The Malecon, Habana

You may recall that I had said that I wanted to post a final set of photographs of Havana’s grand and crumbling esplanade, the Malecon; you may also recall that I’d  said that it might be some time before I got to this, what with the move back to South Africa, finding a house and a car, moving, settling in and so on and so on.

This doesn’t mean I had forgotten: so here, then, is a first set of photographs, taken one mild and mellow evening at the beginning of our stay in Havana, as the sun was going down over the harbour mouth and the twin forts that guard its entrance.

For me, these images have something to say, not only about an evening, a tourist attraction, but something, too, about Cuba. I hope you enjoy them.

– There is a final set of images, still to come, of the Malecon, taken on another day, as we walked from the Vedado end of the 8 kilometre avenue and sea-wall. But that will be for another time.

Dateline Johannesburg

Dateline Johannesburg: Tuesday, 28 February

With Rob arriving tomorrow from Toronto, and moving house on Friday – not to mention my workload – there will be little time over the next week or ten days for photography and blogging. So I thought I should get in early, and schedule a post for Sunday: (almost) my last post of images from Havana.

I have one more series of images in mind, of Havana’s Malecon, the 8 km esplanade that runs from the harbour mouth in Old Havana along the coast to Vedado. And, when I have time, I will set up an Havana portfolio online, in Behance and Adobe Portfolio.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these images – and think of us, as you do so, unpacking and settling into our new home in Jo’burg.

Modernity bypassed…

Another Sunday, another post. Once again, Havana – a few images, this time, a sampling, of some of the marvellous Art Deco and modernist architecture that flowers, unexpectedly, amongst the colonial ruins of old Havana.

Their homage to the airplane, the machine, jazz and the cinema, a striving for escape velocity. How ironic, then, to see them stranded.

I’ve chosen, on this occasion, to present the photographs in colour – I’ve a feeling they might work as well, or better, in black and white also.

Habana Vieja: street scenes

There is more to Havana than just Habana Vieja: and there are a lot more images to process and – geez, if I were more pretentious than I like to think I am – ‘curate.’

But before I move on – to art deco suburban architecture, 50s cars and cinemas, the melancholy drama of the Malecon – there is (for now, anyway) a final set of images of the old town to be posted.

As with the last post, I’ve done these in colour: much as I love black and white, the way it reveals, caresses, form and texture, you just have to show the leprous bloom, the fatal opulence of Habana Vieja, in colour.

 

Habana Vieja: looking in

You visit Havana, you don’t want to be just a nosy outsider, a tactless tourist, a peeping voyeur – and yet, the place is so different, both in the world that you see before you and in the things you can’t see, but know or imagine are there, that your senses stand on tiptoe to peer into stairwells, catch glimpses of interiors when the doors or the windows lean open. So I took a few photos, of doors and stairwells – not too many, just a few – which I thought I would share with you.

They are, if you like, both images and symbols.

From Havana, with astonishment

Havana is like no other place I have been to, too layered, complex, brave, catastrophic – too much human experience compacted into one decaying, living, breathing city – to write about or photograph easily. And now that we are back in safe, sane, organized, clean Toronto, we are back also in the mode of ‘planification’  – preparing for tomorrow’s farewell party, preparing for my departure for South Africa on Wednesday – and in a place where meditation, thought, writing, and the making of images – not to mention figuring out what to even think about an astonishing city – must await a quieter time and another day.

Which is a long, roundabout way of saying, we are back, we are fine, we had an amazing time – and there will be photos and commentary to follow.

In the meanwhile, just one – fairly benign – image as a teaser: the famous Malacon.

The Malacon, Havana.jpg

Thinking of Havana

A good deal of what we loosely think of as ‘travel photography’ is of the Facebook-posting or family album variety – ‘this is where we went, this is what we did, this is who we were with.’ It’s straightforward, innocuous, innocent even: ‘my hols’ as a diary in pictures or travel journal.

Then there is ‘travel’ as genre, an altogether more complex, and comprised (compromising?) form of photographic endeavour. Its most familiar format is the travel magazine or travel article, and its premise is promotion – promotion of destinations, scenes, peoples, cultures. Its intent is to impress, to amaze, to shock or surprise, and ultimately to sell, in the many different senses of ‘selling.’ Its stock in trade is ‘the other,’ as in ‘look how different/fabulous/wonderful/weird/exotic’ this is.

And then, perhaps, at the opposite end of the scale to the Facebook selfie, and standing outside of travel as genre, there are the images taken by the thoughtful photographer who happens to be travelling, who finds himself (or herself) in locations that are outside of his usual experience, but who remains, primarily, a photographer – an observer and image maker. The premise here is not promotion but photography; its focus is the image, not the other.

How to tell the two apart – the travel genre from the work of the traveling photographer – is of course the question, one which has vexed me much as I think about how to approach the complex subject of photographing Havana. For Rob and I have booked ourselves a five day holiday in Cuba, flying out from a wintry Toronto on the last day of the old year, and waking up in Havana on the first day of the new. Havana has been on our bucket-list for ages, and with our move back to South Africa now imminent, this seemed the time to do it. Who knew, when we booked, that we would be arriving soon after the death of Fidel Castro, in a time (one imagines) of questioning and ferment, however subdued things might seem to be on the surface.

How to disentangle oneself from the familiar tropes – Havana as time-capsule, political drama, history-in-amber – and enter with some openness and integrity into so different a milieu and experience will be a question for both of us, just as visitors and observers. How to make images that are honest, alongside the inevitable album variety, that say something as images, and speak to what is seen and experienced, will be even more of a challenge. After all, how many images of Havana are branded already into our collective consciousness?