The Colonial Havana

18/Nov/2013

My film photographs of Cuba were taken in Havana, a city almost frozen in time with its colonial architecture and old cars. Present day Havana may still echo the 1950’s but I also find a vibrant culture with amazing music (despite being deaf!), African influences, and, of course, cigars, rum, and dancing!

In Havana I found it resourceful, proud and friendly people, all part of an urban landscape that is so visually rich that I had trouble deciding what not to photograph.

Cuba offers a myriad of artistic, social and sensual pleasures. The art, music and architecture are unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere, the tropical waters sparkling blue, and the people are as warm as a Caribbean breeze. Cuba has a way of going against the grain. It’s all part of its historical make-up, part of its dynamism, part of its intrinsic beauty.
I stayed at the Hotel Plaza in the Old Havana, it was pretty as the Caribbean’s largest and most vivacious city, Havana’s romantic atmosphere and infectious energy are the stuff of legend. The stomping ground for swashbuckling pirates, a heavily fortified slave port for the Spanish and a lucrative gambling capital for the North American Mafia (I read it history briefly from the old bookshop in Havana!), it’s survived everything that has been thrown at it and still found time to innovate. The old part of the city has spawned salsa and mambo, Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars, mural paintings, guys with bongos and old men slapping down dominoes and Che Guevara iconography. Everywhere I look there is a unique image begging to be recorded, especially the old antediluvian American Buicks cars are fun to photograph with some (very few) in pristine condition and the majority held together with – who knows what.
As someone else has said, Cuba is a poor country but the people are genuinely very friendly. Yes, I did get a little harassed at times; My Contax645 camera itself attracts attention of people, who will often ask to pose. Several times people saw my camera and suggested shots to me — sometimes because they wanted money, and sometimes not. And I did find the taxi drivers smoking chunky Monte Cristos frustrating – and the taxis didn’t seem very roadworthy!

My big thanks to Old Havana Ltd San Christobal UK agency and Mediterranean Ltd for organising the trip for me. Cheers

Contax645 & Leica M6

 Portra 160,Fuji 400h, 800 & Kodak 400tmx

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