I’ve been starting to edit up my Cuba photos as part of a blog series I want to write on my travels there. It’s been taking so long because there’s just so many! Especially of the events around the passing of Fidel Castro. And when I start pondering slowly through them, whenever I look at a photo too long, or when I’ve been looking at a set of ten or so photos I’ve done on continuous shoot, the more I look at the changes in the faces the more I see stories I want to write up. So many stories between all these people. There are all these connections happening in every photo, so it makes it hard to let go of the photos I know that I won’t use. Especially when I feel connected to a photo subject, because I remember being there, and the energy coming from that person, or that creature, or that environment. They all feel charged and alive with electricity of a moment suspended.
And also, I find myself rediscovering new stories through my photographs. Like some of the photos I took at the demonstrations, I would take 20 pictures at a time, trying to capture the exact emotion in their face as they were shouting the words of a song. And as I’m scrolling through these pictures, having found the right one and seeing what else there was left, I’ll see someone looking at them with a funny expression, or I can see the tightening of their knuckles on something they’re holding, or sometimes even the subject of the photo will look at me. I find that a lot, where right in the middle of a shoot, someone is looking straight at me and there’s a sudden smile, something I didn’t see before. It takes me off guard sometimes, and makes me smile back, and I wish I could go back and speak to that person again. But there it is! I like it as well when I’ve focused on a subject, but then I go back a few photos and I see them doing something entirely different, something that completely goes against what I thought I was taking a photo of them for. Like they’ll be fierce and angry in one photo, but in the early photo, they’ll be cracking up about a joke I didn’t hear.
Anyway, Cuba was different for me. I took a lot of photos of people, which I haven’t done before. Not at these close quarters anyway. I had a small lens most of my time there, especially on the days I didn’t have a chance to ask my photographer friend who was with me whether I could switch to anything else, and I think I didn’t really need to, because it made me move around a lot, and it made me frame in a different way, getting closer than sometimes I felt comfortable with. So it pushed me really, which I think helped me to think about things a little more dynamically.
Of course I would have wanted to take more nature photos but there was so much happening in Havana, which stopped anything else from happening. However I did go to the two nature hotspots near Havana which I was very desperate to go to – the very famous Vinales, and the less famous eco-tourism village called Las Terrazas. I took lots of photos of the first one, when I was still travelling with Emmanuel but the second one, embarrassingly… I lost all my photos. I put them on an SD card or a memory stick, and managed to leave them somewhere in Cuba. I am so glad that it was those I lost, rather than my photos of Havana and Vinales, as those were the ones I really focused on and spent a lot of time with, but it’s still a shame. But, good news – when I traveled to Las Terrazas, I went with a couple from Switzerland who were also taking a lot of photos on their camera as well as on their GoPro. So I should be able to put some of those pictures up too.
I normally find I get no life from the city, that I’m lost in grey buildings and busy lives, aching to go out to the country. So Havana for me was an unexpected love story, and exactly why I spent so long there. Nonetheless once I got out of the city, and the car engine stopped and all I could hear was chattering insects and the disruptions of countryside noise rather than constant city noise, and at night there was just the pealing mass of the stars, I felt at peace again.