An Alternative View of Cuba
S C Bachus
These mostly monochrome images reflect the history, culture and people photographed December 2015 in Cuba.
These photographs were taken during a two-week tour of Cuba in December 2015. Their style and subjects, however, are not what is customarily associated with the variegated images often snapped from the windows of a fast-moving tour bus. The subjects of all twenty photographs indeed reflect Cuban culture and history. But many of them - the work of a master potter, a canon, a shadowed cathedral at dusk -- might be found anywhere in the world. In this sense these images are not documentary. They were not taken to prove that the photographer journeyed to Cuba, saw the requisite points of interest, and recorded them for future reference. To the contrary and viewed contextually, the images of Cuba displayed here suggest an alternative view of a country whose historical struggles for a sustainable sovereignty have not been few.
This collection's photographs also provide an alternative view of Cuba from a stylistic standpoint. Cuba is a colorful country both in terms of culture and chromatics. In contrast sixteen of the twenty photographs selected are displayed monochromatically in black and white. This approach requires a bit of explanation. In 1933 the young photographer, Walker Evans, was contracted by the American journalist Carleton Beals, to provide photographs for Beals' forthcoming book, the The Crime of Cuba which was subsequently published in 1934 and chronicled the dictatorship of then Cuban head of state, Gerado Machado. Reflected in the images of the hardships endured by the Cuban people, Evans' skill as a photo-journalist not only enhanced Beals' book, but also later identified the young self-proclaimed socialist as a photographer of some note. After his arrival in Havana in May 1933, Evans stayed at the Hotel Ambos Mundos where he met Ernest Hemingway. He and Hemingway became friends. They discussed writing and photography with the result that Hemingway's terse narrative style likely influenced Evans photographic approach to Cuba's struggles. One suspects that Evans appreciated Hemingway's sparsely written prose with its attendant absence of superfluous color because this was how Evan's viewed the power of black and white photographs to capture the socio-economic struggles of the Cuban people. Likewise, this collection of Cuban photographs are mostly monochromatic with the cosmetic mask of color stripped from the image's subject, leaving its inherent structure -- its essence and immanence -- exposed. In this alternative view of Cuba hopefully there will be some element of the island' s enduring spirit and beauty.
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