An American View of Havana

An American View of Havana by Geoff Livingston (Photoshelter | 500px | Flickr):

Havana Offers Much More than Cars

Vibrant Classics 1200

Vibrant Classics

Cuba offers Americans a forbidden destination. Even in the current era of warming between Havana and Washington, DC, we still need a special visa to visit Cuba. Worse, there is a sense that when all of the barriers finally drop, an ensuing tourism boom will ruin Cuba’s culture. So when my friend Joe Newman organized a small trip to Havana this past June for several DC Focused photographers, I jumped at the opportunity.

I hoped to capture Havana in its truest spirit.  Almost every story I see features car pictures (Yes, I included the mandatory “rolling wreck” pic to open the article).  What Havana offered was so much more than that, an urban photographer’s dream with lots of scenes, street shots, and incredible amounts of decay.

Being a bit of a 500 Pixels photo nerd, I packed the biggest gear bag possible to capture a wide variety of shots. The bag was heavy, but it was worth it. My gear included the following items:

  • Nikon D810
  • Nikon Df
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Lens
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
  • Nikon SB 910 Speedlight
  • Various triggers, extra batteries, and a travel tripod.

Scenes

Sunset Over Havana

Sunset Over Havana

First, if you are an American, don’t kid yourself.  Havana hosts tourists from all over the world, mostly Canadian, but also Latin America, Europe and Australia. There are many pretty scenes in old Havana and on the Malecón.

Havana Arch

Havana Arch

City Centre Havana

City Centre Havana

These beautiful scenes are a façade maintained for tourists and dignitaries.  Or you could argue they are the first areas to get restored in advance of the tourism wave. Then there is the real Cuba. By exploring just a little further, you find some incredible sights, amazing people, and vast amounts of corrosion.

Play Chess

Play Chess

Diana

Diana

Central Habana 2016

Central Habana 2016

Walking on the Malecón

Walking on the Malecón

People

Old Man In Havana

Old Man In Havana

Havana is a street photographer’s dream.  While most of the people scenes above were candids, I really like street portraiture and there was plenty to be had.

Though our DC team hired a few models and we did some shoots, my favorite pics were of the traditional street variety. Other than the above photo of Diana (one of our tour guides) and the below picture of a model in a classic car, the rest of the pictures featured in this article are street portraits.

Che Lives

Che Lives

Ride with Me

Ride with Me

Smokin

Smokin

Parking Lot Attendant

Parking Lot Attendant

Corrosion and Abandoned Spaces

Three a Day

Three a Day

Three buildings collapse a day in Havana. That’s how dilapidated the buildings are. The above collapsed building was just two blocks away from the Presidential Palace! It looks like a bomb went off.

This is what I meant by exploring further into Havana’s neighborhoods. You will see some shocking scenes of poverty, a result of decades of neglect.

Everywhere you go in Havana, you see decay, rot, corrosion, and abandoned buildings.  To me, the real story is not the classic cars, rather the incredible decay and corrosion that is everywhere.  Unless the story includes a classic car that happens to be rusting and corroded.

A True Wreck

A True Wreck

Walk This Way

Walk This Way

Fallen Glory II

Fallen Glory II

The Bunker That Caused It All (Cuban Missile Crisis)

The Bunker That Caused It All (Cuban Missile Crisis)

By the way, I like to stylize my photos. For the corrosion photos, I amped up the clarity, details, and sharpness in Lightroom. I want to acknowledge those edits for readers who may be photojournalism purists.

Anyway, these pictures are a healthy representation of the Havana photos I published on my portfolio site. I hope you enjoyed them, and if you haven’t been to Havana, go before the rest of the American tourists arrive. Cheers!

You can see more of Geoff Livingston’s work on Photoshelter, 500px, or Flickr.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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