Yesterday I opened my new exhibition ‘Antipodas’ here in Camaguey in Cuba with friend Paul Murray. By invitation from the Minister of Arts of Cuba, the exhibition includes a curated selection of twenty of my Fine Art Prints of Emperor Penguins from Gould Bay in Antarctica and a selection of Paul’s work from our 2018 Namibia workshop. Each of my photographs was printed on Moab Somerset Museum Rag in 20” x 30” format. Since travel from Australia to Cuba with twenty framed prints of this size was logistically impossible, we chose to display them unframed with a wall hanging system; which has worked exceptionally well. The opening was a smash success with well over a hundred people in attendance with standing room only.
The exhibition will remain on display here in Camaguey until December before it makes its way to Santiago De Cuba and finally to Havana where it will conclude at the end of February 2020. Some of these photographs will also be on display at my new Frozen in Time Exhibition opening in Melbourne Australia in June next year. You can download a digital catalogue of the photographs from the Cuba exhibit HERE.
About Cuba: This has been my first visit to Cuba and it has certainly left an impression on me. Cuba itself is like a wax museum with a pulse. It is a place frozen in time that bustles with friendly energy, street charm and that oozes character from its many cobblestone streets. It is far removed from my usual travel destinations and the sort of photographic opportunities it offers are a distant galaxy to my Polar landscape and wildlife work. Of course, the temperature and humidity here are far from my preferred environment, but one has to accept that it is the Caribbean after all.
In regards to the Cuban street photography scene – Personally, I find the sort and type of street photography Cuba offers either far too voyeristic, when executed with a telephoto lens from a distance; or far to confronting when engaging at close range with a wide angle lens (which is really what is required to produce the best work). The huge socio economic divide strikes a deep and sensitive chord that makes me at best uncomfortable; even when I have engaged with the subject and have their permission to take the photograph. I should note at this point, that in my experience, the people of Cuba are exceptionally warm, friendly and inviting. However, the socio economic divide remains an invisible and impenatrable barrier for me that I personally really struggle with. I do very much love and appreciate street photography when it is well executed, but feel no need or desire to force myself out of my comfort zone just to get a photograph. By contrast, I am quite comfortable in Nature sitting in a hide day after day in freezing temperatures, or searching the frozen sea ice in search of Polar bears – I love this process and that is what matters to me. I would much rather be face-to-face with a Polar bear on the sea ice than face-to-face with humanity in the street. Ironically, I can see great photographs everywhere as I wander the streets of Cuba, but the process of street photography is quite simply not for me. Fortunately, I can enjoy the many evocative and powerful photographs in a work such as Vivir Con * in my own time and from the comfort of my own living room.
If you are a dedicated street photographer I think you will find Cuba is just about nirvana. Between the old cars, the rustic dilapidated buildings, and the friendly faces full of character on every corner there is enough material here to keep even the most ardent and dedicated street photographer active for weeks at a time. I can clearly see why so many street photographers are drawn to the urban scene in Cuba. I can sum up my thoughts by acknowledging that Cuba may be a street photographers paradise, but I am no street photographer.
* Vivir Con by Carolina Sandretto is a highly engaging and emotional exposition into Cuban family life and the relationships between the spaces they live in. I may well review this book in full at a later date, but in short, I highly recommend you consider adding this powerful work to your photographic library.