Friend of Tamarkin Camera, Gordon V. Smith, shares his color photographs.
By Gordon V. Smith
This is the second of two articles that photographically describe my visit to Cuba in February of 2017. The first of these (“QUBA STREETS”) appeared here, and was centered around street photography and the folks that I met and saw during this 700 mile trip from Santiago to Havana and beyond. Those photographs were in monochrome, which I feel is appropriate for street photography where the objective is to portray people as they go about their lives and to convey an impression of what those lives are about.
These images are a selection from slightly over 2,500 DNG format photographs that I took over a nine-day period. I carried an M 240 and a Q TYP 116. All of those included here were from my Q and nearly all were at the 28mm focal length. Obviously these are more studied photo situations than the often impromptu opportunities of street photography. Even so, I nearly always employed the auto-focus feature and I found it to be very reliable, even when shooting through a window.
Cuba is hot and humid, and air conditioning is not ubiquitous. My Billingham Hadley bag was great, as usual, for transporting my photographic impedimenta from place to place. But it was too uncomfortable for wandering the streets on foot. So I ended up with the day’s camera on my shoulder and full pockets. I vowed to obtain a light “day-bag” for these conditions.
In the previous article, I characterized the nature of a place by separating its people from the environment, buildings, monuments, and the political and economic systems that may prevail. I likened these features of a place to a stage, contrasted with the people who form the acting company. I also briefly described Cuba’s history, which is very complex and how some knowledge of it helps to understand what I experienced and what I saw and photographed.
In this second part of my Cuban story I focus on the stage, i.e. the environment, buildings, monuments, and other inanimate characteristics of the place. I did not include images of the landscape, which is very attractive and similar to other Caribbean locales. I concentrated more on infrastructure, much of which is reminiscent of an earlier time, and some other distinctive aspects of this country.
Given Cuban history, I expected to experience a strong feeling of its Spanish heritage. That is best portrayed photographically in the architecture of its cities. The grandest examples are in Havana. Pictured below is the Gran Teatro de La Habana (National Theater). It stands next to the Capitolio Nacional, which looks just like our Capitol. I asked why the scaffolding was around the Capitol dome, and was told that it was a project to raise the height of the dome seven feet, so that it would be taller than the U.S. Capitol.