I just received with great joy and honor excellent news. One of the portrait photos made during my last tour in Cuba was a finalist in the prestigious Kuala Lumpur International PhotoAwards 2020.
According to their own words, The Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards, is an annual global portrait photography prize seeking the very best and fresh entries from photographers of all levels in two main categories – Single Image open and a Project-based or themed category. Initiated in 2009, KLPA is recognized as a significant and vital award in the photography calendar, supporting and rewarding contemporary portraiture practice, especially in the South East Asian region.
If you know me, you also know that portraits are among the most appealing genres amidst the great variety of subjects in travel photography. Particularly when it can be done in a way that dignifies people and connects with the culture of the place I am visiting.
I entered the awards in the single image category, the awarded photo ranked in the top 40 finalists between over 1200 entries. The finalists’ exhibition is planned between September 12 and October 18, 2020, the ILHAM Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.
Cuban Ballerina was photographed in Havana, Cuba, in January of 2020.
Dance is one of the most recognized cultural heritages in Cuba. Worldwide recognized for its music, salsa and rumba are always among the first things people associate with the Caribbean nation. However, Cuba is also acknowledged as one of the main spotlights for the world’s best ballet dancers.
Environmental portraits are always an essential part of documenting a place, its people, and its culture. The iconic Ballerina Alicia Alonso created the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1948, becoming what is today amongst the most prominent dance companies in the world and part of Cuba’s culture.
The goal of this portrait was to connect dance and the distinct architecture of Havana. A place that endured two independence wars, a revolution, a United States embargo, and over fifty years of neglect, Havana is complex to conjecture, and yet captivating.
The most traditional buildings in Havana are found in the area known as “La Habana Vieja,” Old Havana. That’s the place I headed to create this portrait. There are many similar hallways and entrances in different levels of disrepairs around the streets of Old Havana, but this one in particular, had all the necessary elements to convey the sense of place. Beyond the typical entryway, the need for repairs, this entrance also features a graffiti with the Cuban flag and small inscription to the side that reads, “El arte, un arma de la revolución;” The art, one the arms of the revolution.
The ballerina is Ana Martha Zamora Echazabal; she is a humble and fantastic person and a member of the Cuban National Ballet Company. We roamed through Havana, making photos in different scenarios, but the one in this particular building and her pose is my favorite, representing Cuba and its love for ballet. She seems to be effortlessly floating in the air, with the arms leading the view to the Cuban flag with a slight sense of motion.
This photograph was taken with the Fuji X-T3, and the lens is the Fuji XF16-55 mm 2.8, ISO 1250, Aperture 2.8 Shutter Speed 1/60 sec. There is also a flash Godox V1 helping to fill light on her camera right with a dome diffuser.
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