standing there is frankly a mystery.  In the towns, they have very stringent codes, but out of the city along the coastline things are different.  We came to this small town on the way back from the bay just as the sun was setting.  The others went to photograph the children riding their bikes down the street, but I was drawn to the setting sun and wandered off to this building.  Though it was abandoned and everything was falling apart, it was still bathed in this incredible light.  I stood in awe.  It made me realize that even though most tragic circumstances can be viewed optimistically in the right light and that the connotations surrounding abandoned buildings are all in the eye of the beholder.  Anything can be beautiful and magical, even dissolution.

Poverty in Paradise
From Santiago, we traveled to Baracoa, where I posted a previous blog about the Taino and the Toa River.  The image above was taken along the coastline.   Everyone I spoke with in Santiago asked where I was going next and when I said Baracoa, many of them said they had always dreamed of going there and that it was so beautiful.  When we got there, the waters edge by the nice hotel we were staying at was indeed lovely.  The following morning, after I made an image of the sunrise in the nice spot, I decided to go somewhere else to get another vantage point.  My companions and I stumbled upon this stretch of beach.  I made a few photographs looking out to sea, but then this incredible light started illuminating everything behind me.  I was amazed as the trees shimmered and the trash turned into jewels.  It took me a moment to recognize the homeless person lying on an elevated makeshift bed.  Immediately, I thought poverty is much better in paradise.  No wonder everyone wanted to be here. Amazingly, I actually had to desaturate the colors in this image because I knew the way the light hit everything would be too much for most people to believe.  This is Cuba.

Old Car Juxtaposed Against a Golden Building Beneath the Full Moon
In Havana, the cars were of course incredible.  This one was taken right across from our hotel in the late afternoon.  The way the buildings were lit up and their antiquity magically displayed almost made me think of a golden age–especially with the full moon in the background.  Everywhere I looked in Cuba there was something wonderful to see.  The streets were full of character and the people open and natural.  The impersonal walls of modernity had not yet been erected.

Marketplace Alley, Havana
My last morning, I wandered off to the marketplace with a fabulous Russian street photographer who was part of our group.  I learned so much from him about candid shots and being ready.  Previously, I always felt intrusive about making images of people.  Together, the two of us talked and connected with all kinds of interesting people.  Instead of being afraid of people, I became drawn into their worlds and fascinated by every glance and gesture they made.

There are many more photographs I will be sharing this weekend in Gainesville and I will post more in the days to come.  This is just a little taste of the colors of Cuba...