Does it seem like much of a stretch to envision that millions of our fellow north americans are mentally exhausted and not a little trepidatious as the relentless information shit stream saturates our waking moments with the details and detritus of Election 2016. Add the vexation of escalating references to a demagogue who was thought to be a joke (until he wasn’t) may yet approach unnerving levels of hysteria. Thus, the visit of the President of the United States to the sovereign nation of Cuba may provide a welcome distraction from our own endlessly echoing travails .
Lets put aside * the historiographic quagmire that currently accounts for US- Cuban relations since Thomas Jefferson’s presidency (no one who follows the imperial foreign policy of this most exceptional of all nations should be surprised that Cuba has long been a object of lust to US mandarins). This largest of the Greater Antilles island nations has also long been a provisioner of a various sybaritic pleasures (coffee, cigars, rum baseball **) as well as cultural riches (Jose Marti, Alejo Carpentier, Kid Chocolate,Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Ernesto Lecuono, Minnie Minoso,Celia Cruz, Beny More, Alicia Alonzo, José Raúl Capablanca (y Graupera) and a long list of great piano players).And as much as any place in the known world ,Cuba is a disproportionately photogenic place. The substantial list of photographers who have done work in Cuba and the fine monographs that have been published are testimony to that circumstance—David Alan Harvey, Robert Polidori,Mariette Pathy Allen, Micheal Eastman, E Wright Ledbetter to name but a few.
Now comes a new tome by Anna Mia Davidson, Cuba, Black and White, which, as is indicated by the title ,presents Cuba linda in that most evocative of pallets.
I am aware of a couple of monographs that present Cuba in this way —sixty of the images Walker Evans shot in 1933 for American journalistCarleton Beals ‘s The Crime of Cuba [ as had long been the case Cuba was in the thrall of another corrupt and cruel dictator) have been republished under the title Cuba, most recently with a vivid and illuminating introductory essay by poet and man of letters Andrei Codrescu.
Cuban born musician/composer Clemente Ruiz created a jumpin’ video of Evans’s images
And Burt Glinn’ S El Momento Revolutionario that catalogues the early days of the Triumph.
As the publishers note asserts this book
presents a unique collection of never-before-seen photographs by veteran Magnum photographer Burt Glinn, recording Fidel Castro’s historic entry into Havana. In the introductory memoir, Glinn describes the combination of chutzpah and journalistic prescience that led him to leave a New York party and hop a plane to Havana on New Year’s Eve, 1959. The photographs he returned with—of Fidel thronged by his countrymen and women as he stopped to encourage them along the road to Havana, of troops embracing, and of fierce men and women alike taking up arms in the streets—are full of the revolutionary fervor and idealistic anticipation that characterized that moment in Cuban history.
At the age of 25 Anna Mia Davidson visited Cuba for the first time in 1999
determined to capture her personal vision of this isolated Carribean island nation with her camera. At this time Cuba was just beginning to recover from the “Special Period,” the economic crisis that occurred after 1989 when Russia withdrew its financial support after nearly four decades. On further travels during the following eight years, Davidson portrayed daily life in the cities, villages and the countryside in an attempt to depict her sense of Cuba’s “soul.” Her black-and-white photographs reflect the resilience, ingenuity and spirit of the Cuban people during the embargo against them. It was also here that Davidson came into contact with traditional forms of sustainable farming—a passion that has since influenced her life and work.
See photographs from Cuba,Black And White here
And an interview with MS Davidson here
*an issue I am happy to take up in my annual celebration of the Triumphant Cuban Revolution with a bibliographical review of Cuban related books and media.