Distilled Goals for Cuba


On The Road with Charles Kuralt is an example of how a simple well told story can be inspiring. In the CBS Lillehammer Olympic phone book my name was listed above his in a humbling alphabetic honor. During an all-to-brief conversation he told me how rewarding it was to go to small towns & hear the stories people would share with him. My trip to Cuba is an attempt of emulating his examination of the simple things in life. The work of others can be a strong motivation.

My goals for my Photo Essay are focused on people. I hope to turn my lack of Spanish into an asset via my guide/interpreter. I’ve worked on interviews via interpreter & they slow the exchange giving time for reflection.

I’m anticipating the camera will become a conduit to get involved with persons I meet. My wide-angle ambition is to document individuals in their daily lives & interview them. As much as possible I want to observe objectively without preconceived judgment.

My photography goals are to get formal portraits in natural settings & candid shots of their routines. I also want to get unguarded images of daily activities that reflect life in their communities.

The interviews will deal with family/history, inspiration, school, happy/sad memories, & day to day activities . I’m looking to explore subjects common in most cultures. I will also inquire about the future. Since the Internet is not a dominant part of their society, I want to discuss their perspective on how it will impact their lives.

Originally I was planning on departing on 11/30. By the time I was ready to book the flights those dates were no longer available. Initially, I was disappointed. In hindsight I’m glad it was postponed. If I had arrived as per my original plan it would have been 4 days after the death of Fidel & it would likely have dominated conversations. Hopefully, now that 2 months have past, other topics I am curious about can be discussed.

If during our conversations they bring up Fidel I will respectfully listen. If they bring up the history of the US government & its dealings with Cuba I will do the same. If they ask about the new US administration…I don’t know what the fuck I will say. I don’t want to dwell on politics. Individuals aren’t defined solely by their government or their leaders.

As is my nature, I like to go places off the beaten path so I will not be going to Havana. With no disrespect to the city or people, I want to experience smaller cities & towns. I fly into & out of Cienfuegos with stops in Pinar del Rio, Vinales, Santa Clara & Trinidad. Of these Santa Clara, with a population of 250 K, is the largest.

Some subjects/locations I will be working with my guide to coordinate are: Farms, cigar rolling, boxing, dancing studios, fishing village, musicians, art, rum, families, dominoes, religion & a barber shop. These ideas are a starting point & I will leave myself open to unexpected opportunities. Since I am fond of street photography, architecture & the natural world I will be keeping my eye aware for these subjects.

Many photogs have done fantastic work with classic cars & also because I’m not a car guy I won’t be looking for vintage cars. Although, there are some road trips in my itinerary.

The one profession that is my dream interview is a “Reader”. I’m not sure if this job exists outside of Cuba. I will do the Snoopy dance, with a few salsa moves, if I am lucky enough find an individual that has done this.

Another aspect of the trip I’m looking forward to is staying in Casa Particulars. As I understand these places are a cross between a home stay & a B/B. I want to interact on a casual basis with the families I stay with. This is one of the few private business the government allows individual Cubans to operate. I look forward to the challenges my minimalist Spanish will create with my hosts.

I have a philosophical challenge within my motivation. While change is constant, the perceived pace in Cuba is more dramatic & I would like to document that. However, still photography only captures a brief moment & doesn’t represent more than the instant the shutter was snapped.  I hope to be aware enough to capture juxtapositions that show the evolution of everyday people.

A still image captures emotions better than documenting culture. Upcoming posts on this blog will blend multiple images & writing to share my experiences. The stories will not be told in real time. Rather they will evolve in the months ahead on bi-monthly postings.

Thru photography & interacting with people I aim to get a first-hand view of Cuban culture. I now know some history of their struggle for freedom. I’m curious if this fuels their national pride. Since this blog is about motivation I want to tap into their inspiration. I want to get a grasp on how they deal with the challenges of daily life.

To those I meet, I also want to be an example of what a friendly neighbor looks like.

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