No es facil.
When in Cuba, you’ll like hear these words which means, “It’s not easy.” For a country that has faced more challenges than probably all Wimbledon and cricket umpires combined, you’d expect nothing less.
However, whatever ills– social or otherwise– that is hurting Cuba, it doesn’t show, at least in still images. Interestingly enough, Cuba is one of photography friendly places in the world because of the simplicity, purity, and disposition of its people, not to mention the picturesque towns and the Cubans’ interesting way of life. They have known hardships all their life that it probably got to the point that it doesn’t bother them anymore. Whenever you are around people like that, it just shows.
Now, back to the point of Cuba being a photographer’s paradise that is not an overstatement by any means. Old, run-down cars, two hundred year-old mansions, distinctive local characters, everything– they are all yours– waiting to be captured by the lenses and preserved forever in a striking photograph.
Look around and it’s an assemblage of subjects. Walk a little farther and throngs of inviting moments greet you. It could be an overloaded bus that fitted 200 people inside (now, that’s an exaggeration), a group of kids playing soccer in an alley using under-inflated basketballs, or older men with cigars settled in their mouths ready puff their concerns away, Cuba is a heavy bag of adventure, its stories simply waiting to be told.
While everyday Cuban life dwarfs Hollywood’s biggest narratives in comparison, it’s not the only thing that catches a photographer’s fancy. For example, the Havana Vieja’s (Old Havana) confined streets are littered with remodeled Spanish structures like the Havana Cathedral and the adjacent square, all having immense photographic potential. If you want help from nature’s natural lightings, doing shots at dawn is encouraged, with enough time to catch the stunning Caribbean sunrise merge with the saffron-colored buildings. That is the very definition of stunning!
Of course, it’s not Cuba without capturing even a small part of its revolutionary past. It’s the equivalent of the photographic cliches in many of the world’s places, like taking a picture under London’s Big Ben or Paris’ Eiffel Tower. There is now way around it; it absolutely HAS to be done.
In Cuba, having shot a photograph in the Capitolio Building or the Plaza de la Revolucion is the unwritten rule. These locations are 10 minutes apart (by a taxi ride) and both provide interesting angles to play with, both artistically and historically. The Capitolio Building’s gorgeous facade is a favorite among tourists. However, because of poor lighting inside– which is now a museum– would-be picture takers may need to use a higher ISO or a faster lens. And that is just half of it. At Plaza de la Revolucion, there’s a huge memorial for Cuba’s National Hero Jose Marti and a mural for probably one of the most well-known revolutionary figures in the world– Che Guevara. Missing photographs in these historic places is total travesty!
As you might recognize by now, Cuba is a country of contradictions. They have a rich and lively history but their way of living is not the definition of comfort. They will be empowered to experience comfort and learn lessons through success and failure. The Cubans will definitely touch your heart as well as your lens.