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Tonight’s topic: Images from Cuba by Conrad Gees
Conrad showed us a few of his images from recent trips to Cuba at a recent Image Review night. For this month’s Education Night, Conrad will talk about this interesting project. Here’s a summary of this presentation, from Conrad …
Havana is in the midst of dramatic change. There is some truth in the statement, it is a city frozen in time. This is clearly evident in the American cars from the 50’s, & the storefronts with their limited consumer goods, but it is a characterization which can lead one to a false sense of sentimentality or condescension.
The 1961 US embargo of goods going to Cuba has clearly limited its economic development, but Havana today is not the Havana of 1961. Rather it is the outgrowth of the 1959 Revolution & Cold War which forced it’s inhabitants to develop in ways they can speak of with pride as well as longing for more.
I concentrated on the sections known as “Habana Vieja,” & “Centro Habana” now UN World Heritage Sites, deciding to document not only the buildings but the people. Their homes, the means by which they get food, electricity & water, & even the newly sanctioned private entrepeneurs left me, an American with many privileges, awed & humbled by the resilience & ingenuity of the “Habaneros”
I will bring images of the city and it’s people as aids to talk about some the experiences I had while there. In particular I’ll focus on the last bit of work I’ve been developing; Cuba: Person to Person (Snap Encounters on the Streets of Havana. Following is the artist’s statement for that work.
“People to People Exchange,” check. This was the box I marked when asked by U.S. Customs for the reason I was traveling to Cuba. Although it allowed me to travel from the U.S. to Cuba it was a half-truth.
People to People as defined by the U.S. Customs regulations implies organized tours by groups of Americans planning cultural exchanges with groups of Cubans to foster better understanding between our two countries. I was traveling by myself with no planned agenda other than to wander the streets of Havana and experience what I could. Was I representative of my country? Yes, but certainly not the “People” and I make no claims that these images represent the “People” of Cuba.
These photographs are simply a record of chance encounters I had with individuals on the streets of Habana Vieja and Centro Habana. Written down are the exchanges I had, along with thoughts, questions and insights gained from these encounters, and in that is a universality that we as humans share whenever we meet “Person to Person.”