Landscapes take time.
Time to scout.
Time to learn:
– where to be to find an interesting subject and a composition.
– when to be there …. the season, month, day, and hour.
– what light you want …. morning, evening, or something in between.
So you go, armed with all your knowledge, and then you are still at the mercy of the weather.
Sometimes you get shut out, but sometimes you get lucky.
Having been to Vinales, Cuba only twice before, I considered myself lucky on the third trip.
We had some delicate valley fog one morning so four of us grabbed a taxi and offered the driver some money to take us about 4 miles out of town and drop us off. We planned to walk back and shoot on the way. It took some explaining to convince the driver that we were serious.
Simple tools for simple jobs does not mean the jobs are easy.
Here, workers re-pave a section of the cobblestone street near Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba. Picks, shovels, and hoes are used to remove the stones. The area is leveled with gravel and the stones are refitted and tamped into place with wooden posts.
On this July day the work done is in the cool shade of early morning.
“This is a rough neighborhood”
“You shouldn’t be here with a camera”
“Be careful around here”
These are some of the warnings I got from the friendly Cubans I passed while exploring the neighborhood near the Havana train station.
This particular morning I had my Cuban photographer friend Luis Diaz with me. He seemed concerned with our safety, so I made an effort to be extra observant. We continued to explore and happened upon a street where there was a community effort to beautify the neighborhood.
I’m happy that we were not scared off.
I’m often asked: Is it changing?
In Habana Vieja and Centro Habana there are many ongoing construction projects, including building new hotels and refurbishing or rebuilding old hotels.
For the past year there has been a concerted effort to upgrade the electric service by removing the wires from sidewalks and them placing underground. Also the water lines are being replaced with new plastic pipe.
As a side note: There is no water pressure in the homes as we know it. The water is supplied to the streets by the government. The people then have to pump the water to cisterns or plastic tanks on the roofs of their buildings. From here it is gravity fed to kitchens and baths in people’s apartments.
Of course the haphazard trench digging down the middle of heavily used streets creates problems. Garbage cannot be collected and people have nowhere to safely walk.
I did find some children who were having a good time though. They were playing in some fresh, clean sand used to bury the lines.
I heard the sirens and saw the crowd gathering. Several police and fire vehicles arrived and were followed by unmarked government cars. I walked quickly along the Malecón toward the action. As I approached, I realized that officials were not in any particular hurry. I wiggled my way up to the seawall and soon discovered that there was a body washed up on the rocks. As I observed the authorities drag the body out to rendezvous with a patrol boat, I noticed how quiet and somber the crowd was. This festive horde of rum drinkers and dancers stood by with real concern on their faces.
What were they thinking? I imagined that they were wondering if the poor dead man drown while trying to escape from the island. Perhaps he was washed overboard from some make-shift raft. Perhaps he was shot by a military patrol.
I think it was a stark reminder to all about where and how they are forced to live.
I’m always watching. Watching people. Watching traffic. Watching life go by. That’s why I prefer a window seat when I fly, ride, or sit for a quick lunch; as I was in this case.
While I waited for my sandwich this poor woman on the sidewalk came up and touched my arm. She wanted money for food. Lots of people need money for food in Havana. I politely said no several times, but she wouldn’t leave. She kept pleading to me with her eyes. Of course, I gave in.
Kilometro Zero is one of my new favorite lunch stops in Havana. Good food, good prices, and if you are lucky, a window seat.
Sometimes the shot jumps out at you and you have to react quickly. You compose and shoot without conversation because you know it won’t last. After a burst of 3, 4, or 5 shots you look at your camera to see if you can refine the image. It’s then that you realize that you got caught. Caught in the act of capturing someone’s daily life. Most of the time they put up with it. Sometimes they flash you a smile or a Cuban two-fingered salute. Once in a while they yell, wave you off, demand money, or simply disappear. In those cases, I’ll try to make amends with small talk, gifts, or a CUC.
I love photographing in Havana. I get away with a lot.
Caught – the wave off.
Caught, but ……..
Caught – Cuban with a big knife.
…. and a smile,
so I approach …. (he’s still smiling)
Caught – two-fingered salute.
Caught – with a handful.