Cuba

CBA261Kindly contributed by award-winning photographer Lorne Resnick, who in his new book Cuba, This Moment, Exactly So  presents passionate and heartwarming moments from the "Pearl of the Antilles." His 250 black-and-white photographs are organized around 30 micro-stories and include a foreword by the great travel writer Pico Iyer.

 

I first visited Cuba in the summer of '95. It was, as most summers are when I have been in Cuba, searingly, intensely, wonderfully hot. I planned to stay for two weeks and stayed for two months. I fell in love with the country. With its music, its people, its cars, its buildings, its sun, its stunning light, its friendships and that special heat that is so uniquely Cuban.

Not only have I spent many peak moments of my life in Cuba over the last two decades, but in 2002, I asked my wife, Juliet, to marry me atop the lighthouse of Morro Castle in Havana. She said yes, we popped a bottle of champagne, and at that precise moment, the lighthouse keeper came out and told us we had to leave, as the lighthouse was closing. We shared our news and, with a (typically Cuban) joyous smile on his face, he said, “Congratulations! Listen, I have to go. Why don’t you enjoy the sunset and just lock up the castle when you leave!” With that, he was off, leaving us alone atop the lighthouse in a four-hundred-twenty-five-year-old castle guarding the entrance to Havana. A surreal and sublime moment.

I came to Cuba initially for its history and mystique. But I kept coming back again and again for the people—for an endless string of experiences like the one atop the lighthouse. Warm, openhearted people embracing you and inviting you into their lives and hearts. It’s a heady, intoxicating combination for anyone—especially a photographer. Annie Leibovitz once said: “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”

And that’s the way it is for me in Cuba. Constantly falling in love—even if sometimes only for 1/60 of a second. Some of the images in the book are of places I only visited once and people I only saw once. However, many of the images are of places I visited again and again and people who were open enough to let me fall in love with them with my camera again and again over a period of many years. Being a fine-art photographer, as opposed to a photojournalist, my goal in creating images in Cuba (and presenting them in this book) is not only to show what Cuba is like, but more importantly for me, what it feels like to be in Cuba. I want to create images that communicate the elation I feel every second when I’m in Cuba. It is a feeling like no other—moments filled with passion, love, joy, desire, grace, beauty, friendship and laughter.

To paraphrase photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “If I go to a place, it’s to try and get that one picture about which people will say, ‘Ah, this is true. You felt it right.’” I want this book to communicate the feeling of what it is like to spend time in Cuba—seeing the same places day after day, running into the same people again and again. I want it to be like what Cuba is for me—profound, vibrant, trippy, electric—a place where just walking the streets, breathing the air and connecting with the people feel like a contact high.

There is a very compelling culture of friendship and family that I find very endearing and beautiful in Cuba. I’ve never been to Cuba without experiencing many beautiful emotional connecting moments. When I take my photo workshop groups to Cuba I often get the question “is Cuba safe, safe to walk the streets, safe to take photos?” While it’s obvious that no country in the world is 100% crime free, I have found that Cuba is the safest place I have ever been and it’s much more likely that walking the streets alone you will be “grabbed” and pulled into someone’s home for a glass of rum and a dance lesson than encounter any crime.

Cuba is not only an interesting place to visit but it is a compelling and often life changing experience. I can’t count the number of times my participants on my trips have used those words to describe a trip to Cuba—“life changing.” It’s almost impossible to visit Cuba once and not fall hopelessly in love with it and keep coming back again and again and again.

Photo Credits: Lorne Resnick