Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cuba by Cubans: Part 1

(Lost and found: The CD where these pictures were stored was lost, and found months later,  and months after that, I'm posting the pictures.)

When I went to Cuba in March 2009, I didn't know what story I wanted to do, or if I could do a story.

I had prepared: I had read about the history of the country, its relationship with the United States, the history of the Castro regime. We had interviewed Cubans in Seattle, whose disdain for Castro was palpable.

But I wasn't sure we could pull off a good story in just two weeks there. At the most basic, we just wanted to chronicle everyday life of a Cuban on the year the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of Castro's revolution.

Then I remembered Born into Brothels, a powerful documentary about kids in the slums of Calcutta. Their lives told through their own pictures. That inspired me to buy a dozen disposable cameras at Target, write up some release forms and find people in Havana willing to take pictures of their lives.

It became a little personal project.

The plan was to give them the cameras for a week, while we saw another two spots of the country, and when we came back to Havana, we'd get the cameras back.

I gave a camera to a guy who sold me shoddy cigars and to a teacher at an elementary school. We couldn't find them afterward. Another camera was given to a man who we met playing dominoes. When we found him again, he said he had lost the camera. That was a lie. 

But we also met Juan, a mason walking in Old Havana. He instantly seemed trustworthy and better yet, eager to help us out. He took one camera.

Below are his and his family's pictures:

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