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Title: The eye of painter and the soul of a poet
Category: Person
Who: Glinn


Date: 2006-12-28 15:11

The following article is from http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue9910/cubaintro.htm

David Alan Harvey is a photojournalist's photojournalist. His work is in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and W. Eugene Smith. He never uses a press card or long lens. He never stands behind ropes at a "photo op." He tends to use a single Leica body with either a 35mm or 50mm lens. He has the eye of painter and the soul of a poet. He is the kind of photographer I would like to be.

I have known David for years. We always used to show up on "Day In the Life" book projects, whether in Australia, Spain, or Russia. I would be trying to figure out how to light some cave with my Balcars, and David would be spawled out on some beach, having a beer, and enjoying the sun. Yet, when the books were published, it was David who had the big pictures. To him, photography is about the art of seeing, and minimizing the distance between photographer and subject.
For the past 15 years, David has assembled an incredible body of work on Hispanic culture. Sponsored by his agency, Magnum Photos, and National Geographic, he has documented the Mayan culture, the trail of the conquistadors, Chile, Honduras, Belize and Spain. His work became a personal passion, yet the great mystery was right off our coast, the island of Cuba. In 1996, Magnum got him an assignment for TIME to photograph some Cuban medical scientists who had achieved a breakthrough in biomedical technology. He had no sooner arrived than the Cuban military shot down planes piloted by Free Cuba aviators, and anti-American riots broke out. Instead of dampening his spirits, the energy in the streets fed the beginning of a love affair with Cuba. In his words, it was "a love mixed with frustration, fear, passion, and paranoia...I was drawn to the ballet of street photography. I hung out with Cubans, listened to their music, drank with them, danced and ate with them. I visited schools and science labs. I rode buses, lived with the families, went to church, and in general, soaked it all up. I lived it, felt it, and photographed it."

Since then, David has made several trips to Cuba. The result of his odyssey has now been released as a hard cover coffee table book by National Geographic, and his exhibit is on display in the National Geographic's Explorers Hall. Other exhibits will be shown in Miami's Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and a third will open October 28th at the Leica Gallery in New York City. As we publish this issue of The Digital Journalist, David is in Havana, teaching a workshop in conjunction with the Maine Photo Workshop, and will proudly open the exhibit at Fotoeca in Old Havana.

We hope you enjoy this wonderful portofolio, and especially encourage you to listen to David's audio commentary on his photographs.



Hot clothes and cool cash from abroad brighten Cubans' lives.  
Against Havana's gray stucco-and concrete canvas, fashion-minded Cubans create splashes of unexpected color.
Relatives send as much as 800 million dollars a year.
"If I didn't get money from my daughter in Miami," says a Havana retiree, "I couldn't make it."  
Disadvantaged in the stratified Cuban economy are those who rely on government stipends of food and pesos for survival


Cigar smoke and prayers cleanse the spirit of 13-year-old Nayade Garcia as her mother performs a ritual of spiritism in their Havana apartment.
The family--and millions of other Cubans--also practice Santeria, a belief system that blends Roman Catholic traditions with African religious roots.
Despite their wildly enthusiastic reception for Pope John Paul II, more Cubans are thought to practice Santeria than Roman Catholicism.


Blackouts are a fact of life in Cuba, and to a teenage student they are no excuse for shirking her homework.
So when the lights go out, candles are lit, and it's back to work.
"Every Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m. they cut the electricity in this neightborhood," said Liliana Nunez.
"We use the time to visit friends who have electricity, and we also use the time to do all the things we put off because we'd rather watch television."


At carnival time, it seems all of Santiago de Cuba is in a marching mood.
Dancers and music bands play their way through the streets all day and all night, performing to cheering partygoers.



An entire generation has been born and raised in the shadow of Cuban communism.
The generation before them lived under corrupt dictators.
For centuries before that, Cuba was subject to the whims of an often indifferent empire.
As they watch world communism vanish around them, Cubans contemplate the next direction their island will take.



As millions of dollars pour into the restoration of Old Havana, other portions of the city continue to deteriorate.
"Once these were extremely elegant neighborhoods," says Harvey.
"And in the dark, you can kind of squint and imagine what they must have been like in their prime."



Surf, sand, and sex are the tropical draws at Santa Maria del Mar, a long, open stretch of beach less than 20 miles from Havana.
Officially, it's a beach for tourists, but the locals still find reasons to mingle with foreign visitors both on the beach and in bars that line it.



Amid the construction, the new museums, and the old monuments, Old Havana remains a living community.
Local kids still head off for school, take shortcuts through restored plazas, and cavort in the playgrounds until it is time to come home for dinner.
"Some historic restoration projects I've seen around the world, the last thing they want is actual people running around," says Harvey.  
"In old Havana, the people are staying right there in their neighborhood."



"We want this to remain a living part of the city, with homes and shops as well as the colonial forts and palaces that tourists come to see," says city historian Leal Spengler.
True to that goal, a number of restored structures retain their original function.
A shelter for expectant mothers built in 1859 reopened two years ago as the Donna Leonor Perez Marti Center, named for the mother of Jose Marti, the father of Cuban Independence.
As part of the free national health care system, the center houses women with high-risk pregnancies.
In addition to gathering in the lounge for lectures on parental health,
patients often attend public concerts and plays in newly renovated grand old houses that have become cultural centers.



They're not allowed inside an Old Havana tourist club, but that doesn't stop a Cuban couple from dancing to the music that spills over the plaza outside.
"The American flag is all over the place in Cuba," says Harvey.
"Whenever I spent time with anyone, as I left they'd say, 'Bring me an American flag next time.'
"Fact is, if someone's walking around in a Che Guevara t-shirt, they're probably a tourist.
If they're wearing an American flag shirt, they're almost certainly Cuban."



A broken bike, a riderless horse, a barely used highway.
In Cuba's rural frontiers -- in this case along the Central Highway that traces the island's spine --
even modest conveniences of city life are little more than rumor.



New wire for fence-mending is hard to come by, so tobacco farmers Nolverio Hernandez and Osiris Sanchez manage to splice together what they have.
Farmers in their region of Manicaragua in some ways live better than many city dwellers.
A horse takes them on errands, and a kitchen garden helps keep them well fed.  
Second to sugar in production on the island, tobacco neverless is closest to Cubans hearts.
It was the island's first important cash crop, blooming with tobacco just decades after smoking and snuff took Europe by storm in the late 1500s.



The rodeo doesn't come to town in the mountains of Southeast Cuba
-- the rodeo is the town.
Donning football helmets and charging onlookers a few pesos' admission, local cowboys rope, ride, and whoop their way to local legend.



Mature tobacco leaves get tender care from Juan Gomez,
whose broad mustache, straw hat, and clenched cigar make him a central
-casting example of a guajiro, or farmer peasant.



The most important day in a Cuban girl's life is the fiesta Quinceanera, the day she turns 15.  
Her mother either makes or rents her a beautiful dress, and all her friends and relatives gather for the most lavish party her family can possibly afford.  "This girl was waiting for her ride to the party for her fiesta," says Harvey. "The girls feel like they're queens for a day, and their mothers are frantic."  

  

Cuba's biggest business, tourism grosses almost two billion dollars a year,
partly from the resort town of Varadero, a lush 12-mile-long sandbar east of Havana that has close to 30,000 rooms.
Hotels catering to well-off tourists include the former DuPont estate, and cost up to $200 a night.



When David Harvey's car broke down, he hitched a ride with some Havana kids,
who'd driven to the cool mountains of Vinales.  

  

In their shiny Chevy truck with its canvas canopy, they could have been barreling along Alligator Alley in central Florida.
These smiling passengers are part of a Cuban culture that assimilates whatever it can from the U.S.  
"They know everything about us," says Harvey.  
"I found that when I was talking with people in Cuba,
I had to answer a lot more questions than I got to ask.
One school teacher asked if I'd bring back the recent issue of Vibe magazine with an article about Busta Rhymes."



Children of the revolution born since 1959 -- as are almost two-thirds of Cuba's 11 million people
-- ride to Guanabo, a beach just east of Havana, in an American relic from pre-Castro days.  
"I was struck by these kids just out cruising in a car," says Harvey.  "It's so rare to see that in Cuba, with gasoline so expensive and cars so scarce.
But here they were in late afternoon, just being kids. It was so familiar, and so unusual."



Many residents in Trinidad have opened their homes up to modest forms of commerce.
Barber Orestes Ramirez Soa's shop is in the front bedroom of his home.







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