Two independence wars, a revolution, a United States trade embargo, and over 50 years of neglect: Havana is complex and difficult to conjecture, yet engaging on its own.
For us photographers, the appeal is everywhere. Typical Spanish architecture, recently renovated buildings along with others in need of some tender loving care, patinated walls, old classic cars, an up-and-coming food scene plus its charming inhabitants always ready to tend a welcome smile.
Some travel restrictions remain, especially for Americans, who can only travel in Cuba as long as they qualify for one of the twelve authorized categories. People-to-People travel is still an option provided that visitors are engaged on a full educational schedule. Although the Caribbean nation is changing rapidly, it still seems like utterly hidden for some. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long to notice that you’re in a place that’s out of the ordinary when you first land in Havana.
I’ve been to Havana a few times during the last year, mostly for short periods, and of course, I’ve managed to make some photographs along the way. This post is a recollection of some of my favorite Havana photos.
Since 1982, Old Havana has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike in other parts of the city, the buildings around here are mostly restored, the streets are clean, and there is a variety of restaurant and tourist offerings, as most visitors mingle around here. Beyond the areas benefited by the flourishing tourist industry, the harsh fact of Cuba’s Castro shows a different reality. In other neighborhoods, buildings are crumbling and in disrepair, or even collapsing because there aren’t funds for restorations. I believe that photography plays a functional role here: on the one hand, the restored buildings are genuinely fantastic and worth photographing, and on the other side, the decaying structures also deserve to be registered in order to tell a complete and compelling story about this city.
Cuba is a melting pot. Its multicultural heritage is diverse, with influence from Spain, West Africa, and of course, Latin America. Cubans are very welcoming, and you can feel a great sense of community everywhere you go. On a typical afternoon, you find people walking the streets, gossiping in corners, boys playing soccer with cleverly improvised goal posts, and musicians and fishermen in the Malecon.
Can’t finish the post without mentioning the obvious: classic American cars. Because of the embargo, after the revolution, American cars ceased to be imported into Cuba. Yes, there were some imports from Russia, but mainly the old American classics still reign on the streets of Havana. These are now one of the attractions too, as this is probably one of the countries with the highest concentration of these antiques circulating. Needless to say,y thank-you to the skilled locals that succeed in fixing and keeping them running. You can find them everywhere. Naturally, the ones in better shape are being used to drive visitors around. I spent time every visit looking for compositions and situations to incorporate the cars into my images.
All the photographs in this post were taken with different Fuji cameras. As I traveled on several occasions and for different lengths of time, I took different bodies every time, depending on the opportunities I knew beforehand that I was going to have to get out and make photos. So there were trips where time was limited and I only brought the Fuji X-100F; other times, I brought the X-T2 and a couple of lenses, and when I knew I had more time, I brought the Fuji GFX 50s. All of them performed greatly.
Havana continues to be alluring to me; there is so much culture and history here that I am pretty sure I will continue to make sporadic visits and keep documenting it. Chances are I’ll also be hosting a photo tour or workshop in Havana at some point in 2019. If you’d like to be informed, please subscribe by clicking here to the interest list for Havana to get the first opportunity to register when this opens up. If you like my content, you can also click here to subscribe and get notifications of new posts and travels right in your inbox.
That’s all for now. If you like any of the photos from Havana and you want to buy prints, just click here to access the lightbox and see the different options.