La Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Old Havana contains the core of the original city of Havana. A World Heritage Site, Old Havana is a warren of narrow streets lined by 3,000 old buildings, some dating back to the 17th century. Although the Cuban government has tried to restore and preserve Old Havana, it has greatly deteriorated over the last 50 years due to age, decay and neglect, as well natural forces such as the devastating 2008 hurricane. I made this image of the activity along one of its streets from the rooftop of a hotel just after dawn, just as the morning light painted the entire scene in golden tones. I built this image around the glimmer of light reflecting off the license plate of a parked car. I made dozens of exposures of this scene, and chose this particular image because of the scale references offered by the four people flanking the parked car at this moment.
Art Deco reflections, Havana, Cuba, 2012
The curved windowpanes of this art deco office building in downtown Havana offer an ever changing array of abstracted reflections, depending on the position of the morning sun. I made this image from a nearby rooftop vantage point, taking advantage of the warm golden light that creates a mosaic of the surrounding architecture within these reflections.
Gesture, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Early morning shooting is based entirely on the color, intensity, and angle of the light itself. While photographing from a downtown Havana rooftop, I noticed a couple having a discussion as they stood between entrances to various living quarters on a neighboring rooftop. As the woman points towards one of these entrances, I noticed a shadow of her gesture touching the shadow of the man’s elbow. That shadow gives the image its power as communication – intensifying the urgency of her gesture. It is the angle of the light that produces the shadows and creates the message of this photograph.
Present and past, Havana, Cuba, 2012
I also made this image from a rooftop high over the center of downtown Havana. It is the early morning light that gives this image its beauty, abstraction, and meaning. That light reflects off the pavement, creating a river of gold from top to bottom of the well-worn concrete. I photographed the passage of numerous people and automobiles upon this gilded street. This is the image that creates the simplest and most relevant message. The extended shadows of the pedestrians lengthen their strides. The 1950’s American car, its characteristic tail fins clearly defined, anchors the image at the bottom of the frame. It seems to chase the shadow of its own colorful history. This is Havana, both present and past.
Balcony portrait, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Framed within the door to the balcony of a 19th century apartment building, this man strikes a macho pose as he gazes into my lens just across the street from my rooftop vantage point. It is a portrait full of contradictions – the peeling paint and trim speak of decay and neglect, yet the ornamentation was once intended to communicate wealth and refinement. The pose, chosen spontaneously by the subject without a spoken word, conveys strength and self-confidence. Yet for all of its bravado, the pose still competes with the incongruous pink feminine garment hanging before him on the clothesline. Its color provides a focal point for the entire image.
Food truck, Havana, Cuba, 2012
My high rooftop vantage point offered the only possible way to make such an image as this one. I reveal not only the food truck itself, but more importantly, exactly what it contains. A pile of orange carrots seems to explode on the roof of the cab, it’s thrust amplified by the extended arm of the driver, about to pull out into the oncoming traffic. The interior of the truck bed is dominated by piles of green bananas, along with sacks of other vegetables. The white plastic bag in the center of the truck draws the eye into the picture, making the reclining figure of the worker within the shadows just above it appear to us almost as a surprise. He grips the side of the truck with one hand as he stabilizes the other on the food below him. The rusting food truck, manned by a symbolic arm and a man resting on a bed of vegetables, becomes a metaphorical symbol for the vulnerable Cuban economy, surviving through hard labor and making the most of what it has.
Journey into the past, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Most of the taxis that ply Havana’s crowded streets are over fifty years old. They are vintage American cars, kept running through sheer ingenuity and little money. Their exhaust fumes create considerable pollution – there are no environmental standards enforced on the streets of Havana. I made this image from a rooftop, just as a passenger lowered himself into the back seat. Two doors are open -- the young man at the bottom of the frame seems to be waiting for more passengers. It is a moment of decision – who is coming, and who is going? The rich blue color glows in the early morning light, making the ancient car seem full of energy and promise.
Cobbled together, Havana, Cuba, 2012
A vintage American automobile rattles around a tight corner and heads towards us. It has obviously been repaired many times over the last half century. One of its headlight panels is green, while the rest of the body glows in iridescent blue. Cuba’s vast aftermarket of used auto parts, along with an army of knowledgeable mechanics, keep such cars as this on the road, year after year. I wanted to stress the patchwork repairs that went into this car by shooting it head on. I include not only the green headlight panel, but also feature the fog lamps mounted on the rusty bumper. One seems to glow, the other does not.
Primary colors, Havana, Cuba, 2012
I framed this parked blue taxi and waited for either a yellow or a red taxi to sweep past it. Within a few moments, a red hood and fender entered the frame, and I was able to juxtapose these two primary colors side by side. These old American cars have been repainted many times by their Cuban owners through the years, and add the flavor of a time warp to Havana’s energetic atmosphere. The lone hand on the window frame of the blue car humanizes the image, isolating the passenger in a sea of color.
Fighter, Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Most boxing fans have never heard of this gym, yet it is one of the Havana’s great sporting venues. One of the oldest boxing clubs in Havana, many of Cuba’s Olympic champions have at one time trained here. Although its equipment is ancient, it offers first-rate training from the ground up. It is an open-air facility, and we were visited it in the late morning when the sun was high and the light was harsh. Yet this high overhead light provided the punch (pun intended) for this shot. The vertical shadows of the ropes on the canvas floor draw the eye to the boxer practicing on the opposite side of the ring. I caught his arm as it echoed the thrust of the shadows. At the same time, I framed him within the horizontal ropes that give the scene its identity.
Concentration, Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Stripped to the waist, the young fighters working out at this historic Cuban gym demonstrate the pressures and tensions of the sport. The furrowed brow and single eye, framed by the clenched fists, say it all here. The softly focused boxer in the background adds context.
Intensity, Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym, Havana, Cuba, 2012
The hands of this boxer crush rolls of tape, strengthening muscles and tendons that must bear the brunt of the attack. I photographed this boxer dozens of times as he worked out, and this image conveyed the most intensity I saw all morning.